I Don’t Care if a Flight Attendant Almost Hit a Baby

I received several notes over the weekend asking about the incident on American where there was a flight attendant, a mom, a baby, and a big guy involved in some kind of altercation on an airplane. Some people expressed outrage about the whole thing while others wanted to know if I could shed light on what happened. My reaction? I wish every disagreement out there stopped being considered “news” just because it was caught on camera. I have a hard time writing about things like this, because I don’t know what happened, and I’m content to let the parties involved sort it out.

Every day, people all over the world flip on camera phones and start recording anything that might be considered of interest… to anyone. Inevitably, the most salacious of these end up going viral. Some people think this is good, because they uncover hidden injustices that wouldn’t otherwise have seen the light of day. That is true in the rarest of situations. Accusations of police bias, for example, may not have come to light without people and their cameras exposing a hidden issue. (Think back to the Rodney King beating – this isn’t just a cell phone issue.)

But the vast majority of these incidents aren’t even remotely in the same category. People have bad days, they get in fights, there are misunderstandings… things go wrong in the world of customer service. In most of these situations, the disagreements get resolved and people go on their way. That’s something for the company and the customer to figure out (and sometimes, the courts, if things go really wrong). But is it something the general public needs to deal with? Please, no. I can’t take anymore.

Don’t I feel bad for the crying mom? Well I feel bad that she’s crying, but I don’t feel bad about her being mistreated… because I don’t know whether she’s been mistreated. What happened before the cameras started rolling? I have no idea, and nor do any of us. Maybe this flight attendant hates babies and secretly did try to hit one. Or maybe he wasn’t aiming for a baby and the woman over-reacted to the accidental near-contact. I certainly don’t know. The parties involved will figure this out, and I don’t feel the need to be a part of it.

If I don’t care, then why am I writing about this? Well, because I do care about the impact this has on everyone involved. Once this stuff goes viral, the process of determining who is right and how to resolve the disagreement gets altered dramatically. It becomes a fight against the clock, with each passing minute resulting in thousands more shares on Facebook. Every company’s goal has to shift from figuring out what happened to simply controlling the damage asap, and that can both reward and punish the wrong people.

With this American incident, we know that the airline apologized quickly, suspended the flight attendant, and even put this woman in First Class on her return. Is that because they all deserved their fates? No. It’s because that kind of overwhelming response is now what it takes to calm down the angry masses.

This kind of instant, uninformed reaction may quell the brewing storm in the public eye, but it also has a sinister effect. It encourages people to play the “gotcha” game and try to catch someone on video doing something wrong. When that happens, it can now mean more than just a ton of views. It can be a payday.

This perverse incentive puts even more strain into any customer service situation as employees worry that one wrong misstep will end up being broadcast to the rest of the world. It’s not a healthy environment for anyone, because people just get angrier faster and with less information. There’s no attempt to step back and learn the facts. It’s all about speed with accuracy thrown by the wayside. That really bothers me, and it’s why I don’t want to write about these kinds of situations here on the blog.

I know this won’t change the way of the world, but at least it can be my small protest. Now let’s get back to some real news.

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83 Comments on "I Don’t Care if a Flight Attendant Almost Hit a Baby"

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Scotfree1999
Member

Very well spoken my friend.

Chasejet
Member

How dare you apply common sense! The horror, to actually get the facts before jumping to a conclusion.

Alex Hill
Member

I hear what you’re saying. But the behavior of the blue-shirted flight attendant that *was* captured on video was totally unacceptable: he was actively asking a passenger for a fistfight.

Now, I think that passenger (the male) was out of line too, but the flight attendant was an on-duty airline employee and a professional; absolutely no excuse for that.

Don Kmep
Guest

I think if you “heard” Cranky here, then you don’t write the rest of your post.

IO
Member

I agree the behavior of the FA was unacceptable. I disagree the male passenger out of line. He viewed the incident and was standing-up for the distraught woman.

Mi
Guest

Actually, he did NOT view the incident, he reacted to what the woman said “happened”. Once she lawyered up, she admitted that she was not hit by the stroller. And as for a god fearing Decon, his actions were not very godly

billyshearer
Member

Great article!

Having worked in customer services during a media incident, I can confirm that it’s a huge waste of everyone’s energy. Everyone suddenly has an opinion and facts get lost.

