A travel writer has documented his experience of being kicked off a flight after being deemed a "safety risk" when he asked a woman to swap seats with her fidgety-footed son.
Kevin Richberg boarded the second leg of his two-part flight to Bogota, Colombia, from JFK's JetBlue terminal 5 on 6 December.
He sat in 14F, and found himself next to a "fidgety four-year-old (14E), kicking and punching, jumping and swaying".
In his report on the Huffington Post, he explains that the boy's mother had been seated several rows in front of her son, which was rectified by a JetBlue steward, who asked if the woman seated in his row's aisle seat (14D), would switch with the mother.
Kevin says: "After she sat, and before she could orient herself, her seat belt, and her belongings, I asked her if she wouldn't mind switching places with her son, since it would help me sleep undisturbed by the four-year-old's movements during the eight-hour flight. She immediately and bluntly refused!"
The woman went on to snap "He's autistic!", and again refused to switch places, saying: "I gave him a pill, he'll be OK."
Kevin said perhaps the "sense of anger from the mother" or "the shocked look on my face" alerted the flight attendant to the situation. He explained the situation, and explained for a fourth time his logic in wanting to swap seats.
The agent said: "This woman paid for this seat!", to which Kevin replied: "I paid for my seat."
She offered to look for another seat elsewhere, to which Kevin said: "No, that's not necessary."
He adds: "The next thing I knew I was being ushered off the flight with my hand luggage in tow to the words "risk to the flight" being repeated to me as the answer to every question I attempted to pose, with the crew member saying: "The captain has deemed you a risk to the flight!"
JetBlue's gate agent offered him a rebooking on a flight 24 hours later. However, two hours later, Kevin was on a Delta flight to Bogota. Mulling over the fact he had not been aggressive or raised his voice, he later requested an answer from JetBlue as to why he was deemed a risk to the flight.
JetBlue sent this reply: "Kevin, although we understand your frustration, please know that seat selections are offered as a courtesy to our customers. However, as stated in our Contract of Carriage, they are not guaranteed. Occasionally we need to move individuals as a courtesy to other customers... The Inflight Crew of any airline has the authority to remove anyone they deem a risk to the flight or who does not follow instructions of the Crew. It is a federal offence to interfere with the operation of a commercial flight."
This answer prompted Kevin to ask two more questions:
1) Exactly how was I considered to be a risk to the flight (please be specific)?
2) Does JetBlue believe my request of the seat-swap constituted a federal crime?
He waited a month for the reply, and, when it arrived, he found it extremely unsatisfactory, reading: "Out of respect for the privacy of our customers, we don't comment publicly on the details of a specific customer matter. We stand behind our crewmembers' decisions to put the safety of all of our customers on board as their number one priority."
Do you think Kevin was unfairly treated?
Read more on his own report of the situation at the Huffington Post
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