The president of the flight attendants association appears to defend an American Airlines attendant accused of “violently” snatching away a baby stroller from a mother, inadvertently hitting her with the stroller and narrowly missing her small child on a Dallas-bound flight from San Francisco on Friday.
Bob Ross, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, said in a statement to media outlets, including WFAA.com and the Washington Post, that an upset male passenger who confronted the attendant — captured on a video posted on Facebook — was perhaps more out of line.
Ross said the passenger “may have threatened a flight attendant with violence, which is a violation of federal law and no small matter.”
The 2-minute, 40-second video taken by passenger Surain Adyanthaya begins apparently moments after the incident with the stroller. It shows the young woman holding a child and sobbing at the front of the plane as passengers are boarding flight 591 from San Francisco to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.
It was enough for American Airlines to take quick action. The company said in a statement it had “removed from duty” the male team member “and have already started an investigation to obtain the facts.”
The airlines said the woman tried to bring a double-wide stroller down the aisle of a single-aisle A321, television station WFAA reported. The airlines said the woman, who did speak English and had flown from Argentina to the U.S., forgot she was supposed to check in the stroller and tried to bring it on the plane with her, the TV station reported.
A baby almost got hurt, that’s what fired me up.
Tony Fierro, president of a Rockwall insurance agency, to WFAA/Channel 8
The video doesn’t show the team member taking away the stroller. The crying woman is heard saying, “You can’t use violence with baby.”
A passenger, Tony Fierro, president of a Rockwall insurance agency, leaves his seat to come to the mom’s aid after the attendant had stepped from view of the video and demands the other staff to tell him the attendant’s name. Moments later, the attendant returns.
With the woman sobbing, Fierro tells the team member, “You do that to me and I’ll knock you flat.” The worker orders Fierro to “stay out of it.”
Fierro comes out of his seat and the two men go chest to chest and angrily exchange words.
The attendant, who has not been identified, tells Fierro, “Hit me, come on and hit me.”
He says, “You don’t know the story.” Fierro replies, “I don’t care what the story is, you almost hurt a baby.”
Fierro told WFAA during an interview Friday at DFW after the plane landed: “A baby almost got hurt, that’s what fired me up.”
Olivia Morgan, an executive with an education-related nonprofit, told the New York Times that when she complained about the woman’s treatment, the flight attendant pointed his finger in her face and yelled, “You stay out of it.”
Morgan told 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.”
The mother said a female flight attendant had told her she could look for space to store the stroller, according to Morgan, and then check it if there were no space.
The post on Adyanthaya’s Facebook page says, “OMG! AA Flight attendant violently took a stroller from a lady with her baby on my flight, hitting her and just missing the baby. Then he tried to fight a passenger who stood up for her. AA591 from SFO to DFW.”
American issued a statement Friday night:
“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. We are deeply sorry for the pain we have caused this passenger and her family and to any other customers affected by the incident. After electing to take another flight, we are taking special care of her and her family and upgrading them to first class for the remainder of their international trip.
“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. The American team member has been removed from duty while we immediately investigate the incident.”
It appears another passenger may have threatened a Flight Attendant with violence, which is a violation of federal law and no small matter.
Bob Ross, president of the Association of Flight Attendants
The flight attendants association issued this statement to the media, and is on WFAA.com’s website:
“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 this 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 altercation comes less than two weeks after United Airlines came under a barrage of criticism about how it responded to an incident in which a passenger on an overbooked flight was dragged off a plane.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.