US airline kicks 101 yeshiva students off NY flight

CNN reports airline saying group was "non-compliant."; chaperone says allegations are false, and flight crew behavior was "nasty."

June 4, 2013 09:38
2 minute read.
Southwest Airllines

Southwest Airllines. (photo credit: REUTERS/Tom Gannam)

A group of 101 yeshiva students and their eight accompanying chaperones were asked to remove themselves from an airplane scheduled to fly from New York to Atlanta Monday morning, CNN reported.

Southwest Airlines reportedly said the group of “noncompliant passengers” would not remain seated or stop using their mobile devices.

Once the students failed to comply, they were asked to leave the aircraft. The dispute caused the flight to be delayed 45 minutes, Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins told the television channel.

The group from Yeshivah of Flatbush, an Orthodox Jewish high school in Brooklyn, apparently said the flight crew overreacted to the excitement of the students who were looking forward to their school trip which included a day at Six Flags theme park.

“It blew out of proportion.

It was a mountain out of a molehill,” a teacher and chaperone of the school trip Marian Wielgus reportedly told CNN.

According to Wielgus, the students were asked more than once to sit down and shut off their mobile telephones.

“They certainly did not do what the stewardess was claiming they did,” she told CNN. “That’s what was so bizarre.”

Wielgus also reportedly said the flight attendants were “nasty” and “created an incident when there didn’t have to be one.”

According to Southwest Airlines, the group violated safety regulations.

Another chaperone, Rabbi Joseph Beyda, said that none of the students on the plane was particularly disruptive.

When he saw that the flight attendant was frustrated and was asking students to leave, he asked which kids were causing issues and offered to help, but she refused.

“They just simply said ‘get off the plane,’” CNN reported Beyda as saying.

Student Jonathan Zehavi told the news network that he felt they were targeted because they are Jewish.

“They treated us like we were terrorists; I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m not someone to make these kinds of statements,” Zehavi reportedly said. “I think if it was a group of non-religious kids, the air stewardess wouldn’t have dared to kick them off.”

Both Beyda and Mamiye told CNN the airline did their best to accommodate the group by getting them on the next available flights.

But the group had to be split up – some had connecting flights– and they were in transit for a total of 12 hours.

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