Thursday, January 25, 2007

Kinda makes CC want to fly AirTran

According to this article, a toddler who wouldn't stop screaming got her family kicked off a plane recently.

Julie and Gerry Kulesza were headed home to Boston with their three-year-old daughter Elly on January 14 when kiddo decided to throw a massive temper tantrum as they were boarding the plane. An AirTran spokesman told the Associated Press Elly "was climbing under the seat and hitting the parents and wouldn't get in her seat."

Airtran refunded their money and gave them free tickets and they got home just fine a day later, but the family is still all over CNN talking about how terrible it is that they were not allowed to annoy the entire plane for the whole five hour flight.

CC

32 comments:

boyinthebands said...

When I heard the story, I said a little prayer of thanks for the airline.

Epilonious said...

Yah, Airtran's stock went up a bit in my book.

I fly a lot more than I used to... and even dogs almost peeing themselves in fear are better than supercranky toddlers.

Steve Caldwell said...

CC,

As a parent of two former toddlers (who are both teenagers now), I would like to point out that there are times when good and decent parents are doing their absolute human best to calm down their child.

A child in a tantrum melt-down isn't ethically the same as an adult engaged in the adult equivalent -- what the news folks call "air rage." I'll suggest that most adults (except those with untreated mental health issues) can control their behavior and are responsible for their "air rage." The same cannot be said for a two year old toddler.

Keep in mind that the parents had a tough decision to make here. Unlike other public settings (e.g church services, movie theaters, etc), the Kulesza's couldn't just voluntarily leave the flight during the pre-flight ground operations phase.

Well ... I suppose they could, but they would have forfeited their air fare ($595.80 according to the news sources). I know that I couldn't afford to eat the cost of these tickets if my kid were in total meltdown. I would end up gritting my teeth and hoping for my child to tire out and eventually sleep. For CC and the other folks responding here, I suspect that your parents would have made the same choice if you were the toddler having an unscheduled meltdown at the AirTran boarding gate.

If the airlines were really interested in making their childless customers more comfortable, perhaps they should allow parents who are dealing with toddler tantrums to pull themselves off the flight without any financial penalty (e.g. free seats on the next scheduled flight).

I'm frankly amazed at the lack of charity from you and your commenters here for two parents who were dealing with a rough situation while traveling.

Acknowledging the reality that some toddlers do have tantrums isn't a byproduct of lax parenting. Sometimes it just happens and perhaps we should show some kindness, charity, and understanding when it does.

DJD said...

Hey Steve: AMEN, BROTHER!!!

Cranky kids are a part of life.

I think it was silly for the airliner to force them off the plane.

UUpdater said...

Steve/DJD - note that the ejection had nothing to do with the crankiness or noise level of the child. Regulations are regulations, if the kid can't sit in the seat strapped in as per regulation the kid gets ejected (with family). As the parents of 2 kids I do realize the airline still has a responsibility to stay within regulations. If they had let the kid sit in mommies lap and the kid got injured they could have been sued, fined, etc.

If they had been able to keep the kid in the seat the flight attendants probably would have been content to let her scream the entire flight, or until she fell asleep, etc.

I feel sorry for everyone involved, parents, kid, flight attendants, other passengers, etc.

Comrade Kevin said...

I love AirTran.

El cheapo.

And it has a hub out of Atlanta.

I find it curious that flights don't allow smoking, but do allow children and parents who want something for nothing.

Chalicechick said...

Ummm.. Steve? Your ideal was that the parents be allowed to take themselves off the plane and reschedule without penalty.

Instead, because AirTran took them off, they were allowed to reschedule without penalty, they got their money back AND they got free tickets to fly anyplace that AirTran flies.

And I'll echo UUpdater's question:
Parents are allowed to board first so they have time to get their kis in their seats. If the kid had already delayed the plane for fifteen minutes and was continuing to refuse to get in her seat, my guess is she had been refusing for half an hour or so.

How much longer do you think it is reasonable to keep those hundred people waiting?

CC

Epilonious said...

oh, quit with the "but my kids were insufferable!" whinging. It wasn't yelling and screaming... it was yelling and screaming and not getting in the seat and delaying the flight.

If it was gonna take the toddler an extra hour to calm down, that was an extra hour the plane didn't have... so they got escorted off, and given free tickets.

Airlines could make all these accommodations for parents of young people... or parents of young people could start sedating their children or making sure they slept enough (to avoid crankiness) before the flight. Seems like the same level of unreasonableness

Steve Caldwell said...

CC wrote:
-snip-
"Your ideal was that the parents be allowed to take themselves off the plane and reschedule without penalty.

