PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Three women were escorted off a New York bound flight at Palm Beach International Airport Monday afternoon by airline staff and Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies. The women claim they did not do anything wrong and that a flight attendant on board was the only one behaving poorly.
The women -- a lawyer, a therapist and a retired travel agent -- were complete strangers until they were seated near one another on AirTran Flight 1451 to White Plains, New York. They were buckled in and ready to take off when they said a male flight attendant began mishandling some overhead luggage.
"I said, 'Hey, I have breakables in that,'" said Marilyn Miller.
Miller said her plea was ignored and that the flight attendant even began shoving other bags into hers. "It was just like a bully and I found myself shaking."
Passenger Carol Gray also had a problem and requested attention from the same flight attendant.
"I said, 'Excuse me sir, my seat is broken,' and he looked at me and said, 'I'm not talking to you,' and poked me in the arm," said Gray.
Miller and Gray said the attendant was getting angry and threatened to throw both women off of the airplane.
"He said, 'Well, you're getting off.' I said, 'You've got to be kidding me,'" said Miller, who was escorted off of the plane into the jet-way.
The women claim two sheriff's deputies and some airline staffers arrived to take them away. Passenger Karyn Schorr decided it was time to speak up.
"I said, 'This is crazy, they didn't do anything. Why are you doing this to them?'" And he said, 'Throw her off too,'" Schorr said.
All three women said they were in shock when they were lead off of the airplane and back to the terminal.
"My seat was broken and it really was. Her bag was being mishandled. And this other woman came to our defense," said Gray. "Those are hardly causes to throw us all off the plane."
The women said the airlines should do a better job selecting the people that are in control in the air.
"Stewards have all the power when you're on an airplane, I get that," said Schorr. "But, this is a man who is not balanced."
The women were not cited or charged with any crimes and were offered a flight on another airline back to New York paid for by AirTran. They were told that someone from AirTran management would be contacting each of them directly.
"I've never seen this flight attendant and if I ever see him on a plane again, I'm getting off," said Miller.
Southwest Airlines, which acquired AirTran in 2011, released this statement Tuesday:
Our Employees are responsible for the safety and comfort of everyone onboard a flight. Our goal is always to mitigate any uncomfortable situation prior to departure. Our crew assessed the environment onboard and ultimately decided to accommodate the passengers on an alternative flight. In addition to booking new travel arrangements, we compensated the passengers - offering a gesture of goodwill for their inconvenience. We always prefer that a passenger walk away with a positive experience when flying our airline, we regret that didn't happen in this scenario. As we often do in these situation, we will take this opportunity to review the reports and take away any key learnings that we might uncover.
-Brandy King, Southwest Airlines spokeswoman