Students kicked off plane to Atlanta, claim flight crew overreacted

June 4, 2013 at 3:17 PM

NEW YORK, June 4 (UPI) -- An entire New York City high school class on its way to Atlanta was removed from an AirTran flight for failure to comply with regulations, the airline said.

The 101 senior students and eight chaperones from Yeshivah of Flatbush, a private Orthodox Jewish school in Brooklyn, would not stay seated and used their mobile phones when ordered not to, Southwest Airlines spokesman Brad Hawkins said, adding they delayed the AirTran flight early Monday by 45 minutes.

The group claimed the flight crew overreacted, teacher and chaperone Marian Wielgus saying, "It blew out of proportion. It was a mountain out of a molehill."

She said flight attendants were "nasty," "overreacting" and "created an incident where there didn't have to be one."

Rabbi Joseph Beyda, another chaperone, said none of the students aboard the plane was loud or disruptive, and student Jonathan Zehavi suggested the group was targeted because they were identifiably Jewish.

"They treated us like we were terrorists. I think if it was a group of non-religious kids, the air stewardess wouldn't have dared to kick them off," Zehavi said. The airline's customer service booked the members on several other flights, and some, with connecting flights, spent 12 hours getting to their destination, CNN reported.

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