The days of "flying the friendly skies" appear to be long gone, but American Airlines is at least trying to fix the latest flight attendant snafu to go viral.
A flight attendant on board American Airlines flight 591 from San Francisco to Dallas heatedly scolded a female passenger traveling alone with two children for attempting to store her stroller in an overhead bin.
When another male passenger came to the mother's defense, the flight attendant then reportedly got physical, threatening the man who had spoken up on the young mother's behalf before a pilot appeared and attempted to calm down the irate flight attendant.
Passenger Surain Adyanthaya caught the whole altercation on a video, which he later posted to Facebook, and American Airlines wasted no time responding.
A mere 20 minutes after the plane touched down in Dallas, airline officials had reviewed the footage, grounded the flight attendant involved, and issued an apology.
To airline PR-personnel of the world: This is how you handle your business.
The moment the hullabaloo began was when a flight attendant forcibly took a stroller away from a female passenger, who Adyanthaya said was from Argentina and traveling alone with her two children.
The flight attendant allegedly hit the woman with the stroller and barely missed knocking into the infant when a male passenger came to her defense, asking for the flight attendant's name and calling out, "Hey bud, hey bud, you do that to me, and I'll knock you flat!"
While Adyanthaya's nearly three-minute Facebook video does not show the flight attendant actually taking the stroller, it does capture the young woman stuck in the center of the incident crying and tearfully asking for the stroller back while chaos erupts around her.
That was enough for American, who responded by immediate grounding the flight attendant, upgrading the woman and her children to first class, and issuing an apology.
American Ailines Appology
"We have seen the video and have already started an investigation to obtain the facts," the airline said via statement. "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," the statement continued. "In short, we are disappointed by these actions. The American team member has been removed from duty while we immediately investigate this incident."
This altercation comes mere weeks after a passenger was forcibly dragged out of a United airplane, another endured in-flight sexual harassment, and a bride and groom were unceremoniously kicked off the flight to their very own wedding. Let the battle of the subtle airline side-eye, begin.
Flight Attendant Union's Statement On American Incident Blames Airlines & Passengers
Once upon a time, tales of questionable customer service was the stuff myths were made of: unproven stories, word-of-mouth facts, and a dose of drama.
Now, thanks to those little intrusive cameras on our phones and swift access to social media, we now a have a steady stream receipts unveiling injustices and, of course, harassment. Though this still doesn’t change the fact that there are multiple sides to every story.
On April 21, American Airlines responded swiftly, to a video posted to Facebook of a mother crying on one of their flights. “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," said Surain Adyanthaya, a passenger aboard the flight. The 2 minutes and 44-second-long video failed to capture the entire story, but considering the recent complaints and footage against commercial airliners, it was enough to go viral.
Now, Bob Ross, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, released a statement about the incident.
The statement then went on to remind the public that there are “two stories here related to this incident.” Finally, it ended on the notion that the ordeal is still under investigation and that they “must obtain the full facts.”
Some felt the statement was not enough.
“It's almost like they learned nothing from how poorly @united handled their PR crisis, said user @BillyRise, on Twitter.
“Weak sauce, "smaller seats. crowded planes, less overhead cabin" who's fault is that?” said another.
@airlinewriter @caplannfl @APFAunity @AmericanAir weak sauce, "smaller seats. crowded planes, less overhead cabin"....who's fault is that?
— UrTeamGettin'#1Pick (@Megatran_) April 22
We’re now in an age where cameras are frequently wielded as the last, safest line of defense for onlookers. The downside is there’s no control over how these visuals are absorbed; rarely do we ever see the entire story.
In the viral video age, some airliners and other service-based industries, have begun implementing new training for employees. However, it seems the most immediate challenge for large companies is how to handle PR disasters in a way that doesn’t take sides, yet still invokes that “the customer is always right,” spirit.