Frank
Guest

A shock. Cranky carrying the airlines water. Next the sun will rise in the East

IO
Member

unfortunately, I find myself thinking this more and more.

visitor
Guest

I agree with you: Cranky is too quick to take the airline’s side. The widespread availability of cameras (in phones nowadays) is a boon, and the video sites make sharing possible. Because of this we- the public – get to see many important things we would not otherwise see, including things that the mainstream media choose to ignore.

kevinaalexander
Member

Silly Cranky; logic and common sense have no place on the internet!

franmorley
Member

Cranky, I hope YOUR post goes viral. It’s a great response and needs to be shared. You hit the nail on the head. All of this rush to see who can get angrier faster with no regard for facts is not good for any of us – individually or as a nation or community. Thank you for saying all this. ~Fran Morley, Fairhope, Alabama

Jim
Guest

It’s not going to go viral, because it doesn’t have a shocking video of anyone getting beat up.

tvmccabe
Member

Well said! Thank you.

Hov
Guest

In the process of getting “shocked” and “horrified” and indignant about others mistakes, we do a great job of shifting away from having to examine our own demons and mistakes. I suspect this is why the human brain just loves viral posts about less than perfect behavior – it feeds our inner need to know that there are others just as fu&@ed up as we are ourselves.

Let that person who is without sin cast the first stone…said and practiced by none of these indignant and fake “horrified” masses ever.

IO
Member

Jesus also called the woman caught in adultery to “go and sin no more”.

I need to be responsible for my choices and actions, though I have tendency to blame. So, let’s be responsible for our choices and actions

Joflyer
Guest

So long as you extend that to airlines and their employees that are in a position-of-trust over all passengers and thus bear greater responsibility in behaving well.

kjay3
Member

I applaud your thoughtful and rational approach to the entire problem of posting videos that create “uninformed reactions,” the “gotcha game,” and “perverse incentives.” You nailed the real picture, and it isn’t limited to customer service incidents–it’s pervasive in our culture and the effects are scary.

Eric
Guest

The only thing I can surmise from the video is that two people of the male species succumbed to their testosterone, an unfortunate condition of which I, too often, am afflicted. I do grant that a professional customer service agent needs to learn not to succumb as that is their job, but the boorish behavior by the two of them is hardly a national incident. Just stupid. The Kevin Mitchell has used the incident to indict the entire industry is disgusting.

IO
Member
CF – imo, given his response to this incident I think the FA needs to be interviewed and either retrained & counseled about his attitude or fired. “puts even more strain into any customer service situation as employees worry that one wrong misstep will end up being broadcast “. I agree the broadcast of incidents puts strain on those with bad attitudes, poorly trained, and poor rules. Imagine if leaders hold themselves accountable, hire well and train well, then I’d expect that leaders and employees would respond in a civil and caring manner. imo, that was not the case here… Read more »
jr
Member
Since 1980 I have been on an airplane on average twice a week, as an architect who works for airlines.  While I have seen several “hostile” flight attendants over the years, I definitely have seen more irate passengers over very minor issues.  I have seen many passengers stopped as they enter the aircraft with an over sized bag, only to berate the FA over “I carried this with me on the way here” or “this is valuable and I am not checking it”.  Only to be pulling it back down the aisle when it does not fit in the overhead. As you… Read more »
Rikki
Member

You got the nail on the head. Thank you

Joflyer
Guest
Your well-reasoned post seems a bit too heartless for me to not respond. Flight aboard an airliner is unlike *any* other mode of transportation. Road travel, I almost always have the option to get off at the next stop or demand the driver stop. Boats? I can usually escape other passengers and hostile situations. Air travel? You are squished next to hundreds of other bodies, with no escape *and* Airlines and Laws that expect and demand complete and unquestioning compliance. Airline employees don’t just have that legal authority, they also have insider knowledge that many inexperienced fliers lack. So they… Read more »
marytravels2
Member

Beautifully said.  Thank you.  Too bad all writers/journalists aren’t as thoughtful and intelligent.  I get very tired of people on TV criticizing a person or Company when they do not know all the facts.

Pilotaaron1
Guest
Very good points Cranky. I have had my own conclusions from this, but you’re right that we don’t have all the facts. I do want to add 2 things though. 1. The captain looking like a deer in the headlights was pretty funny. Although he was also trying to keep the situation calm which good for him. 2. I know you don’t like writing about this stuff, but it would be interesting to contrast the difference between how United or American handled this. Or have a sit down with another airline’s pr department (like Southwest) and talk about how important… Read more »
andrew.hoefler
Member

AMEN!! Totally agree!

