NEW YORK, NY – A large group of Jewish high school students have been kicked off a flight after some refused to turn off their cell phones for take-off.
The school party of 100 students and eight chaperones were removed from an AirTran flight on its way to Atlanta, Georgia from New York City.
Some have claimed that the airline overreacted to the senior students’ actions with one saying that they were targeted for being Jewish.
The disruptive scenes on board the AirTran flight, owned by SouthWest Airlines, took place at 6am on Monday.
SouthWest Airlines confirmed that 137 were on board the flight at the time when 108 passengers were asked to leave.
Teachers, who were with the group from the Yeshiva of Flatbush in Brooklyn, claimed that airline crew had over-reacted. The chaperones were also removed from the flight.
One student Jonathan Zehavi told CBS: ‘They treated us like we were terrorists; I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m not someone to make these kinds of statements.
”I think if it was a group of non-religious kids, the air stewardess wouldn’t have dared to kick them off.’
In a statement SouthWest Airlines said: ‘Our crew, responsible for the overall safety of AirTran flight 345 from New York LaGuardia to Atlanta… had a group of non-compliant passengers leave the aircraft before departing the gate.
‘Reports from flight attendants and other customers confirm some passengers in the group would not sit down in their seats and some were using their mobile devices.
‘Both are violations of Federal Air Regulations, as well as our policies. The crew, led by the Captain, asked several times that the passengers comply with regulations.
‘The issue ultimately delayed the flight’s departure to Atlanta. All members of the group were accommodated on other flights this morning.’
But school officials had a different account.
Rabbi Seth Linfield, executive director at Yeshiva of Flatbush, said the school was still investigating but the adults on the trip said the students weren’t behaving that badly.
‘Preliminarily, it does not appear that the action taken by the flight crew was justified,’ he said in a statement.
He said the school had taken similar sized groups in the past without incident, NBC News said.
One of the chaperones on the flight, Marian Wielgus, said the airlines ‘blew it out of proportion.’
‘It was a mountain out of a molehill,’ said Wielgus. She said some students may have had to be told twice to sit down or turn off their phones, but everyone listened, CNN reported.
She called the flight attendants ‘nasty’ ‘overreacting’ and ‘created an incident when there didn’t have to be one.’