American Airlines Flight Attendant Grabs Stroller From Mother Boarding Plane

Filed Under: American

It’s the weekend, and lately that means we get an incident of airline personnel behaving poorly that goes viral. This time it involved a mother and her baby who were boarding an American Airlines flight from San Francisco to Dallas.

We don’t know exactly what happened, but it seems that the mother tried to bring her baby stroller onboard the aircraft. That’s not normally allowed on flights within the US, so the flight attendant stopped her. But according to other passengers, he actually grabbed it from her, hitting her with it — presumably incidentally — in the process. And it almost hit the baby. That left the mother sobbing uncontrollably in the front galley, and that’s when someone decided to start recording.

The actual incident is mostly over by the time the video starts, and instead, we see the aftermath which includes a male passenger getting up to defend the woman. He asks for the flight attendant’s name, probably so he can formally file a complaint. Then a bit later he gets back up and tells the flight attendant he better not do that to him or he’ll…  well, you get the idea.

The captain can be seen standing in the door to the flight deck and has to help restrain the flight attendant. That’s how bad it got.

American’s reaction

American was quick to issue a statement and take action regarding the situation. And it’s actually pretty good:

We have seen the video and have already started an investigation to obtain the facts. 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. In short, we are disappointed by these actions. The American team member has been removed from duty while we immediately investigate this incident.”

I commend American for giving a caring response to the situation. They did a nice job of addressing the situation and the video, while acknowledging that they need to investigate further. That’s about all you can hope for in my opinion.

Stroller policies in the United States are mostly uniform

In the US, the standard policy is to gate check your stroller and leave it at the end of the jet bridge just before you board the plane. Then you pick it up in the same place when you arrive. So you have your stroller until you literally step onto the plane, and you get it back right after you step off. That’s true of every US airline that I know of, and every US airport.

But that’s not necessarily the case in the rest of the world.

Stroller policies around the world vary tremendously

My wife and I travel with our kids on multiple international trips each year. It’s not easy, but after having done it for the past six years — first with one kid, then two, and now three — we’re pretty good at it. Some even say that we make it look easy, though I probably wouldn’t go that far.

Anyway, one of the more annoying aspects of traveling internationally with young kids is figuring out the stroller policy for each country and airline. You might be surprised at the variations.

Sometimes you are supposed to leave your stroller with the gate agent before you walk down the jet bridge just as you do in the United States.

storller brussels airline
Special stroller tag for Brussels Airline

Other times they prefer that you check your stroller out front with your other bags. In Oslo, for example, they then give you a loaner to use once you are through security.

Loaner stroller at Oslo airport

Then when you land, you have the opposite problem as you’re now trying to figure out where to pick up your stroller. Sometimes they put it right at the door of the plane, other times it’s in the terminal, and in a few cases, they send it to baggage claim. If you’re connecting, they might even forward it directly to your next flight, leaving you to figure out how to move your kids to the new gate on your own.

The point is that even though my wife and I have flown dozens and dozens of flights with our kids, we’re still never quite sure what the stroller procedure is when we’re outside the US. So it’s not unreasonable to think that foreigners might find our stroller policies confusing too.

Designated stroller pick-up zone at the Amsterdam Airport

Bottom Line

I find these incidents of heavy handedness by airline personnel really disturbing. This time it was a mother who had her stroller forcibly taken away from her on an American Airlines flight. Sure, she wasn’t supposed to have it on the plane, but that’s just a simple misunderstanding.

While American has done a nice job getting out in front of the story, it’s just sad that this stuff keeps happening. Like with the United dragging incident, it seems that the situation escalated very quickly when cooler heads may have prevailed.

What do you make of this latest viral incident?

  1. Why is it that all these strange things with people in uniform only seem to happen in US? This uniform driven behavior typically only happens in fascist dictatorships. What’s wrong with you guys there?

  2. I emailed American and said that if the culture doesn’t quickly change within their company, I’m done with them and so will my company be. I’m a united 1K and AA executive platinum… yet still receive better service on the middle eastern carriers… the big three think the likes of Etihad et al., have an advantage in their pretty planes, etc. when in reality it’s simply the genuine smiles and considerate service throughout the flight to their customers. Internationally, in done with the big three if they can’t get on this level.

