LAS VEGAS – the flight crew can restrict the passengers or even divert flights when violent behaviour breaks the air, but when the situation is going to be a parent of potential abuse of a child, the decisions are not so clear.
A 5½-hour JetBlue flight earlier this month continued to the final destination after three passengers reported a mother mistreating her 8-year-old son, including grabbing him by the neck and pushing him against the window as he cried.
The same day, the airline diverted a flight to Las Vegas after a man allegedly hit and a bit for the other passengers.
The airline has not responded to requests for comment on the incident with the child, and a federal complaint against the mother to say whether the flight attendant that the passenger complaints of interventions.
Although this may differ by airline, flight attendants are trained in how to de-escalate violent situations and generally accepted procedures, and it is likely that JetBlue closed it was safest to leave the mother and son together and not disrupt the flight, aviation experts say.
“This is certainly a very unpleasant situation, but it is one that is full, if you will, gray areas, in contrast to a black-and-white situation,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst.
“The challenge is that if you separate the parent from the child, it could elevate the tension between the two,” he said. “If the flight attendants were physically restrict the mother, also that could be exacerbated by the fear in the child by seeing his older modest and possibly of evil.”
A felony complaint filed with the U. S. District Court blames Cherice Dawn Klipfel of attacks of her son during the flight from Boston to Salt Lake City on Dec. 10. Her lawyer will not return a call seeking comment.
A woman sitting next to Klipfel told an FBI agent that she saw the mother strike, slap, kick and push her son, who had a window seat.
“Every violent episode would be followed by a warm period (Klipfel) would calm down and she would sit without a problem,” according to the complaint. “(The passenger) was convinced that the violence (Klipfel) was committed against (the son) was absolutely not the parenting, but abuse and ill-treatment. (Passenger) is described (Klipfel) striking and pull (boy), (boy) pleaded for her to stop.”
The complaint says two other passengers saw Klipfel “tight” her son’s face and “shake him aggressively” while the boy cried.
The airline is faced with a different air disturbance that day, when a passenger going from Los Angeles to New York had to be restrained after hitting and biting others, according to mobile phone video shared with a TV station. Officers met the plane after it was diverted to Las Vegas, but no police report was taken and no arrest was made.
Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of flight Attendants-CWA union, said many factors play into a decision to lead from the flight, including the question of whether the violent behavior is stopped, and how fast the plane safely on a spot on an airport.
She added that flight attendants know to intervene to try to stop violent behavior, by giving clear verbal commands, the restraining of a person or the separate of passengers, regardless of their relationship.
“Bottom line, the actions of the mother in attacking her son would lead to a very high level of threat,” Nelson said. “This goes further than the relationship between mother and son. This is a passenger who is using violence against another passenger in a small space where people can not go away and situations can escalate quickly.”
A grand jury on Wednesday returned a felony indictment against Klipfel of Lakewood, Colorado. She was released and her trial on an assault charge is scheduled for February.
Janet Rosenzweig, executive director of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, praised the three passengers complained to the flight attendant. She said that it is difficult to intervene to help a child, because the Americans believe that it is against the social norms.
“If you ask people, ‘Would you intervene if you saw a child being abused?’ Most people say it is. But if you ask them, ” Would other people intervene?’ Most people think that the rest of the world,” she said. “The good news is that people were willing to stand up and try to help a child.”