Less than two weeks after United Airlines prompted a public relations crisis for dragging a passenger from his seat on an overbooked flight, rival American Airlines is being buffeted by its own controversy. The airline said on Saturday it is investigating video of a flight attendant angrily confronting a passenger who had come to the defense of a sobbing woman with a baby in her arms. The viral video, filmed by another passenger, shows a distraught mother carrying her baby boarding the plane moments after the flight attendant had apparently forcibly taken a stroller from her, with other passengers registering shock.
"We have seen the video and have already started an investigation to obtain the facts," American Airlines said in an email to AFP. "The actions of our team member captured here do not appear to reflect patience or empathy, two values necessary for customer care." The incident on the plane - scheduled to fly from San Francisco to Dallas - was filmed by Surain Adyanthaya, who posted the video to her Facebook account on Friday.
"OMG! AA Flight attendant violently took a stroller from a lady with her baby on my flight, hitting her and just missing the baby," she wrote. "Then he tried to fight a passenger who stood up for her."
The video does not show the first part of the incident, and begins with the woman crying uncontrollably as a pilot and other airline employees stand by impassively. Another passenger waiting to board the plane later described the preceding confrontation to the Los Angeles television station KTLA-TV.
"The flight attendant wrestled the stroller away from the woman, who was sobbing, holding one baby with the second baby in a car seat on the ground next to her," Olivia Morgan told the station.
In the Facebook video, a seated male passenger later stands up, saying, "I'm not going to sit here and watch this stuff."
"Hey, bud," he says to the flight attendant. "You do that to me, and I'll knock you flat."
"Hey, you stay out of this!" the flight attendant shouts back. The argument escalates as the female passenger with the baby, now off camera, is heard sobbing uncontrollably.