  3. Actually now there are strollers that are so small you can bring them inside the cabin just as a hand luggage… The problem is that as usual most of the airport staff and gate agents aren’t aware on new policies or rules…

  4. There seems to be so much anger around when flying at the moment particularly in the US. I love visiting the States but when you combine the long queues to get through immigration, the rude attitude of immigration officers (LAX, JFK, Newark I’m looking at you) and then situations like this for internal flights that seem to happen on a daily basis at the moment, it really makes me think twice about going back again.

    I realise this post doesn’t say a lot, just expressing my concern about the way travel seems to be going at the moment. There seems to be a big shift in what people expect when they fly. All I want is for the plane to take off and land safely, after that anything else is icing on the cake. The last thing I expect when I get on a plane is to have a front row seat at World Championship Wrestling!!

  5. The AA employee should be fired and sent to anger management training. Very surprised the pilot didn’t “take charge” of the situation and diffuse it. This video seems to show a pilot that didn’t want to get involved.

  6. Just to address the apparent “rule” that in the US you gate-check (or jetway check) your stroller:
    We’ve avoided gate-check and carried-on a stroller onto AA mainline narrow-bodies and 50 seaters without incident multiple times in the last 4 years. Usually the FAs ask about it and we tell them the stroller is design to fit overhead or under the seat. They’re initially surprised but tell us to give it a shot and it fits and everyone moves on with their lives.

    I’m not the stroller purchaser in the family, but I believe this is the one: Baby Trend Rocket Lightweight Stroller, Princeton

  7. typical, this is exactly what I expect from the US. Aggression everywhere and fake smiles when you do get one.

  8. OK, I will preface this with an acknowledgement that I do not know what happened before the film started shooting. However, I wonder why is she spending so long at the front of the plane? It all comes across as a little mellow dramatic. If the child was not touched, why is she still crying? It appears like she’s looking to be the next ‘let’s settle this out of court’ lottery winner :-/

  9. Sadly as an American citizen (not for much longer!) I agree with Jay above. This is totally what the US is about now. Aggression and narcissism. None of these incidents would happen almost anywhere else. Nowhere.

    Very, very sad to see, and 95% of Americans still think they live in the best country in the world, that is the best at everything. You don’t, and it isn’t…. by a long shot.

  10. I think it is fair to say that readers of this blog are ‘advanced’ and experienced travellers to say the least. This is to say that we deserve less sensational headlines and a bit more objectivity. There is no evidence or story that has come out to say what happened with the stroller. There is only a video of a hysterical mother and an airline employee pushed over the edge by a passenger who thinks he’s doing the right thing. These make for great viral videos and even better consumer news in light of the UA meltdown. Just like the airline employee and the passenger, we all need to calm down and wait for the real story before making huge assumptions and getting everyone else riled up.

  11. @Jo145

    You make my points. I used to be a frequent business traveller to US. I have stopped it. The overwhelming police presence and the funny tipping culture I have dealth with for years. The underdeveloped airport infrastructure and logistics, the lack of transit capabilities, the long lines in immigration and customs, the incompetent TSA guys breaking into your luggage have done it for me. Not even to speak of unfriendly immigration officers, yelling thugs managinginf the qeueus and above that, the totally uninterested airline check in staff.

  12. I don’t think that last picture shows Frankfurt, the sign is in English and Dutch, so I guess it is Schiphol?
    In Frankfurt passengers usually gate-check their strollers.

  13. @Ron, @Jay
    Make America great again!
    … that’s what.
    Makes sense right? You have an ignorant man child at the top and people think you can do and say whatever the heck you want. Especially if it doesn’t make sense, is contrary to our values and beliefs or is overtly racist.
    Ignorance is emboldened

  14. I am so tired of these stores.

    It’s always the same.

    A snowflake, or super entitled passenger thinks he/ she can do whatever they want. They all know, thanks to the internet they benefit when the story explodes on Social Media.

