Over the weekend, American Airlines joined United in the hot seat after an alarming confrontation dominated the news cycle. The Facebook video, posted by Surain Adyanthaya, a passenger on a Texas-bound flight in San Francisco International Airport, showed a woman traveling with her 15-month-old twins sobbing and asking for her stroller back after a flight attendant allegedly hit her head with the stroller and nearly missed her toddler.
"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," Adyanthaya wrote.
The "passenger who stood up for her," later identified as Tony Fierro, got up from his seat, approached the front of the plane, asked for the flight attendant's name and returned to his seat.
Not too long after, Fierro gets up again and addresses the flight attendant, saying, “Hey bud, hey bud, you do that to me and I’ll knock you flat!”
The attendant tells Fierro to stay out of it and dares the passenger to "hit me, hit me ... bring it on."
"A baby almost got hurt. That's what just fired me up, so that was it. I don't want to make a big deal about it," Fierro told WFAA.
What happened and how did it get this heated?
The video doesn't show the stroller incident, only the aftermath. According to several witnesses, the mom was from Argentina and flying internationally. She brought her stroller on the plane. The flight attendant tried to remove the stroller, and in the process hit the mom with it, which another flight attendant in the video said was an accident. Accounts reported over the weekend are unclear and sometimes contradictory.
Olivia Morgan, who was standing in the plane's doorway with her daughter and waiting to board, told Fox 43, “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."
When Morgan tried to confront the attendant, she said, "He yelled at me to ‘stay out of it!’ just like he does in the video."
Morgan also said the mom told her that a female flight attendant allowed her to look for space to store the stroller because it folds up small, but she would have to check it at the gate if there was no available space.
But according to American Airlines as reported by WFAA, the woman forgot she had to check in her double-wide stroller and tried to bring it down the aisle of a single-aisle A321.
And, although some passengers think the mom may have had trouble understanding the rules, the airlines said she did speak English.
American Airlines says on their website customers can carry a small collapsible stroller but must check it at the gate. Strollers that are over 20 pounds, too large or non-collapsible must be checked at the ticket counter.
American Airlines' response
The airline has since issued an apology and suspended the attendant while it investigates the incident:
"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. We are making sure all of her family's needs are being met while she is in our care. 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 this incident."
The Facebook video has currently received more than 6.8 million views since being posted on Friday. And while many are critical of how the attendant handled the situation and put a toddler in danger, reactions are also rife with accusations that the mom was faking her tears or being overly dramatic.
In the video thread alone are eye-roll inducing comments like:
"The woman is highly over exaggerating with that fake sobbing she's doing."
"Some of you (people) will believe any woman crying ... that shit was fake and I'm sure she probably put her kids in more danger than he did."
"I travel often with my baby ... and flight crew always helps me with my luggage and everything. This lady is over acting for sympathy ... in which she deserves none."
OK, hold up. Since when were there so many experts on "fake crying"? And is it so hard to sympathize? Put yourself in the stressful situation of flying with not just one toddler but two. And then add long, international flights and the mix of airline policies that vary throughout the world. And then to not only have a stroller smack your face but to also see your little one narrowly avoid getting hit on the head?
Yeah, she can cry whatever way she wants. So step off.