Tantrum on Flight 609
So was the controversy that followed. The airline contends Elly would not remain seated with the belt buckled. The girl's parents insist she was indeed buckled in, although they admit she continued the tantrum. Both sides do agree that after the Jan. 14 screaming fit, a gate agent ordered the entire Kulesza family of Worcester, Mass.—Elly, Julie, 31, a waitress, and husband Gerry, 30, an EMT and nursing student—to leave row 19, seats A, B and C, and get off the plane. Says Julie: "I'm like 'What? Are you serious?'"
They were. The family was offered a refund and had to wait a day for the next nonstop flight to Boston (on which Elly slept like an angel). But the real indignity, they say, came when the Kuleszas told their story to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, anticipating an outcry against the airline. Instead there was an outcry against the Kuleszas. "We received over 8,000 calls and e-mails," says AirTran VP Tad Hutcheson. "Right now we're holding strong at 90 percent in favor of the airline." Opinions on the paper's Web site and blogs nationwide were also anti-Elly and her family. Julie Kulesza wonders why. "I just wanted to make the public aware that if you have children, this could happen to you. If there are parents who say their child doesn't have a tantrum, I want to meet them."