A New Jersey family is threatening to sue JetBlue airlines after the airline forced them off a flight last week due to an argument over a birthday cake, they say. The airline, meanwhile, argues a video shot by the passengers doesn’t capture the whole story and says they were kicked off because their behavior “demonstrated a risk for additional escalation in air.”
Cameron Burke was heading to Las Vegas with his wife and two kids out of New York’s JFK airport on May 3 when they and crewmembers had a conflict over how the birthday cake was stored, leading to the entire plane having to disembark, WABC News reported.
The family allegedly placed the dessert in an overhead bin reserved for emergency equipment. In a statement, the airline maintains that the family “refused multiple requests from the crew to remove the items.”
Instead of immediately complying, “The customers became agitated, cursed and yelled at the crew, and made false accusations about a crewmember’s fitness to fly,” the airline said.
The Burke family, speaking to WABC News, denies the airline’s claim that they refused to comply and used vulgar language.
In a video uploaded to social media, Cameron Burke is seen calmly addressing a Port Authority police officer as his son sobs across from him. His daughter, seen next to his wife who is wearing a tiara for her birthday, tells her father, “Daddy, I feel scared.”
“Has this since been resolved?” the officer asks the family.
“Yes, it’s on the floor,” Cameron Burke replies, referring to the cake.
The officer tells the family they did nothing wrong but will have to rebook their flight, according to the airline’s orders.
Speaking to WABC News after, the family called the airline’s response overblown and the flight attendants’ handling of the situation chaotic.
“She was pointing to her, did you tell him he couldn’t put anything in the overhead compartment?” Cameron said one flight attendant said to another.
“I had approached them, and I said everything was fine, and she said, ‘Sir, this does not involve you,’” he said one flight attendant told him. “When she told me I had been non-compliant, then I said, ‘Ma’am, had you been drinking?’ because her behavior was not normal.”
The airline says the family’s behavior was different after they began filming.
“The video circulating does not depict the entire incident and only starts after the objectionable behavior occurred and law enforcement were called,” an airline spokesperson told HuffPost on Sunday.
“The Captain determined the customers’ behavior demonstrated a risk for additional escalation in air and would not be allowed to fly. A full refund was given. The remaining customers re-boarded and the flight departed without further interruption,” the airline’s statement continued.
Cameron Burke, speaking to the New York Daily News, said he plans to file a lawsuit against the airline. He also wants the flight attendant fired.
“She has no business serving the public,” he told the news site. “I hope JetBlue will retrain their staff and recreate the culture I once loved.”
The airline noted that passengers are allowed to bring one carry-on and one personal item, including cakes, so long as they are within the size limits.