    The doctor was an embarrassed of a man. Crying like a baby? Man up.
    The woman crying when her stroller was taken, so that it can be delivered to the arrival gate?

    Stories like that doesn’t show a bad the airlines are. Stories like that how degenerate society has become.

    And by the way, where is the husband of the stroller woman? I am certain, it wouldn’t have happened if her husband, which was probably divorced at some point, could have taken care of the situation.

  15. US is getting more and more scary and makes us feel like in North Korea,from the moment you enter the country and facing those immigration officers,not even a smile nor a how are you today??same in US flight where FA thinks they are looking after cattle ,i remember once flying a night flight with AA JFK to LHR on First class,the FA kept chatting all the way at loud voice while i was struggling to sleep,no consideration,no professionalism,with that big fake smile showing all their fake veneers.

  16. come on guys nothing really happened here. the woman continuously crying and suddenly everyone is over reacting. Rules are rules so just don’t take your stroller on board. Not enough room in the overhead anyway. (since us airlines allowed big carry on and asked money for checked Luggage) Terribly since I’m Always travel with a small backpack (daypack) with my fragile stuff. and Always someone with a large carry on needs to push my bag into the back of the bin.
    If everyone would lighting up an bitt it would be so much easier.

  17. Wow. I used to be scared to fly because I thought the plane would crash. The good old days.

  18. I guess it’s just the way things are now but I don’t think articles containing videos of incidents showing part of an event are fair. I know from experience how women can go from nasty to little Miss Defenceless in seconds. I remember a few years ago ejecting a girl from a club for throwing a drink over someone. Outside after trying to hit me several times she spat right in my face, so I instinctively slapped her (no regrets). The next thing she’s in hysterics “did you see what he did to me? Waaaaaaaaaa waaaaaaaaa”. Guys are coming up “you can’t hit a girl man” and apparently it wasn’t relevant that I had just been assaulted in a most disgusting way. Kudos though to the female officer that attended the scene who told her she was a filthy animal. Of course somebody took a video from behind me where she could not be seen spitting, only me slapping her (not that hard by the way). Cue the internet cries of bouncer bully.

    We don’t know the story here and there’s a good chance the attendant is to blame but by the time a video like this goes viral a lot of damage is done to reputations and you can bet the story where someone is exonerated will not be as widely publicised.

    One final point- the guy in front of the camera person should have stayed in his seat. He really was a knob

  19. What’s funny is that many of us scoff at people who state they will avoid an entire country because of a terrorist attack or because their country’s laws are repressive or that the infrastructure is developing. But we feel perfectly fine painting the entire US as a dictatorship because of two youtube videos and think its perfectly fine to say we will avoid the entire country because of lines at the airport or because we don’t like the airport workers. Yeah, ok. Whatever.

    That’s as provincial as me stating I will avoid Thailand because of shady cab drivers at BKK. Or saying I will never go to France because CDG has long lines. Or saying I will not visit Russia because they are rounding up gays and putting them in concentration camps. Wait….that one might be a good reason.

  20. Andrew above has this completely right. (and I half agree with Mike below him)
    This is not being reported because it’s newsworthy, it’s being reported because it’s “click-worthy”. And it’s an incredible disservice to all those involved, IMO.

    Years ago an incident at KFC was widely reported when a disfigured child was allegedly discriminated against by an employee. KFC apologized, paid for the childs surgery, etc…. meanwhile employees received death threats and the store in question was vandalized.

    Later it was concluded that the story appeared to be made up. So while this lady walked away with a ton of money from KFC, several employees were traumatized because of sensationalism and early/negligent reporting. (No apology to the real victims there, either)

    That’s what we’re gonna do here- jump to conclusions, bully the American Employees, upgrade the passenger and do everything possible to appease her (maybe she punched the employee in question, for all any of us know).

    But great job getting your clicks along with the rest of the moronic media.

