American Airlines has suspended an employee after a video surfaced displaying a violent altercation that had taken place on one of the company's planes and involved crew, multiple passengers, and a sobbing woman with a toddler.
The controversial video quickly went viral Friday afternoon after initially being uploaded to social media by Facebook user Surain Adyanthaya, another passenger who witnessed the dispute firsthand on the flight headed from San Francisco to Dallas-Fort Worth.
Adyanthaya accompanied the post with a caption elaborating on the context of the shocking incident.
"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."According to American Airlines spokeswoman Leslie Scott, the incident was provoked by a dispute between crewmembers and the woman as to whether or not she would be allowed to bring the child's stroller onboard the flight. While this confrontation is not shown in the controversial footage, the events that follow are.
Initially, the involved passenger is shown audibly crying and speaking with the flight crew at the front of the plane as a small child on rests her hip. A male passenger, evidently concerned with how the situation is being handled on behalf of the woman, then stands to approach the group before asking for the name of the flight attendant who removed the stroller and sitting back down.
Confusion audibly spreads amongst fellow passengers as the situation continues to appear unresolved. The incident then further escalates when a man (who has since been identified by Scott as a flight attendant for the airline) walks onboard the plane and is quickly confronted by the same male passenger.
"Hey bud, hey bud, you do that to me and I'll knock you flat!"Commotion erupts as the two come chest-to-chest in the middle of the plane's walkway, appearing to be on the verge of physical violence. The flight attendant can then be seen repeatedly challenging the male passenger to hit him.
Eventually, the footage shows the situation dissolving without actually coming to blows, thanks to the assistance of other crew members who are able to break up the altercation. The passenger can then be seen returning to his seat while the flight attendant leaves the plane.
Adyanthaya later followed up the dramatic video with yet another post documenting the aftermath, this time a photo of the mother holding her two children as they were allegedly being removed from the flight. His caption noted that the passenger and her family were required to leave but that the flight attendant involved in the conflict was eventually allowed back on the plane, even continuing to attempt to "fight with a passenger."
The flight ultimately took off and reached its destination at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, though the dust had yet to completely settle as the alarming footage continued to circulate online. After the video was brought to mass attention, American Airlines was quick to publicly address the altercation and launch an internal investigation.
"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 intense controversy comes just weeks after United Airlines came under fire following the release of a similar viral video, which revealed 69-year-old passenger David Dao being violently torn from his seat, knocked unconscious, and dragged off the plane by Chicago aviation police while bleeding profusely, all because the airline had overbooked the flight and the doctor refused to give up his seat.
The incident resulted in Dao's hospitalization as well as a PR horror story for the airline; a chain of events that American Airlines is now taking action to avoid echoing.
[Featured Image by James D. Morgan/Getty Images]