American’s Flight Attendants Union President Blames His Airline and a Passenger for Today’s Viral Video

A video of an altercation between an American Airlines flight attendant and a passenger went viral after the flight attendant reportedly grabbed the passenger’s stroller and nearly hit her baby in the process.

A different passenger approaches and asks the flight attendant’s name, presumably so he could file a complain about the man’s behavior towards the mother.

Nearly two minutes into the video this man has watched all he can as the woman cries. He gets up and intervenes. The flight attendant flails at him and orders “you stay out of this.”

American Airlines suspended the crew member, apologized publicly, and upgrade the woman and her family. Clearly the airline acted quickly to get out ahead of a video that’s spread virally across the world in the 24 hours since the incident.

Via David Koenig Association of Professional Flight Attendants President Bob Ross, representing flight attendants at the airline, put out a statement. And it’s deplorable.

The goal of our 26,000 members is to make every flight safe and secure for our passengers and crew. All passengers deserve to be treated with respect. We also must assure that our Flight Attendants are treated respectfully and safely on board.

Our dedicated Flight Attendants at American strive every day to make the passenger experience the best in the industry. However this has become more challenging due to tight schedules, overcrowded planes, shrinking seats, and limited overhead bin space. All of these factors are related to corporate decisions beyond the control of passengers and Flight Attendants.

There are really two stories here related to the incident aboard a San Francisco to Dallas flight. One, we don’t know all of the facts related to a passenger who became distraught while boarding a plane and therefore neither the company nor the public should rush to judgment.

Second, it appears another passenger may have threatened a Flight Attendant with violence, which is a violation of federal law and no small matter. Air rage has become a serious issue on our flights.

We must obtain the full facts surrounding these incidents. Our passengers and the Flight Attendants deserve nothing less.

The statement begins with the goal of union flight attendants to provide security, and not service. Any frequent flyer will tell you that a flight which begins with an announcement that flight attendants are there ‘primarily for your safety’ is going to be a Very. Long. Flight.

The concern then emphasizes the importance of better treatment for flight attendants, not customers.

The flight attendants union statement fails to even mention the passenger in the video until the 7th sentence — and only then does so in the passive voice describing her as becoming “distraught while boarding a plane” as though it simply ‘happened’ and the flight attendant in the video had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

He says flight attendants try to provide a good passenger experience, but if they don’t it’s the airline’s fault for myriad reasons — so don’t blame a flight attendant, apparently, no matter how a flight attendant treats a customer. Shameful.

In addition to the whole thing really being the airline’s fault, apparently the focus of our anger should be the passenger who tried to stick up for the crying mother because that’s a violation of federal law and air rage — once again turning customer service challenges into law enforcement problems, exactly what precipitated the United Airlines incident where the airline called Chicago Aviation Police who dragged a passenger off a plane and bloodied him.

I can only hope that the elected President of American’s flight attendants doesn’t actually represent their sentiment.

The proper response, it seems to me, is to say that ‘one bad apple’ in no way reflects the dedicated, professionalism, and service that American’s 26,000 flight attendants strive for day and in day out.

But he can’t do that without being seen as weak to his base, so not releasing any statement at all would have better.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Can I just remind all of you falling over yourselves blessing @Ryan for “giving the facts” that @Ryan is just some anonymous person posting anonymous hearsay?

    That anyone would call that “facts” is beyond ridiculous.

    And while the video is literally “factual”, it doesn’t, and can’t, present the full context.

    Anyone siding with any of the three principals (the woman, the FA, or the male passenger) has no real basis to do so considering you aren’t knowledgeable about ALL of the facts.

    There are reports that there is an effort to build unrest and distrust among Americans. I don’t think we need much push from the outside. We’re doing a really good job doing it ourselves!

  2. @Mike I posted this account as well and offered reasons to discount it. Matthew concludes that ‘real story’ is likely fake in his post you link to, and that’s without even evaluating Gailen David as a source.