  21. Really, it seems to me the airlines need to do some training and retraining of their personnel. Give them more authority to do the right thing and less authority to do the wrong thing. Teach them that the days of acting like a pompous dictator are over and the days of needing quality people skills to do the job have arrived. (And, frankly, I think the large majority do a very good job.) Point out to them that anything they do could be recorded, and if their boorish behavior gets their employer in the news and all over social media looking awful it will not be a good career move. I think we can all agree that the jobs of flight attendants can be difficult, and they do sometimes need to deal with passengers that are out of line, but they need to know their first responses need to be in the mode of problem solving and reducing tension, not in the mode of “I’m the boss here, and if you don’t like it we’ll toss your stroller around or call in the thugs.” I also think that passengers who see clear cases of jerk behavior on the part of employees need to file complaints with both the airline and DOT. One complaint may indeed be the case of an entitled or unruly passenger getting revenge, but if a couple of dozen file a complaint on the same matter, it probably will get their attention.

  22. Everyone is a victim these days. People react without to these social media videos with outrage and without a second thought. Look at Adam Saleh, he claimed racism because he was apparently kicked off a plane for speaking Arabic. This same guy faked a video pretending to be arrested just because he was wearing his traditional Muslim garb. People were so outraged about the video only to find out the cop was an actor and not a real officer. Saleh never revealed this until he got busted. Same guy also counts down from10 to 1 in Arabic to see what reaction he would get.
    My thoughts is the lady is being quite melodramatic and some hero wannabe is looking for attention. Fake outrage and how to be a victim seems to be the m.o. these days. The p generation indeed.

  23. First, in regards to the comments that implies this woman is another American looking for a lawsuit…everything I have read does not mention her being from the U.S. and in fact was traveling to Dallas to connect to an overseas flight.

    Second, as I said after the United incident, that it could have happened just as well on American. Both carriers have completely fallen apart internally with training and hiring. I am not sure what is going on.

    Third, I feel very sad that there are some here that use these incidents as a way to generalize the American population as being angry, confrontational, greedy, and with ‘fake smiles.” Our airline industry may well be a mess and our immigration officers rude but that in no way is fair to the majority of our nation that is kind, considerate, and welcoming. It’s much like the stigma that Parisians suffer from when in fact I find Paris to be one of the most welcoming cities in the world.

  24. My understanding from first hand reports on other Blogs is that this mom had an attitude and ignored to requests from the ground crew and flight attendant to NOT board with the stroller – as strollers are checked…another entitled person. She did what she wanted to do and started a scene when the flight attendant told her to remove the stroller from the overhead bin. I really don’t know what is wrong with people – how quickly everyone is about blaming the airline.

  25. it’s funny: flight attendant jobs are competitive as hell, emphasizing customer service and a positive attitude above all else, yet flight attendants have some of the worst attitudes i’ve seen. i don’t work in customer service but i’d never reach out and violently grab a stroller.

    i’m also confused how she managed to board with a stroller on. clearly she wasn’t aware of the policy regarding strollers but where was the flight attendant who greets passengers? did they not say anything? what about the gate agent? why does no one do their jobs?

  26. Snow flakes please stay home.

    We live in a world that is all about ‘ME’. No regard for the rules and what people tell them. Just do it am maybe you can get away with it. This is getting old.

  27. Seriously Travis, this is yet another case of an adult who doesn’t like following instructions or being told what to do…I don’t care what the stroller policy is in Kenya, Belgium, Australia, or wherever…When she was asked to remove the stroller and REFUSED, she became the cause of this…Following/listening to crew member instructions are a basic tenant of air travel..Does it sometimes annoy us, yes…Does that mean we just all do what we want and have anarchy in the skies, NO…

  28. You make a very good point about the conflicting international rules regarding strollers. However, in none of the instances you noted is “bringing the stroller on the plane” part of the equation. I know that one of the commenters mentioned a foldaway version that fit in the overhead bins, but I can’t imagine that it was the kind of stroller that could be used with twins.

  29. Why is she crying? I don’t get it – have I missed something? Was she actually attacked? Not being able to take a stroller onto a plane is no reason to start crying. Even if you have to deal with a pig of a flight attendant you don’t need to cry….

