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It’s happened once again, another controversy on board an American airline — this time JetBlue, a carrier known for having great customer service. You can watch the video here.
Apparently, a family of four was heading from JFK to Las Vegas for a surprise birthday trip for the mother, Minta Burke. The family decided to bring a birthday cake with them (which is allowed in case you’re wondering) and they originally stored it in an overhead storage compartment. It looks like that storage compartment may have been intended for emergency supplies as a crew member asked the family to move the cake down below a seat, which they did as evidenced by the video.
But that’s when reportedly another flight attendant became involved in the situation and started berating the other crew member (for not knowing procedure?) and accused the husband, Cameron Burke, of not complying with the their orders. The man was so taken back by this flight attendant’s actions he even asked her if she had been drinking (which I found hilarious).
“You know, you could see the gestures – then she was pointing to her, did you tell him he couldn’t put anything in the overhead compartment? I had approached them, and I said everything was fine, and she said, ‘sir, this does not involve you. When she told me I had been non-compliant, then I said ‘ma’am, had you been drinking?’ because her behavior was not normal,” Cameron says
Soon after that he was asked to get off the plane and when he refused security was called.
That’s when the man’s video starts rolling and we see the man calmly interacting with also calm law enforcement personnel who assure him that there’s no evidence of any wrongdoing and that everyone is going to be okay. Sadly, his kids are crying and look pretty horrified about the entire situation.
Eventually, everyone on the plane was forced to deplane and the man’s now obtained legal counsel. The family’s tickets were refunded and they flew to Vegas with United Airlines the next day.
JetBlue responded to the situation by standing by their decision and remarked:
“The customers became agitated, cursed and yelled at the crew, and made false accusations about a crew member’s fitness to fly.
“After the customers refused to speak to a team leader about the situation, the Port Authority Police Department was called and the entire aircraft deplaned.”
They also told PEOPLE that:
“the video circulating does not depict the entire incident and only starts after the objectionable behavior occurred.”
I recently wrote about my take on passenger issues with crew members and I highlighted several shortcomings of the airlines, a few of which looks like they could’ve occurred here. Those include:
- Failures to implement common-sense protocol/problem-solving
- Inability to diffuse situations without them blowing up
- Drastic measures taken to respond to minor situations
- Resorting or threatening to resort to law enforcement when there’s no cognizable security threat from an unhappy passenger
I also argued that it’s time for us passengers to pick out battles so that we don’t end up inconveniencing hundreds of other people at a time when something small doesn’t go our way. I also said we should feel free to stand up for ourselves when subjected to egregious behavior by staff members.
In this case, it’s hard to tell exactly how things escalated to security being called because it all happened before the video starts rolling. The family appears very calm in the video but admittedly the father is recording the video so it’s possible things were much more intense before he started recording. At the same time, we’ve seen airlines attempt to portray passengers unruly before when that was not the case, so I’m not sure I’m going to take JetBlue’s word at this stage.
Regardless, it does seem ridiculous that yet another small ordeal, this time involving a birthday cake, got blown up into something that it never needed to be. I don’t understand how situations like this become so heated and based on what I’ve seen so far, it seems like one rude flight attendant may have set this whole fiasco in motion.
I will say that It is very refreshing to a see a law enforcement acting reasonably and calmly, especially in the presence of kids. He even remarks to the kid, “Don’t cry, it’s alright… don’t worry, you’ll be alright.” That’s a far cry (no pun intended) from what we’ve seen in other cases, so props to the officers involved.
Hopefully, there’s another video out there waiting to come out to shed more light on this situation. In the meantime, I think I’m siding with the family here, at least until more evidence rolls out.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.