Is this the icing on the cake of U.S. airplane horror stories?
In yet another viral video of apparent airline awfulness, a New York-area family was booted from a JetBlue flight to Las Vegas following a dispute about a birthday confection they had brought on board.
According to local media, Jersey City’s Cameron Burke, his wife and their two kids were thrown off a jet due to leave New York City’s John F. Kennedy airport after they got into a dispute with flight attendants over where a birthday cake they had bought for Burke’s wife’s 40th birthday should be stored.
The cake, specially ordered from the famed Tonnie’s Minis bakery in Harlem as a center of a family celebration in Sin City, was included as part of their carry-on luggage, the New York Daily News reported, and placed in an overhead bin.
“A flight attendant nicely asked me to remove the cake from that compartment, so I moved it to another one,” Cameron, a speech pathologist, told the paper.
“She then asked me to move it to underneath the seat in front of me, I did.”
And that, said Cameron, was when a second attendant approached, berated the first and the cake confrontation began.
"You know, you could see the gestures,” Cameron told local TV station WABC of the May 3 incident. “Then she was pointing to her, [saying], ‘Did you tell him he couldn't put anything in the overhead compartment?”
Cameron said he then approached them, and said everything was fine and that the cake was under the seat, as instructed. “And she said, 'Sir, this does not involve you,’ ” and claimed he was not following crew member instructions.
“She said I was being non-compliant,” Burke told the News. “I said, ‘Miss, have you been drinking?’ because her behavior was irrational, and she stormed off.”
Then according to the paper, another airline employee approached Burke and asked him and his family to leave the flight. Instead, he refused, pulled out his cell phone and started recording.
At that point, airport police were called, whose interaction with the family was posted on social media.
In the video, Cameron calmly explains the situation to an officer while his family looks on, his 7-year-old son, Cameron Jr., weeping and his 9-year-old daughter, Camille, looking anxious. Meanwhile, his wife, Minta, sits between the children wearing a flashing birthday tiara and tries to calm her son.
The police then left the plane, but said that the airline was ordering everyone to leave and be reboarded.
That did not include the Burkes, who were told they could not fly. According to the Daily News, the family’s tickets and reward points were refunded, and Burke said his family was ordered out of the JetBlue space. They flew to Nevada the next day on United.
Unlike other recent incidents where airlines have apologized profusely, JetBlue pushed back hard.
“During boarding, the customers stowed their cake and other items in an overhead bin reserved for safety and emergency equipment, and refused multiple requests from the crew to remove the items,” a statement from the airline began.
“Federal regulations require that the emergency equipment remain unobstructed during the flight. The customers became agitated, cursed and yelled at the crew, and made false accusations about a crew member’s fitness to fly,” the statement continued.
“After the customers refused to speak with a team leader about the situation, the Port Authority Police Department was called and the entire aircraft deplaned. The Captain determined the customers’ behavior demonstrated a risk for additional escalation in air and would not be allowed to fly. A full refund was given. The remaining customers re-boarded and the flight departed without further interruption.”
In the statement, the airline pointed out that the video “does not depict the entire incident and only starts after the objectionable behavior occurred and law enforcement was called.”
Burke, however, said he was calm throughout the whole episode, telling WABC that he never cursed or raised his voice. "The passengers were very understanding,” he told the station. “They knew that this was a strange situation."
Minta Cameron said the event was “just crazy. I'm surprised. I'm surprised. I thought highly of JetBlue before."
Cameron, who is African-American, told the Daily News that he had reached out to the National Action Network, the civil-right organization headed by the Rev. Al Sharpton, and intends to file a lawsuit against JetBlue.
“I want the flight attendant fired, she has no business serving the public,” he told the paper. “I hope JetBlue will retrain their staff and recreate the culture I once loved.”
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