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Sobbing Passenger, Confrontation Caught On Video Of American Airlines Incident

A passenger and an American Airlines employee stand face-to-face in a video captured by another passenger on an American Airlines flight, Friday.
Surain Adyanthaya
Screengrab by NPR
A passenger and an American Airlines employee stand face-to-face in a video captured by another passenger on an American Airlines flight, Friday.

Another nightmare encounter between a passenger and an airline is going viral and sparking an outcry against an industry accused of routinely mistreating its customers.

An American Airlines employee allegedly took a stroller from a woman boarding Flight 591 from San Francisco to Dallas Friday, and knocked her with it while she held a baby in her arms.

A video uploaded Friday to Facebook by Surain Adyanthaya has already been viewed more than 1.5 million times. Adyanthaya writes in the caption, "OMG! AA Flight attendant violently took a stroller from a lady with her baby on my flight, hitting her and just missing the baby."

But the recording does not capture the alleged stroller incident and begins instead with a woman holding a baby and sobbing.

An unidentified male passenger then appears to come to her defense saying, "What's the guy's name that did that with the stroller?" An employee comes into the frame and the male passenger says, "You do that to me and I'll knock you flat." The two men approach each other, fingers jabbing. The employee repeats, "Hit me," and the passenger says, "I'll knock you out." The captain pulls the employee away.

You can watch the video at the end of this story.

The incident comes on the heels of another confrontation during boarding, when a passenger was violently dragged from his United Airlines seat after refusing to give it up.

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz initially appeared to blame the "belligerent" passenger, saying it was "necessary" for him to be removed from the flight. It was only after the public outcry swelled, that the company backtracked with Munoz apologizing. "I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what's broken so this never happens again," Munoz said in a statement.

American may have taken a page from United's public relations response. The company issued its own statement within hours of Friday's incident, saying "The American team member has been removed from duty while we immediately investigate this incident."

The statement goes on to say, "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."

The airline adds that the woman and her family have been upgraded to first class for the remainder of their international trip.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Amy Held is an editor on the newscast unit. She regularly reports breaking news on air and online.