Eric Morris
Guest

I just hope no baby strollers were harmed while filming this made-for-TV event.

Janet
Guest

Well said. I am so tired of it all. Life goes on!

Geekoid
Guest

” the most salacious of these end up going viral. ”

You don’t know that. Survivor bias, look it up.

Then this Gem:

” Is that because they all deserved their fates? No.”

Didn’t you just write you don’t know what was going on so you don’t want to comment? literally in the same article?

Then you went out of his way to not address what was on the video that made it news worthy: the flight attendant lost his shit and had to be pushed back by other flight attendants.

Mike
Member

Agreed!!!

doingitmyway71
Member

Very well written. Finally a voice of reason. Thank you.

danwriter1
Member

Good analysis of the 2016 election.

David SF eastbay
Member
I agree with you I could care less about the whole thing it does not involve me. And I am sick and tired of these videos popping up for every little thing. They make one incident sound like it happens on every flight with every flight attendant or whatever the case may be. You can’t stop people from taking the video and posting it on their Facebook page or whatever but it’s the worthless stupid news media with 24 hour sites that need to keep filling up with news that put this garbage out just to try and get hits… Read more »
Art
Member

Great write up and stated what needed to be said….

jaybru
Member

Technology has come on so fast, but being able to be responsible and civil with it all, we have a lot to learn. “Do unto others as you would have them do onto you,” or something like that!

TiminBOS
Guest
A few things: 1. In general, I empathise with the front line employees – whether it be the UA GA/FA or the AA GA/FA in this case or otherwise. 2. I do think that, in general, these incidents are proving to be lightening rods that receive a groundswell of support because of pent up frustrations of customers against THE MAN. 3. I agree with your statements about cameras encouraging “gotcha” situations. However, I also feel that cameras are an equalizer for the individual customer against the airlines (and in general, corporations) who have taken advantage of their leverage against an… Read more »
Dan
Guest

Pictures do say a lot. Remember the NFL player, Ray Rice? He got one punishment before the video footage came out. Once the footage came out, it was a whole different matter… and TBH, the footage didn’t contradict the statements that had previously come out. I was up for whatever punishment the NFL wanted to dole out beforehand, but was a bit irritated that the video “made things worse.”

IO
Member

imagine if the show SW, which admittedly could and probably was somewhat sanitized, would not have been shown. Would the legacy airlines be willing to do a similar show. imo, probably not.

I agree that there will be those who, sadly, try to take advantage. In that case it can go the other way in that the perpetrator may be chastised and shunned.

At the end of the day, the cameras and social media are here and so what will the airlines do?

James
Guest
My favorite, (or most egregious I should say,) was a “concerned citizen” who cell phone recorded a guy in a truck “dragging” a dog down the street (actually a country road.) The video was really just a dog running along side a truck. She sends it into the local news Troublemakers team, who catches up with the guy, and turns out he’s an elderly guy who can’t walk that great but has a big an active dog, so he lets him run alongside his truck going not more than idle – 5mph, and has been doing so for years. A… Read more »
Eric A.
Member
Just my .02 and trigger warning: my opinion may p* some people off. We have seen this self-absorbed, self-obsessed, ‘you’re not the boss of me’ thing before and it peaked right before 9-11. Hand held video devices and social media were still a dream (or nightmare)and undoubtedly fan the flames. Am I excusing the outcomes of the UA & AA events? No…they were irregular, but common, situations that spiraled due to poor decision making and awful conflict-resolution skills. Bottom line is that I sense we, as a society, are slipping back into a self-absorbed “screw you..I got mine” mentally that… Read more »
IO
Member

reversing….mmmm….imo, the pendulum started to swing to the ‘me, me, me’ mentality back in the 60s and probably has been compounded by that and successive generations. I’ve not seen the pendulum back to the great depression generation.

stan
Guest

this is one of the worst things you have ever written. for someone who runs a customer-advocacy business you sure are a hardcore industry apologist.

