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American Airlines suspends employee after watched video of violent altercations with passengers

According to a passenger account and a video posted to Facebook, an American Airlines flight attendant on Flight 591 on Friday violently grabbed a stroller from a mother holding her baby, hitting her and narrowly avoiding hitting the baby.

The incident itself wasn’t captured by the video passenger Surain Adyanthaya posted on Facebook. But in Adyanthaya’s video, a clearly distraught mother can be seen and heard crying while she holds her baby and asks for her stroller to be returned. Witnesses have described the incident starting when the mother was trying to find room for her stroller.

American Airlines suspends employee

In the Facebook video, the American Airlines employee gets hostile with another passenger. After a male passenger confronts the flight attendant in question, saying of the treatment of the mother, “You do that to me and I’ll knock you flat,” the employee dared him to a fight. “Come on try it,” he says. “Hit me.”

“Keep it quiet,” he later yells at the male passenger.

Adyanthaya later posted a photo of the mother and claimed that the airline involuntarily removed her from the flight and then let the flight attendant in question back on. American has disputed that characterization, saying the mother elected to take another flight and that she was upgraded to first class for the rest of her trip.

American responded relatively quickly to the incident, saying in a statement posted at 10:30pm central time on Friday, “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.” The statement said that the flight attendant has been “removed from duty while we immediately investigate this incident.” The airline told ThinkProgress that means “the flight attendant will not be working while we investigate the issue” but wouldn’t comment on how long that might take or what the outcome could be.

“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 statement said.

The quick apology stands in contrast to the way United Airlines responded to a video posted two weeks ago showing uniformed security agents violently assaulting and then removing passenger David Dao. After asking for volunteers to leave their seats so other United employees could get on the flight, Dao was picked by a computer. When he refused because he had patients to see in the morning, he was forcibly removed. Dao’s injuries included a broken nose, a concussion, and two knocked-out teeth.

At first, United’s CEO publicly apologized only for “having to re-accommodate these customers” and in an internal memo blamed the incident on Dao “def[ying] Chicago Aviation Security officers.” It took two days of backlash and a tanking stock price to yield a full apology.

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