Instead, because AirTran took them off, they were allowed to reschedule without penalty, they got their money back AND they got free tickets to fly anyplace that AirTran flies."


CC,

First, the family has said that they will never fly AirTran again due to their perceived rude treatment. So the "free" tickets aren't much of a bonus if the family doesn't want anything to do with AirTran.

The difference between the current airline policy (we decide when your toddler is too difficult to fly) and my proposed policy (we allow you some input into the decision when your toddler is too difficult to fly) is both subtle and substantial.

The current policy encourages parents to keep slogging along with their child in order to avoid the penalty of forfeiting their airline tickets (a $500+ penalty in this case).

Unlike walking out of a movie theater where the financial penalty would be less than $30, the $500+ penalty would be something that most families could not afford. Also, we don't know the other circumstances here. Could the family afford to delay their return? Would there be work-related complications if they did delay their return?

My suggestion was letting the parents have the option to decide to rebook without financial penalty before the airlines are forced into throwing them off the jet. This would entail the airlines allowing families with cranky kids to rebook on a later flight for free.

This would be better for the other passengers, the parents, and the toddler. And AirTran would come off looking understanding about the pressures on traveling parents instead of looking like corporate pricks who are totally concerned with meeting a schedule and their bottom line.

Then CC wrote:
-snip-
"Parents are allowed to board first so they have time to get their kids in their seats. If the kid had already delayed the plane for fifteen minutes and was continuing to refuse to get in her seat, my guess is she had been refusing for half an hour or so.

How much longer do you think it is reasonable to keep those hundred people waiting?"


CC, we don't know the cause of the 15 minute delay. The Tribune news story says the following:

"'The flight was already delayed 15 minutes and in fairness to the other 112 passengers on the plane, the crew made an operational decision to remove the family,' AirTran spokeswoman Judy Graham-Weaver said.

While it's possible that the toddler was the only source of delay during preflight ground operations, the article doesn't say that and I doubt that she caused the entire 15 minute delay.

There are other sources of delay (e.g. maintenance, baggage loading, delays due to late arrival of the jet's previous flight, adult passengers who bring on more carry-on luggage than they should, etc). On some flights, I've seen most of the delay caused by passengers and carry-on luggage that exceed 15 minutes.

Since the article is silent on the source of the delays, I would politely suggest that we cannot say that a toddler caused the entire 15 minute delay. The article is silent on this. I suspect that AirTran would have said the toddler caused the entire delay if the facts supported your conclusion.

Since the article didn't report that, the most we can conclude here is the toddler had the potential of extending an already existing 15 minute delay that had already happened and may have been caused by other factors.

The Tribune story reported that the parents wanted a few minutes to hold and console their child and they were denied this opportunity.

Perhaps the airlines could have allowed for that? A five minute delay might have made the difference for this family in getting home.

When you wrote " ... the kid had already delayed the plane for fifteen minutes and was continuing to refuse to get in her seat, my guess is she had been refusing for half an hour or so," you've made a huge assumption here beyond what was reported in the news.

I find the lack of compassion and empathy for those who are weaker and in need of nurturing on this Unitarian Universalist themed blog quite troubling.

One of the roles for religion is (to paraphrase Hosea Ballou) is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

CC, perhaps you want to reverse that so we're comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted?

Steve Caldwell said...

I'm curious here.

How many folks here are parents with children?

How many have traveled with children on airlines?

One trend I've observed in life is the view that many folks without children really do think they know it all when it comes to raising kids. They want to impart their wisdom at the drop of a hat.

One way to cure this hubris is to become a parent for a child.

Chalicechick said...

That the parents refuse to use AirTran tickets doesn't make their offer any less significant. Even if I don't cash your check, you still paid me.

No matter the reason for the delay, the mother had already had at least fifteen minutes to try to convince her kid to take her seat. If the kid was still screaming, hitting her mother and refusing to take her seat, do you really think another few minutes would have made a difference?

You can guess that it would, you can guess that it wouldn't. All we know for certain is that more people would miss connecting flights.

I find it fascinating that the 100 people in the delayed plane who have to listen to this kid scream, kick her mother and refuse to get in her seat are being defined as "the comfortable."

And I don't know this for a fact, but having missed a flight within the last year, the cost was a $50 ticket switch fee, not a new ticket.

CC

Joel Monka said...

Blame the uptight world we live in- years past, this was not a problem. When I was a kid, there was a cold remedy called Terpin Hydrate; the cough suppressant in this mixture was codeine or morphine. A few spoonfulls, and the kid shut right up! Problem solved!

Chalicechick said...

