American Airlines has suspended a flight attendant after he challenged a passenger to a fight at the front of an aircraft cabin.
During the boarding of the Friday afternoon flight AA591 from San Francisco airport to Dallas-Fort Worth, it appears that the staff member hurt a mother of twins as he removed her stroller for storage in the hold.
The ensuing events were filmed by Surain Adyanthaya, a passenger sitting several rows back. He uploaded the footage to Facebook, and wrote: “OMG! AA Flight attendant violently took a stroller from a lady with her baby on my flight, hitting her and just missing the baby.
“Then he tried to fight a passenger who stood up for her.”
In the footage, the mother is seen standing in the crew area holding a baby, sobbing and asking for her stroller back.
A large male passenger then stands up and demands the name of the employee involved in the stroller incident. He returns to his seat, then returns when the staff member re-appears through the cabin door. The passenger shouts: “Hey bud — you do that to me and I’ll knock you flat.”
As the captain looks on from the flight-deck door, the employee says: “Try it. Hit me.”
The captain orders the passenger to sit down, and then follows the staff member out of the cabin door.
Once the footage began to be shared on social media, American Airlines responded with a statement coded “crisis-alert”, saying: “The actions of our team member captured here do not appear to reflect patience or empathy, two values necessary for customer care. In short, we are disappointed by these actions.”
The airline said the employee has been “removed from duty” pending an investigation.
American Airlines is desperate to avoid creating a similar PR catastrophe to United, whose chief executive described a passenger being dragged violently from the seat he had paid for as being “re-accommodated”.
The statement from American said: “We have seen the video and have already started an investigation to obtain the facts. What we see on this video does not reflect our values or how we care for our customers. We are deeply sorry for the pain we have caused this passenger and her family and to any other customers affected by the incident.”
The airline said the passenger had been switched to a different flight and would be upgraded to First Class for her entire journey, which is believed to be to Europe.
The incident occurred at a big US airport on a Friday afternoon, when queues are long, planes are full and stress is high – not a great time for either passengers or employees.
Once again, though, it appears that staff working for a giant US airline may have failed to observe the most basic element of service: don’t harm the passengers.
But it appears from the footage as though the large man who threatened to “floor” the staff member was allowed to remain on board. That may surprise a lot of airline employees, since American Airlines warns passengers whose “conduct is disorderly, abusive or violent” can expect to be offloaded.
The flight eventually departed 90 minutes behind schedule.