American Airlines said it is investigating an incident in which a male flight attendant reportedly upset a female passenger to the point of tears, then later was recorded getting into a heated confrontation with a male passenger who tried to come to the woman's defense.
"We have seen the video and have already started an investigation to obtain the facts," American Airlines spokesperson Leslie Scott said in an email to The Washington Post. "What we see on this video does not reflect our values or how we care for our customers."
The incident was captured on video by another passenger, Surain Adyanthaya, who uploaded the video to Facebook late Friday afternoon. The airline confirmed the incident took place Friday on American Airlines Flight 591, from San Francisco to Dallas-Ft. Worth.
"OMG! AA Flight attendant violently took a stroller from a lady with her baby on my flight, hitting her and just missing the baby," Adyanthaya wrote on Facebook. "Then he tried to fight a passenger who stood up for her."
The video does not depict the stroller incident that Adyanthaya described, but it does show a female passenger standing at the front of the plane, sobbing uncontrollably as she holds a baby in a pink outfit. Beside her, a pilot stands mostly silent.
"You can't use violence with baby," the female passenger says, through tears, toward the plane door where some passengers can still be seen boarding. "Just give me back my stroller, please."
At first, the male flight attendant in question does not appear in the frame. In the meantime, a male passenger seated near the front of the plane can be heard getting flustered.
"No, I'm not going to sit hear and watch this stuff. . ." the male passenger says. He then gets out of his seat and demands to know the male flight attendant's name.
As this takes place, other passengers can be heard discussing in low voices what they just witnessed.
Moments later, the male flight attendant returns to the plane.
"Hey, bud," the male passenger who had gotten out of his seat earlier calls out, while pointing at the male flight attendant. "You do that to me and I'll knock you flat."
"Hey, you stay out of this!" the flight attendant yells back, pointing his finger back at the male passenger.
The flight attendant takes a step forward and the male passengers leaps into the aisle. The passenger with the baby can be seen ducking out of the way, shielding her baby's head. As their argument escalates, it appears as if the confrontation could get physical.
"Hit me," the flight attendant urges, motioning with his hands. "Come on, hit me."
"Tony, sit down," a woman can be heard calling out to the male passenger.
"You don't know what the story is!" the flight attendant says to the passenger.
"I don't care what the story is," the male passenger replies. "You almost hurt a baby."
American Airlines said the male flight attendant in the video had been suspended from flying while the investigation takes place.
"The actions of our team member captured here do not appear to reflect patience or empathy, two values necessary for customer care," Scott, the airline spokeswoman, said in a statement. "In short, we are disappointed by these actions. The American team member has been removed from duty while we immediately investigate this incident."
Scott said the female passenger and her children ended up choosing to take another flight and were upgraded to first class for the remainder of their international trip.
"We are deeply sorry for the pain we have caused this passenger and her family and to any other customers affected by the incident," the airline said in a statement. "We are making sure all of her family's needs are being met while she is in our care."
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