  30. I think there’s certainly a fair point to be made that the mother was behaving badly – if English isn’t her first language, she may have misunderstood instructions. But all the accounts I’ve read so far are clear that the FA was very aggressive in the way he wrenched the stroller away from her, striking her and almost hitting the child.

    I think incidents like this are indicative of the problem that there are too many airline employees (definitely not a majority, but too many, in both line positions and management, and mostly in the 3 US global network carriers) who have a mentality where there seem to view passengers as antagonists, not as customers. I’m not sure where this comes from, perhaps the stress of full planes and cost cutting, perhaps the security environment, maybe all of it together. But it’s there, and it really needs to addressed.

    @Ron – please learn the meaning of the word “fascist” before using it.

  31. “I commend American for giving a caring response to the situation. They did a nice job of addressing the situation.”

    While American took ownership of the situation and probably increased this particular customer’s loyalty to the airline what I genuinely believe was an upsetting experience for her, I beg to differ that “they did a nice job of addressing the situation.” An apology from management and rebooking would have been sufficient. Upgrading the family’s entire international trip to First Class teaches morally scrupulous passengers that if you make a scene or incite the cabin crew to the point of becoming confrontational, you can be rewarded for it.

    She was breaking a rule by bringing the stroller on-board. While it shouldn’t have been so forcibly taken away, she is equally at fault for what happened, even if not for *how* it happened.

  32. @ Sheila E-couldn’t have said it better.

    @ss-you kind of understand why nobody takes you seriously?

    @Mike-Sheila E pretty well told you like it is.

  33. I doubt this will be a huge scandal, seeing that American professionally responded. How United dealt with their incident was unacceptable.

  34. What could a lady carrying twins have possibly done to him that would have justified that? I see it all the time, they get down to the end of the jetway, remove child (usually one which is plenty), bottle, blanket, all the usual trappings and then leave the stroller to be gate checked. She’s traveling with twins and probably struggling a little at that point. That little prick should have been helping her, not getting indignant because he wasn’t getting the stroller fast enough. He’s very fortunate he challenged someone who really didn’t want to take it where it should have gone, he should have been eating his teeth. I fly American all the time and connect in Dallas, I’ll be watching for this little a—hole.

  35. It’s true that the reports of these incidents appears to be increasing but maybe that’s because it’s so easy to pull out a cell phone and start recording than any REAL increase.
    The US seems to have a greater proportion of over zealous officials in the industry than most countries, including the rude and obnoxious martinets posing as security, arrogant immigration staff and tyrannical flight attendants…it’s impossible to quantify but it’s probably only marginally more than other places. Perhaps we remember them because, sad though it is, we tend to recall the rude ones more easily than the nice ones.

  36. To all the people who wrote that this woman is a drama queen and overreacted, I very highly doubt that you’ve ever traveled with TWIN BABIES. She was from Argentina (so most likely English Second Language). Whether she got confused or was just trying to bring on the stroller, traveling is already stressful, add in two babies and it’s not surprising that she could have a meltdown. You can see from the video how upset fellow passengers that witnessed the event are. That should be a clue that when they say this was a “violent” act it really must have been to elicit such a response. Many of these comments about the woman being in the wrong don’t address the actual wrong which is that the AA flight attendant was way out of line which is 100% clear from the video. There is not ‘other side’ to a flight attendant on camera threatening a passenger. That is not how any professional in customer service should handle any situation. I find a lot of these comments deeply troubling because they have misogynistic undertones.

    I also wonder if this is related to flight crews not clocking in until the plane pushes off from the gate. Don’t know American Airlines policies, but wouldn’t be surprised if this guy was in a hurry to get the plane boarded.

  37. Plain and simple: No common courtesy, decency, common sense, flexibility. Insensitive and “me only” attitude. EVERYONE needs some de-escalation training–staff and flyers alike.
    What has made all of this worse are the crammed conditions and general lack of customer service from the airlines. Flyers’ patience is already thin.

