Eyewitness Accounts Differ Dramatically in AA Stroller Incident

Apr 23, 2017

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More details are emerging about what really happened on American Flight 591, in which an AA employee got into a verbal altercation with a passenger after taking a stroller away from a woman with a baby. The main question is what exactly transpired in the minutes before the video started. And in this case, there are more than two sides of the story.

First, there are the brief comments from Surain Adyanthaya, the original uploader of the video, who wrote in the text included with the video on Facebook that an “AA Flight attendant violently took a stroller from a lady with her baby on my flight, hitting her and just missing the baby.” Aside from a comment soon afterward — that “they just in-voluntarily escorted the mother and her kids off the flight and let the flight attendant back on, who tried to fight a passenger” — we haven’t heard anything more from Mr. Adyanthaya as of this writing.

The New York Times and Tribune Media have tracked down witnesses who were passengers on the flight. Tom Watson, who saw the incident from his seat in the front of the economy cabin, told Tribune Media that “the lady and her two children were seated near the back of the plane. She was somehow able to get her stroller on board and back near her seat.” He said the flight attendant then approached the woman, telling her she couldn’t keep her stroller, but she refused to give it up. “She was almost to the point of shouting,” he said.

The captain of AA Flight 591 and the woman with the stroller. Photo by Surain Adyanthaya.

Watson said the woman and the flight attendant then made their way to the front of the cabin, where Olivia Morgan, a passenger on the flight, was standing in the doorway with her young daughter as the episode unfolded. Morgan says she witnessed the flight attendant wrestle the stroller away from the sobbing woman. “He jerked it away from her and almost hit the baby in the head,” she said to The New York Times. Watson also confirmed that the flight attendant nearly hit the woman’s children with the stroller.

However, late Saturday night another story appeared on Facebook courtesy of Gailen Lee David, a former American flight attendant who was sued by the airline in 2012. David posted an alleged eyewitness account from a man named Eric, who says in part:

“I was on this flight directly across the aisle from the woman filming the video… The flight attendant picked up the stroller and lifted it over his head to try and move past the woman. As he was doing this she pushed him and the stroller fell a bit and struck her in the face. She began crying loudly and dramatically. Shortly after this is where the video begins.”

This account conflicts with the others in that it puts partial blame on the woman rather than on the flight attendant. However, the eyewitness also claims to have been sitting across from “the woman filming the video.” In fact, Surain Adyanthaya, the person who uploaded the video, is a man, which casts some doubt on Eric’s explanation.

All three witnesses agree that the woman was able to bring a large stroller on board the aircraft. Whether the woman was told to leave the stroller at the end of the jetway to be checked as baggage is unknown, but at the least she should have been stopped at the cabin door if there wasn’t room for the stroller.

Both eyewitnesses who saw the beginning of the incident — the third eyewitness was at the front of the plane and only saw that portion of the confrontation — also agree that the woman refused to give up the stroller and became agitated. Obviously that doesn’t excuse the flight attendant’s aggressiveness (and the behavior of the AA employee in the video is unacceptable no matter what the circumstances, regardless of what the airline’s union might believe). Airline personnel should attempt to calm a heated situation, not throw gas on the fire.

We have not yet heard from the two key people in this incident — the American employee involved in the altercation and the woman with the stroller. Given AA’s investigation, it’s unlikely we’ll hear directly from the employee anytime soon, and the woman, who is reportedly from Argentina, was on her way out of the country and is no longer in the US.

So unless another video appears showing the origins of this event, we’ll likely have to continue to slowly put this story together bit by bit.

H/T: Live and Let’s Fly

Featured image courtesy of Juanmonino/Getty Images.

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