NEW YORK — A group of about 100 high school students traveling from New York to Atlanta were thrown off a flight, along with their chaperones, after the pilot and crew lost patience with some kids who wouldn’t sit down and put away their cellphones.
The teenagers, all seniors at the Yeshiva of Flatbush, in Brooklyn, were ordered off the AirTran flight around 6 a.m. Monday as it sat at a gate at LaGuardia Airport.
AirTran’s parent company, Southwest Airlines, said in a statement that flight attendants asked passengers several times to take their seats and put their mobile devices away. The airline said that when some didn’t comply, the captain repeated the request. When that didn’t work, either, the whole group of students was ordered to disembark for safety reasons, the airline said.
The flight was delayed for about 45 minutes while the students filed out of the Boeing 737, which seats about 137 people, leaving the plane mostly empty.
Rabbi Seth Linfield, executive director at Yeshiva of Flatbush, said that administrators were still looking into the matter Tuesday, but that he believed adults on the trip who 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.
Asked whether he thought 100 teenagers were too many to keep in order on a flight, Linfield said the school has taken similar-size groups before without any problems.
Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins wouldn’t get into details as to why the entire group was kicked out, but said “I have no indication that the flight attendants overreacted.”
He said the AirTran cabin crew made “repeated requests” for an unknown number of the students to behave. “The point at which the captain comes on the PA system and says, ‘You all need to sit down,’ is unusual.”
The students were on a three-day trip that was to include a rafting excursion and a visit to a Six Flags theme park.
The airline ultimately put the students on other flights, but it took 12 hours for some to reach their destination via transfers that took them as far out of their way as Milwaukee, Wis.
Some students posted pictures and video of their journey on social media sites. At least one sent a barrage of Twitter messages to media organizations, complaining that the way they were being treated was a “scandal.”
Linfield said Southwest Airlines offered vouchers to future air travel to faculty and students who were on the plane.