Flight attendant Sarah Steeger tweets what purports to be another passenger’s view of what happened leading up to the video of an altercation between an American Airlines flight attendant and a passenger that went viral.
American Airlines quickly suspended the flight attendant and said this incident didn’t represent their values.
Here’s what flight attendant Steeger, who says the narrative around the video “didn’t sound quite right”, shares:
While this version of events is meant to exonerate the flight attendant and lay blame for the situation on the woman who brought a stroller onto the plane (when American Airlines does not allow strollers in cabin), I don’t think it comes close to doing that.
- This demonstrates that the passenger was allowed to board with her stroller, and lends support for the claim that she was told she could do so. American should have explained that the stroller would have to be checked at the gate or at the bottom of the jetway.
- The flight attendant, in this telling, reportedly said there was no room for the stroller not that it wasn’t allowed. That’s different than blaming her for ‘breaking American’s rules and thus causing the situation’ as some have wanted to do.
- This telling underscores that the flight attendant exacerbated the confronation — that he decided she was ‘unfit to fly’ (yet the yelling and threats he offers in the video suggest he’s fit to fly?) and on his own without help sought to physically move her off the plane by lifting the stroller over his head and past her.
- The only thing I see that’s actually critical of the mother is the claim that she pushed the flight attendant after he grabbed her stroller.
- Criticizing the first class passenger who spoke up for the mother for ‘faux chivalry’ is a judgment, not a new fact or description of what happened. Supposedly the teller of this version saw what happened ‘in the back of the plane’ while claiming this other first class passenger simply could not have seen it. That’s possible but hard for this person to know.
Different people can look at the same incident in different ways, as is made clear from the comments on my posts on this issue.
It’s clear though that the woman was permitted to board with something that American doesn’t allow in the cabin, she was confronted by a flight attendant who physically grabbed a stroller and lost his cool rather than seeking help from another crew member who might have been better able to communicate with this woman. Perhaps the female flight attendant in the video might have had better luck, or at least been able to reset the situation. Instead the flight attendant in the video exploded, not just at the mother but at another passenger who stepped in as the woman cried uncontrollably at the situation unfolding in front of her.
Flight attendants have a difficult job, not in the sense of manual labor but dealing with people of varied backgrounds under challenging conditions. Flying is incredibly (“small d”) democratic, with people from all backgrounds thrown together inside a metal tube each bringing their own issues to the plane. It’s not easy to meet safety regulations, provide service, and work with people whose communication styles are so varied.
None of which excuses the way this incident was handled — let alone the offensive, bureaucratic and offensive excuse offered by the President of American’s flight attendants union.