American Airlines suspended a flight attendant after an altercation on Friday in which the attendant took a stroller from a woman traveling with two young children and then argued with other passengers. The episode was captured, in part, on video.
The encounter, at San Francisco International Airport, occurred while the woman was boarding a Texas-bound flight. The attendant, whose name was not released by the airline, grabbed the stroller from the woman, who was carrying 15-month-old twins, said a passenger who was nearby.
A video that circulated on social media showed the attendant nearly coming to blows with another passenger who threatened him after the altercation with the woman.
“What we see on this video does not reflect our values or how we care for our customers,” the airline said in a statement. “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.”
Coming after airport police officers were filmed violently dragging a passenger off a United Airlines flight in Chicago, the episode on the American flight comes at a charged time for the airline industry, which has had to cope with a series of events that have ruffled public opinion after being recorded and circulated.
American’s relatively quick suspension of the attendant contrasted sharply with the response by United, which was criticized for initially appearing to blame the passenger, David Dao, and taking “full responsibility” for the episode only after more than a day of public condemnation.
The American Airlines episode began when the plane was at the gate in San Francisco before a scheduled 1 p.m. departure to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. It occurred in the area between the cockpit and the first-class seating section. Strollers are not permitted in airplane cabins, an airline spokeswoman said.
“He jerked it away from her and almost hit the baby in the head,” Olivia Morgan, the passenger who saw the episode unfold, said in a telephone interview.
Morgan, an executive with an education-related nonprofit, said that after she complained about the woman’s treatment, the attendant shouted at her.
“He yells at me with his finger in my face, ‘You stay out of it!’ ” she said. “Full rage.”
Surain Adyanthaya, who posted the video of the altercation on Facebook, wrote that the flight attendant had “violently” taken the stroller, “hitting her and just missing the baby.”
The video begins after the stroller has been removed. It shows the mother standing toward the front of the plane and crying.
“Just give me back my stroller please,” she says while holding one of her children in her arms.
When the flight attendant returns to the frame, a male passenger rises and threatens him.
“Hey bud, you do that to me and I’ll knock you flat,” the passenger is heard saying.
The attendant turns to him, jabbing his finger in the air. “You stay out of this!” he says. The passenger leaves his row to confront the attendant. The woman, crying loudly at this point, moves behind a partition to shield her child.
“Try it, hit me,” the attendant says. “Come on, bring it on.”
“You almost hurt a baby,” the man says. “Maybe you’ll get videotaped, too, and get all over the news.”
American Airlines said that the woman and her family had been escorted off the plane and put on a different flight, from which they caught a connecting international flight. The airline said it had upgraded the family to first-class seats for the rest of their trip and was investigating the episode. “We are deeply sorry for the pain we have caused this passenger and her family and to any other customers affected,” the airline said in its statement.