But Brown, whose firm is based in Atlanta, also said that AirTran's explanation of what happened doesn't tell the whole story. He said a group of passengers -- "of obvious Middle Eastern descent, which doesn't concern me" -- were refusing to cooperate with flight attendants and using cell phones while the plane was on the runway. The atmosphere was "extremely tense," and the crew was upset, according to Brown.
He thinks it was some "people who were maybe not the best citizens for flights," and the situation may have been aggravated by a language barrier. The entire WSBTV interview is here.
An FAA probe found no evidence of safety violations -- including failure to follow flight attendant instructions and use of electronic devices.
AirTran has said the plane was taxied back to the gate where a passenger on a cell phone, along with a companion, was asked to get off the plane. The company's statement continues: "The passengers were allowed to re-board and continued on the flight after speaking with AirTran and TSA representatives. The flight was delayed by more than two hours."
AirTran told TPMmuckraker yesterday that the company considers the matter over.