A family of five claim JetBlue demanded they depart an aircraft, leaving them stranded without an alternative flight or luggage.
On June 21, Tamir Raanan and Mandy Ifrah were seated on a JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport to New York City with their 1-year-old daughter and two other children, 5 and 8. Prior to departure, Ifrah said her youngest daughter, who was seated on her lap, began to kick the seat in front of her. Ifrah said the passenger turned around and made some rude comments before moving to the empty seat next to her. Everything calmed down until it was announced the plane would return to the gate, she added.
Ifrah said a Jet Blue security person approached her and asked how many people she was traveling with before instructing all of them to get off of the plane.
In the first of two videos filmed by Raanan, the couple, still seated on the plane, repeatedly question a JetBlue official about the reason for their removal. He does not give them an answer but instead continues to insist the family follow him off the plane. Neither video shows the moment leading up to the request.
Once they exited the aircraft, the second video shows the family again ask the JetBlue official for more details and why they will not be allowed to board again. Ifrah cries as she questions the security person about how she will get her children’s belongings and return to John F. Kennedy International Airport.
"We were left stranded," Ifrah said. "We were thousands of miles away from home. I asked them if they could at least get our luggage off the flight."
The entire aircraft was evacuated when Ifrah’s family was asked to leave, she said. Broward Sheriff Office (BSO) deputies were also present at the gate in the second video and try to calm down the couple while confirming they will not make the flight. While the deputies escorted the family to baggage claim to search for their bags, the other passengers were allowed back onto the plane, Irfah added.
In a statement released by JetBlue on Wednesday, the airline justifies its reasoning for removing the family.
“After a verbal altercation that included physical threats and profanities against a nearby customer, the aircraft door was reopened and our airports team politely asked the customers to step off to discuss the situation. The customers refused repeated requests and our crewmembers deplaned the entire aircraft. Law enforcement escorted them out of the gate area and we provided a refund.”
The airline also denies the allegation that the way Raanan and Ifrah’s children behaved was the source of them leaving the plane. “We are investigating whether the customers’ behavior warrants restrictions on JetBlue travel and we thank our crewmembers for their professional handling of this unfortunate incident.”
David Templer, the family’s attorney, said, “There is absolutely no truth whatsoever to those statements.” Templer said JetBlue’s statement references its Contract of Carriage. This agreement, revised in May, includes the reasons why customers are refused transportation including intoxication, offensive odor and intimidating or threatening behavior. But, Templer argues that if Ifrah issued “physical threats” then JetBlue would have notified authorities immediately.
“It is imbecilic to believe that the incident occurred the way JetBlue wants to suggest,” he said.
Templer admits his clients did not leave the aircraft when first asked but he said most people would be shocked if they were told they were being abandoned without an alternative flight. BSO told NBC Miami that they were only there to keep the peace and no law enforcement action was required.
“It just doesn’t make sense the way they handled the whole situation and disrespected my family,” Ifrah said. Once the family was able to secure a hotel, she said she contacted a JetBlue official who told her they would be booked on a flight the following day. Ifrah said she was informed in the morning that this was no longer a possibility because her family was blacklisted from JetBlue until further notice.
The family booked a return flight with another airline, but when they arrived at JFK they did not find their luggage. They were informed it had been returned to Fort Lauderdale. Ifrah said the family was only reimbursed for four one-way tickets and had not heard from JetBlue until Wednesday’s public statement.
“They are making me out to look like I threatened and used curse words,” she said. “I don’t speak like that next to my kids.”
According to Templer, the family initially just wanted an apology, reimbursement and an explanation from JetBlue. However, now that the JetBlue has released a statement, the family feels attacked and has received hateful messages. “I think had JetBlue not been reckless and irresponsible in issuing a false statement of the account, more likely than not this would not have escalated,” he said. “The consideration for filing a lawsuit is now an open possibility.”
“It is so sad and disgusting on their part,” Ifrah said. “You have no voice and there is no one to talk to. It’s just not right.”