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Family kicked off Jetblue flight for storing birthday cake in wrong compartment

In a video, the police officer summoned to the plane tells the crew, "No one did anything wrong"

Julia Buckley
Thursday 07 December 2017 12:40 GMT
Family kicked off Jetblue flight because of birthday cake

What does it take to get kicked off a plane? For one American family, it seems, the answer is a birthday cake.

Minta Burke, from New Jersey, was due to fly from New York to Las Vegas to celebrate her 40th birthday on 3 May, when she – along with her husband and two children – was kicked off the flight from JFK before departure.

The family – seated at the very back of the plane – had brought a birthday cake with them, and told the New York Daily News that cabin crew gave them conflicting advice about where to store it.

Cameron Burke, Minta’s husband, told the NYDN that they put the cake in the overhead locker above their seats, but then they were asked to move it: “A flight attendant nicely asked me to remove the cake from that compartment, so I moved it to another one.

“She then asked me to move it to underneath the seat in front of me, I did.”

But Burke says that then another flight attendant arrived to tick off her colleague and accuse the Burkes of being “non-compliant”.

“I said, ‘Miss, have you been drinking?’ Because her behaviour was irrational,” Burke says. The next thing he knew, another crew member was asking the family to leave the plane. When they refused, crew called the police.

In a video recorded by Cameron Burke, a police officer from the Port Authority is heard telling cabin crew “I don’t see any wrongdoing here.”

The five-minute video shows the cake at Burke’s feet as his son cries that the family hasn’t done anything wrong and Minta Burke is on the phone, looking shocked but calm, beside her daughter.

Having told the flight attendant that the family hasn’t done anything wrong, the policeman returns to the Burkes, tells them “no one’s in any trouble” and asks for their ID because “unfortunately it got reported to us.”

He continues: “No one did anything wrong, everything is going to be ok, and unfortunately they're going to have to rebook everyone. We’re trying to avoid that but this is JetBlue.”

He then tells the little boy: “Don’t cry, it’s alright… don’t worry, you’ll be alright.”

When Burke calmly asks whether the family will be refunded for their tickets, the police officer says he doesn't know, as it’s up to the airline. He adds: “I wish everyone could just go on their way to Vegas and enjoy but unfortunately that’s their policy.” JetBlue has said it was the captain’s decision to eject the family.

Other passengers on the piane are studiously ignoring the incident at the back during the video. No one comes to the family’s defence.

Perhaps keen to avoid any more awkward videos in the same week that United Airlines told crew to assume they are on camera at all times, the JetBlue crew then asked all passengers to disembark the plane, in order to eject the Burkes. Their tickets were refunded, but their luggage remained on the flight, and was collected by Burke’s mother in law, who’d been waiting for their arrival. The family flew to Vegas with United Airlines the following day.

In a statement, JetBlue said that the family had initially stored the cake in an overhead compartment used for emergency equipment - the very first and last lockers in a plane are often reserved for this - and that they had refused several requests to move it.

A spokesperson said: “The customers became agitated, cursed and yelled at the crew, and made false accusations about a crewmember’s fitness to fly.

“After the customers refused to speak to a team leader about the situation, the Port Authority Police Department was called and the entire aircraft deplaned.”

In a month of unusually bad press for airlines and their customer service, Jetblue had come out relatively unscathed before this incident. In fact, last week The Independent had named Jetblue one of the best airlines for customer service.

The Burkes say they intend to file a lawsuit.

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