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 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.
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
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?