  3. Hey Gary, your anti-union bias is showing; for a guy that flies as much as you do, I’d think you’d show a little more empathy for the people waiting on you. Flight attendants are expected to represent their company, enforce corporate polices as well as FFA rules; all done while knowing they’ll get tossed under the bus the second a passenger complains. I guess all these points, perks and entitlements have made you pretty jaded and numb to the folks that serve you.

    When he says that flight attendants have to deal with passengers and their frustrations “…due to tight schedules, overcrowded planes, shrinking seats, and limited overhead bin space.” He correctly points out that the flight attendants and passengers have those challenges put on them by the companies. Yet you re-quote him and say “…if they don’t it’s the airline’s fault for myriad reasons — so don’t blame a flight attendant, apparently, no matter how a flight attendant treats a customer. Shameful.”

    That’s not what he said and the way you spun that is what’s really shameful. Especially for a guy that flies as much as you do.

    When someone boards a delayed flight with their emotional support monkey, only to find that their 27″ roller bag doesn’t fit in the overhead bin, (even though it always does…) the flight attendants take the abuse. When a flight is delayed four hours due to weather, the flight attendants have to sit in the terminal with all of the angry passengers and make nice while they repeatedly answer the question, “What’s the real reason we’re delayed?” even though they aren’t getting paid and have zero control over the situation. They do all of this, knowing that no one has their back. Why haven’t you mentioned the captain just standing there like a bump on a log? He’s supposed to be in charge, but he’s just a spectator if the video.

    I don’t expect you to be pro-union, but I would have expected a little more consideration for the people you rely on to bring you your pre-flight champagne or fluff your mattress pad. Maybe the organic lavender sleep spray in your amenity kit spoiled…

  4. @Kevin
    Leave it the Future Farmers of America out of this. We need them. I’m hungry.

    As someon who flies as often as you do I see lots of great FA’s and I see some that are absolutely lazy and/or rude. Yah, I want that PDB on a 4pm flight that’s going through a calm boarding process. I’m not saying anyone should be fired for anything but protectionist unions aren’t the answer either.

  5. What gets me is the Captain (or Co-Pilot) seems to be standing around in a state of befuddlement watching the drama unfold. He should have taken over the situation.

  6. Gary,
    I have viewed articles on both sides of this dilemma and I must say I support your writings. Mr. President Bob Ross… needs to take his head out of his hiney hole. In lieu of recent events with United you would think he has some clue but it seems he does not.
    Going hands on with a passenger (or their possessions in this case) in an aggressive manner is in fact actionable battery (and most certainly NOT good PR). We all have bad days… but this is inexcusable behavior considering the alternatives.

  7. Boy is the author of this post, biased. First of all strollers are not allowed on any aircraft. Second, when a female passengers chooses to not comply with crew member instruction she has violated a Federal Law. She admits to not being hit or almost being touched by the stroller. Apparently, Argentinian woman throw these tantrums and crying situations when they want there way. Third, when a male passenger walks up and states he wants to flatten the Flight Attendant, that too is against Federal law. And he will be fined highly by the FAA.

  8. The best solution is not to allow babies or small children on flights eliminating the need for any strollers.

  9. Somebody threatened me that will be a issue the captain needs to be a captain no strollers on board is all airlines this was so overblown

  10. The flight attendant should be fired, should have been beaten to near death for his
    Inappropriate actions
    As well as Bob Ross
    Both POS
    As for American Airlines they suck
    I hope they go down

  11. As an AA flight attendant for 35 years this is bullshit from the Union.
    They cover up and protect all the bad eggs. Use my dues to represent these types horrible flight Attendants.
    My take:
    I would’ve found a place for the stroller or hand check it, then it is personally brought up by baggage right away.
    This F/A never should have been rude and grab an item from a passenger. He just didn’t want to take time and do his job for $55 dollars an hour! I flown with this type, do minimal, hate his job, bitter towards passengers. The man that was chivalrous, right on!
    Yes the Captain was ineffective to say the least.
    It is HIS aircraft at this point. Do something! Nope he wants to do minimal to so as not to write a lengthy report.
    The comment that the woman was faking, NO!
    So there, bottom line he should be fired and get a job where he doesn’t have to deal with people.
    So there, you at home armchair bloggers, commenters

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