  38. From Eric, another customer on the flight:

    I was on this flight directly across the isle from the woman filming the video. This is what I observed: 1.) woman gets on the plane pushing a car seat type stroller with one child in it, carrying a second child on her hip and dragging behind a very large folded stroller that was too big for the overhead bin or to go under a seat. 2.) the flight attendant shown in the video approached from the back of the plane and informed her in a calm manner that there was nowhere to store the stroller. The woman immediately escalated the situation and within about 30 seconds was screaming at him at the top of her lungs. 3.) the flight attendant evidently decided she was not fit to be on the flight (in my opinion the correct decision) and started to move her and her children towards the front of the plane. 4.) when they got to the from of the plane the woman decided she was not going any further. 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. 5.) The first class passenger then inserts himself into the drama with his faux chivalry but clearly has no idea what has transpired in the back of the plane since he was in a window seat in the first class section of the plane and could not have viewed the incident from his seat. 6.) after another 10 minutes or so the woman exits the plane only to be returned about 5 minutes later and taken to her seat. We wait another 30-40 minutes while various flight and ground crew come and go speaking to the woman. After about 40 minutes she deplanes again this time telling all of the passengers, who are now becoming vocal in support of the flight crew, that all she wanted was an apology from the flight attendant. Evidently that’s what the 40 minute delay was all about. Then we waited another 10 minutes for the ground crew to find and remove her luggage from the belly of the plane. 7.) the flight finally leaves and arrives in Dallas an hour or so late. American representatives are waiting at the gate to speak with the first class passenger who made the threats. What I heard was a very apologetic tone coming from two American employees, as if the airline had done something to upset the first class passenger. 8.) when I entered the bag claim area the first class passenger was right in front of me and as soon as he made it through the revolving door there was a camera crew waiting for him on the other side to interview him. That’s about as factual of an account as I can provide and I realize there may be other parts of this story that I do not know about or did not witness. From what I saw: a.) if anyone from American should have been punished it should be the ground crew who somehow letting this woman on board with a full size stroller. The flight attendant was put in a horrible situation by a passenger that most passengers in my immediate area thought seemed unstable. She escalated the situation, not him. b.) in my opinion, the first class passenger should have been removed. Had the flight been in progress he might very well have been arrested upon landing for threatening a crew member. Additionally, he could not have seen any of the back of the plane antics of the woman based on where he was seated. c.) I agree the flight attendant may have reacted too harshly in responding to the threatening customer in first class, but his actions with the woman in question were professional throughout the ordeal. I am disappointed American has chosen to punish him.

  39. I dunno guys.
    I admit am old, but I distinctly remember when airlines HELPED families and old people, the slow and in fact, anyone in need of help.
    Now, it is fend for yourself and you should know the rules and do it fast. It is up to you. C’mon do it!
    By the way, we are squeezing in 20 more seats and other people are nasty as hell, so hurry up. Oh, and because we are charging for checked bags, many people are trying to get on with purses, diaper bags, backpacks, shopping bags, computers and 4wheeled carry-ons that catch on everything.
    Please hurry up.
    There is never an empty seat and you are on your own with the overhead compartment. The seat pitch is a maximum of 30 inches but get out of the aisle while you put your luggage above the seats which are already filled with other people.
    So, for heaven sakes, please hurry up.
    Yep, I’ll say it: someone should have been helping this woman and in the process checking her stroller for her.
    And, to top it off, they should have spotted her as a problem long before she jammed up the front of the plane and lost it.
    Pro-active HELPING would likely have defused the incident before it got to the ridiculous point that it did.
    One more thing, this passenger or others we see in filmed incidents on board ARE going to be there. What is the surprise? Has anyone noticed that “people” don’t act like they “ought to” all the time? Duh. And then you take them and shove them into intolerably crowded situations.
    Still, there are ways to head off many of these incidents before they become incidents.
    As I see it, airlines are reaping what they have sown and NOT taking any responsibility for cushioning the nearly nasty conditions they have created.

  40. Certainly the attendant should have been more polite. Perhaps he could have announced that the plane cannot take off until the stroller is properly stored in accordance with regulations.
    But…if the stroller was tagged to check it should have been checked….it would have been waiting for her as she exited the door of the plane.( I have had to do that with a very small suitcase before. )
    Flight attendants would have assisted her with getting seated with the twins.

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