FrequentFlyer
Guest
Luckily, the airlines have totally mastered customer service—five nines!—so now’s totally the time to navel-gaze away videos like this as somehow society’s problem. How about instead of posting garbage like this, you use your industry largess to do some basic research, Cranky: IS there a problem with flight attendant behavior? IS violence or threats of violence between airline personnel and travelers up or down? Or even a behind-the-scenes, how-sausage-is-made piece: What sort of training do flight attendants receive to deal with unruly passengers? What are passengers’ rights in situations like this, either as granted by the airlines, or by law?… Read more »
Joey Jaidee
Guest
From what I know if the incident the lady repeatedly tried to bring the stroller on board. The crew told her to leave it to be checked. Instead of getting totally angry I would have “kicked it up the food chain” and gotten others involved like an agent an agents supervisor and yes the captain as well. I don’t know why strollers cannot be onboard maybe they take up too much space maybe people put the on top of other baggage and the fall out of the bin. Who cares they aren’t allowed in the cabin. From what I know… Read more »
Jason Steele
Guest
Actually, AA’s contract of carriage specifically allows strollers in the cabin if they fit in an overhead bin: “Fully collapsible strollers may be carried on board with the passenger as long as they fit in an overhead bin. Strollers exceeding a maximum weight of 20lbs or that are not capable of being transported inside the cabin due to size must be checked at a ticket counter.” https://www.aa.com/i18n/customer-service/support/conditions-of-carriage.jsp I suspect that a careful reading of this document preceded AA’s immediate capitulation, as this is what the airlines will always refer to when they are in the right. According to some accounts,… Read more »
Dan
Guest

Brett,

Thanks for this. As part of a broader issue, I’m sorta tired of the social media lynch mobs that are formed.. particularly when a mob decides to go after someone’s job for conduct unrelated to the job (I know that’s a bit different, but I’m talking about the whole SJW type of thing in general as well.)

DesertGhost
Guest

Another problem is the lack of accurate reporting on airlines (and business in general) in the media. Lots of ignorance.

JB
Member

I just wish people would hold their phones in the landscape mode (as shown above), rather than portrait, when filming all of these “incidents.” Nothing worse than watching a shaky vertical video with blurry bars on the side to fill out the screen. FIGHT VVS! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bt9zSfinwFA

JoEllen
Guest

OMG, this was so well said. Thank you.

JoEllen
Guest

You hit the nail on the head, thanks.

Pat Chilton
Guest
Anyone who knows anything about carry on knows that a stroller, let alone a double stroller for twins, is left planeside and brought down to the bins for loading. I am confident that after tagging the stroller, the agent told her to leave the stroller at the bottom of the loading bridge prior to boarding with her children, Like you, CF, I do not know what transpired on the loading bridge. It would seem that “almost” hitting one of the children would not have elicited such an extreme response from the mom. As far as the man who wanted to… Read more »
Jason Steele
Guest

Read AA’s contract of carriage:
“Fully collapsible strollers may be carried on board with the passenger as long as they fit in an overhead bin. Strollers exceeding a maximum weight of 20lbs or that are not capable of being transported inside the cabin due to size must be checked at a ticket counter.”

Cdr
Guest

The passenger broke a FAA FAR rule. You are not allowed to bring a stroller on. Period. Follow the rules or their are consequences. The flight attendant did not mean to hit her with stroller. Yes he should have deescalated the situation. But I am tired of passengers thinking they have power. Grow up . We are EMS and 911at 40000 ft. We are your way out. We are trained well and go thru boot camp. It is a Federal Offense to threaten a crew member so technically the passenger violated a Federal Law.

Alex Hill
Member
It’s flatly untrue that you are not allowed to bring a stroller on. You are not allowed to bring a stroller on if, folded up, it is too large to fit in the sizer. If it does fold up small enough to fit in the sizer, it’s allowed on like any other carry-on item. American’s carry-on policy is explicit about this. I haven’t seen any statement one way or the other about whether the stroller was too large to fit in the bin. So this fits very much into the category Cranky emphasized: we don’t know what happened before the… Read more »
southbay flier
Guest

The video just looks like a bad episode of “Jersey Shore” or some other trashy reality series with absolutely no background on how we got to this part of the story. I could only watch 30 seconds before I thought that they all should just go away just like those “Jersey Shore” characters.

Mary M.
Guest
I saw the video and all I could think of was that it all took place at the door and no one saw what really happened. The man got involved because he saw a woman carrying a baby and crying and wanted her to stop crying. His protective instinct kicked in. It could have been because the woman wanted to take her baby on the plane in the stroller and the attendant stopped her and the woman didn’t like it. Maybe she was looking for an upgrade? Who knows cause this video did not show anything lest of all an… Read more »
Esther
Guest

Just one thought everyone seen this could have…
There is no place for a stroller to be on board. And passengers should know that. Language problem could interfere, but travelling with a baby needs preparation even in gathering these kind of information. ..

christophe.bottega
Member

I have, on numerous occasion, brought strollers on board. As long as they are within he allocated dimensions for carry-on, no problem. Some are even marketing that fact !.
And when you arrive at destination in the US after a long international flight and have to wait up to 1 hour to go through immigration, this stroller is a must have !!!