Children's benadryl still works for this purpose. It's what my ex-coworker used to do. (Actually some news reports are saying that's what these folks did for their flight the next day.)

On the news report I saw, the mother was claiming kiddo was kicked off the plane for "crying."
She's quoted in one story saying "I just wanted to make the public aware of what happened and this too can happen to them if their child is crying too much," said Julie."

In truth, she was kicked off the plane for delaying takeoff.

Lots of newspaper articles are saying these folks "Weren't allowed" to fly again for 24 hours when in truth they were flying out of a small airport and refused to accept anything less than a direct flight.

You know that if the airline had let Mommy hold the kid during takeoff, there had been a bump and the kid was hurt, we would be seeing these people on CNN and complaining.

CC

madgebaby said...

Wow, I think I've flown with some of you.. . .the folks who scowl when you bring your child on board as if it were a punishment. (and no, my kids have never thrown a fit like this on a plane or anywhere else publicly.)

This is an extreme case, but what about the buzzed and letcherous businessmen that are allowed to fly daily? The gross unwashed students who put their bare feet on the backs of the seats? What about the trashy post adolescents with their soft porn cosmopolitan magazines and their muffin tops hanging out of their undersized t shirts and low hung jeans? Why aren't they sent home until they behave better?

thanks, Steve, for the sanity and kindness of your comments.

madgebaby said...

One other thing: airlines aren't so consistent as one would like to think regarding restrictions where kids can and cannot sit. I witnessed a meltdown of a kid who wasn't allowed to use his car seat in a plane--the steward claimed that this was airline regulations, but the family was returning from a trip and had used the seat on the other legs of the trip.

Chalicechick said...

Drunk people on planes who make trouble surely do face consequences

Extreme cases like that aside, none of the examples you provide involve the plane being delayed.

That, to me, seems like a very reasonable place to draw the line.

It's not that kiddo was screaming. It's that she wouldn't get in her sit and her parents would not or could not make her do so.

Again, how many people missing connecting flights should have to suffer because of this kid's behavior?

Do you honestly think these parents would have been remotely Ok with it if the plane had taken off without kiddo in her seat and she'd been hurt?

CC
CC

TheCSO said...

I have Asberger's. Don't talk about it much on here, but I do. I've BEEN that kid. And even though my behaviour was caused by a "disability", it still would have been reasonable to remove me from that plane.

Once a flight is delayed, no optional sources of additional delay should be allowed. And, like it or not, a pax - even a child - who won't take their seat IS an optional delay.

DJD said...

God forbid you get delayed. That's so unjust. How dare they! Everyone knows the universe revolves around me, dammit, and I can't afford to waste 15 minutes. 15 minutes! My god! That's an eternity! I can't loose that time!

Get over it, people. Geeze...

ps: this is so much better than arguing about theology ; )

Chalicechick said...

I don't care about the 15 minutes. I care about the people who miss connecting flights and end up stranded.

CC

kim said...

Have they ever considered having separate compartments for people with kids and people without kids? After all, they separate the rich people from the peons....

Chalicechick said...

As a childless person, I'd like that. But if kiddo is running around the aisles, the plane can't take off, no matter what section kiddo is in.

CC

Joel Monka said...

Here’s an example of why they want you strapped in. This Aloha Airlines plane suffered a structural failure from metal fatigue when it was pressurized- a procedure that occurs shortly after takeoff- amazingly, the only fatality was a stewardess who was not strapped in. Does anyone think a mother’s arms could have held her child in her lap when the 500 MPH wind blew through that hole?

madgebaby said...

This is an extreme case, but none of the vitrolic comments about kids are really about this situation or about a fifteen minute delay--the mean language is about people not wanting to be bothered by the presence of children, period.

and, as a pastor of a mainline church, I wonder why the mainline church is languishing. . . .

Chalicechick said...

Umm... Could you point out the vitrolic comments you mean?

Epilonious did say "and even dogs almost peeing themselves in fear are better than supercranky toddlers," but I wouldn't consider that vitrolic exactly, and it's only one comment.

There seems to be a decent amount of support and sympathy for the parents here.

Again, a fifteen minute delay probably meant nothing to the parents or anyone else who was simply getting off in Boston. But on any given flight, a pretty large number of passengers are trying to make connections and further extending a fifteen minute delay was going to reduce their chances to do so.

Other people on the plane have kids and families to get home to.

CC

madgebaby said...

