A group of about 100 high school students on a flight from New York to Atlanta were kicked off the plane after the pilot and crew lost patience with children who weren't sitting down and kept using their mobile phones.
Students and chaperones from a Brooklyn-based school have condemned the decision to remove the children from the aircraft as an overreaction.
In a statement Southwest Airlines said flight attendants had repeatedly asked passengers to take their seats and put mobile devices away. The captain repeated his request after the children reportedly ignored it.
The students were then ordered from the flight, delaying its take-off for 45 minutes as the students filed out of the Boeing 737, which seats about 137 people, leaving the plane mostly empty.
Rabbi Seth Linfield, executive director at Yeshiva of Flatbush, told Associated Press that administrators were still looking into the matter, but that he believed adults on the trip who said the students weren't behaving that badly.
"Preliminarily, it does not appear that the action taken by the flight crew was justified," he said in a statement.
Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins wouldn't get into details as to why the entire group was kicked out, but said "I have no indication that the flight attendants overreacted."
He said the AirTran cabin crew made "repeated requests" for an unknown number of the students to behave. "The point at which the captain comes on the PA system and says, 'You all need to sit down,' is unusual."
The students were on a three-day trip that was to include a rafting excursion and a visit to a Six Flags theme park.