Marissa
Guest

Stuff like this has been going on for decades. However, I think people are less civil than they used to be and are more stressed out. People still continue to wonder why they can’t bring on their kitchen sinks and why they should get called out if their kids are being unruly. That’s more true of people who fly infrequently. I also think that while most FAs are fair and know what they are doing a minority are not. I would not have those kinds of employees in my business.

Hey
Member

I can usually find some fault within your posts – not this one, Cranky.

Well said!

peter
Member

Thank you, as always a level headed look at an unknown

iahphx
Member
I agree with you, Brett, that the world would probably be a slightly better place without viral airplane misconduct videos. And my experience from thousands of flights tells me that passengers are far more likely to misbehave than flight attendants. That said, this genie isn’t going back into the bottle, so it’s something the industry is going to have to deal with. While I do fear that more passengers will refuse to follow crew member instructions — a trend which almost certainly will lead to more misery all around — there could be SOME good that comes out of this.… Read more »
Bb
Guest

Why was the stroller in the plane anyways they are GATE CHECKED and given for the cargo hold before you enter the plane and are there when u disembark…….WHY DID SHE WAS THE IT IN THE OVERHEAD BIN STUPID

Joey Jaidee
Guest

Because it’s about me, myself,and I silly!!!!! People want what they want when they want it. It’s not exclusive to airplane passengers either!! It’s a symptomatic of our society and the fact that we are becoming a cupcake/candyass nation.

IO
Member

I agree with ” symptomatic of our society”. that includes me and you. have you seen what labor and the management big shots extract out of the biz.

christophe.bottega
Member

You should check the facts before posting insults !… Strollers are allowed on board as carry-on as long as they fit the max size for carry-ons.

vinodnegi1960
Member
Vinod Negi – too many airlines bad behavior apologists here including the author. whatever happened to helping the travelers especcially those carrying a baby and not speaking the language? Why do agents feel the need to talk rudely to customers who obviously do not speak the language or do not understand the rules? Would you treat your customers the same way if they came in your restuarant or business for any service? Go to an airlines gate and watch the agents – no doubt they are rushed and short of time but most are extremely dismissive of customers!! Airlines need… Read more »
Joey Jaidee
Guest

I wish people would feel the same outrage when it comes to wasteful, incompetent government!!!!

IO
Member

actually, I think the legacy airlines have that mentality. seriously, from their years under the CAB.

Hey
Member

Does the convenience store down the street that is notorious for terrible customer service mean every similar outlets “need to be watched like hawks till they change their attitudes[?]”

vinodnegi1960
Member

There millions of stores but just a handful of airlines! They better watch out or the Consumers will prevail as they did in the case if United Airlines. The airlines ran over each other to get the “Contract of Carriage” amended in 72 hours! You think they would have done that if they did not feel the heat??

Seraphina
Guest

Finally, someone with common sense. Thank you. Well said!

Tom
Member

EXCELLENT…. I agree entirely with the approach you took on this issue, and zillions of other camera-happy zealots should keep their phones in their pockets..

Ifti Khan
Guest

Thank you! A double wide stroller, line forming up behind, crying, squealing, all the pleasures of flying. Been a parent who has travelled internationally with them, and now with the grandkids, but showing respect for the other passengers and the crew is what my wife and I did which actually got us praise from crew and passenger. Also helped the flight depart on time.

Robin Wade
Guest
Come on the stroller was tagged by the gate agent told to leave the stroller at the end of the jet bridge at the aircraft door but she decided to take it on, have you seen the size of a double stroller? There is no way it was going to fit in the over head I don’t know how she got it down the aisle if she had 2 babies in her arms. Any parent that travels with a child has to check the stroller, they have gotten so big they take up a whole overhead and are a danger… Read more »
christophe.bottega
Member

Unless you have additional facts about what really happened, you should stick to reality. And if you truly are a FA, you should know that strollers are allowed on board, as long as they fit within the max size for carry-ons, and I’ve brought some frequently, and when travelling with young children and having to go through customs and immigration after a long international flight (usually involving jetlag), I can assure you that you need them !…

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