In a nutshell. . . and please forgive me for not identifying all of the individuals who made these comments:

(You mentioned this one):I fly a lot more than I used to... and even dogs almost peeing themselves in fear are better than supercranky toddlers. (the child's reaction was probably fear based, yet less sympathic than the reaction of an animal)

I find it curious that flights don't allow smoking, but do allow children and parents who want something for nothing. (Parents of toddlers up pay for tickets for their kids--what exactly are parents wanting for free? kindness, compassion--what?)

parents of young people could start sedating their children or making sure they slept enough (to avoid crankiness) before the flight. (irony intended, perhaps, but callous and inappropriate use of off label medication)

(whatever its' intention, this was a popular idea, clearly)years past, this was not a problem. When I was a kid, there was a cold remedy called Terpin Hydrate; the cough suppressant in this mixture was codeine or morphine. A few spoonfulls, and the kid shut right up! Problem solved!

Children's benadryl still works for this purpose.

Again, the "parents angling for something" notion: You know that if the airline had let Mommy hold the kid during takeoff, there had been a bump and the kid was hurt, we would be seeing these people on CNN and complaining.


and this final comment and response:

Have they ever considered having separate compartments for people with kids and people without kids? After all, they separate the rich people from the peons....

As a childless person, I'd like that

There you go. . . .

The disciples thought kids were a pain in the behind as well, so I guess you all are in good company.

James Andrix said...

Grr, I had a longer comment on this, but blogger ate it.

Briefly: Parenthood often requires parents to be able to control where the child is, for their own safety. If you cannot control the position of the child when pressed to do so, then there are more fundamental problems than brattyness or airfare.

They can cry all they want if they are buckled in the seat.

Ted Michael Morgan said...

I have a confused reaction to this incident. The parents do have to control the child. The noise the child makes is, in my opinion, much better than the noise those who insistently used cell phones make.

My first flight on Air Tran involved the airline missing my connection while the connecting flight was still at the gate. My baggage made the connection. I did not. Members of the staff at the hub were not helpful; they were close to rude. The airline was awful—just plain awful. I now try to fly Delta or Jet Blue when I can afford the difference.

Chalicechick said...

Hmm... I guess you and I have different definitions of "vitrolic." I don't think agreeing that sitting in a childfree section of a plane might be nice is an attack on children necessarily, for example, and surely not a "vitrolic" one.

Our housemates, who live within earshot downstairs from us, have a baby and I think even they would agree that childfree time can be nice sometimes. (FWIW, they had the baby when they moved in. That's how much we hate kids, we only choose to live with a 5-month old. When she cries at night, oh well, that's what babies do. But I'm pretty sure if she were kicking her parents and delaying a plane full of people, her mother would just pick her up and buckle her in.)

As for the parents, their very enthusiasm for publicity does suggest people who are out to get something out of the situation. They've given interviews to several major news networks, and again, the mother is lying and claiming that the kid was kicked off for crying. (They've also admitted the kid recently had ear surgery and might have been in pain from the air pressure on the way down. Flying with a kid who has just had ear surgery seems a lot more callous than anything anyone has suggested here.)

Again, she was delaying a plane full of people, not just for a few minutes but potentially overnight as connections were missed and people were stranded in Boston.

Do you doubt that there were parents on that flight who wanted to get home to THEIR kids?

Don't they deserve some compassion, too?


CC

Chalicechick said...

Jet Blue is a great airline.

CC

LaReinaCobre said...

I know so little about this situation that I can't make any assumptions about what delayed the plane, the parents' motivations, and how the airline employees treated the parents, but I do agree with Steve. If airlines had a policy of permitting parents with sick or unruly children to reschedule their flights without penalty (and keep in mind that some tickets are non refundable), then parents would be more likely to choose for themselves that it's time to go home (or go wherever) if their child is too distressed to fly.

Also, while I wouldn't call the comments about kids "vitriolic," it has been my experience that UUs as a group are not real open to including small children in their spaces. Just as an example, I don't think I saw more than a dozen children under the age of 12 at General Assembly. That is strange to me. And there has been a LOT of controversy about kids at young adult conferences in the past. In any case, this is unrelated to the airplane situation, but I do agree that we as a community can be a lot more compassionate when it comes to kids.

Chalicechick said...

Wasn't there a whole separate child-care program at GA? I assumed the kids were there.

That said, given how busy GA keeps the adults, I think I would send the kids to visit Grandma (or another adoring relative) rather than bring them as one wouldn't get time to hang out with them much.

CC

lareinacobre said...

I was standing outside the room when the morning or afternoon session of one of the child programs cleared out. There were not a lot of kids there at all.

I think GA could be more family friendly. Then again, if it's just a business meeting, then it makes sense that it's not family friendly. But then I wonder - where is the annual social meeting of UUs? Maybe these are only regional or district.