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February 02, 2007

FLIGHT FROM HELL

Cathy Arnst

The next time you're having a travel nightmare, think back on this poor family, and it may not seem so bad.

AirTran Airways on Tuesday defended its decision to remove a Massachusetts couple from a flight after their crying 3-year-old daughter refused to take her seat before takeoff. AirTran officials said they followed Federal Aviation Administration rules that children age 2 and above must have their own seat and be wearing a seat belt upon takeoff.

“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.

Julie and Gerry Kulesza, who were headed home to Boston on Jan. 14 from Fort Myers, said they just needed a little more time to calm their daughter, Elly. “We weren’t given an opportunity to hold her, console her or anything,” Julie Kulesza said in a telephone interview Tuesday. The Kuleszas said they told a flight attendant they had paid for their daughter’s seat, but asked whether she could sit in her mother’s lap. The request was denied.

She was removed because “she was climbing under the seat and hitting the parents and wouldn’t get in her seat” during boarding, Graham-Weaver said. The Orlando-based carrier reimbursed the family $595.80, the cost of the three tickets, and the Kuleszas flew home the next day. They also were offered three roundtrip tickets anywhere the airline flies, Graham-Weaver said. The father said his family would never fly AirTran again.

Some of the comments to this story are pretty funny, by the way.

I found this article on a blog written by a very thoughtful pediatrician, called Musings of a Distractible Mind. He not only treats children; he has four of his own. His comments on the Air-Tran story were balanced and reasonable--he could see both sides--and he wrote a followup post a few days later with tips on discipline. Check it out!

01:33 PM

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