Another day another American airline scandal.
Fresh off the back of United Airlines beating a customer unconscious, a rival carrier has been in the news for another unseemly incident.
The airline involved in the latest occurrence, American Airlines, has suspended one of its employees after he allegedly hit a mother in the head with a baby's pram while trying to wrest it off her as the baby was being held in her arms.
Considering the furore surrounding United’s treatment of a passenger on its recently overbooked flight, American Airlines must have been delighted with the bad press. Many people chose to deliberately boycott United as a direct result of the altercation, turning to alternative options which would no doubt have included American Airlines.
This latest episode couldn’t have come at a worse time. With US domestic airlines under intense media (both social and traditional) scrutiny, American Airlines should have been seizing its opportunity and taking advantage of its rival’s plight to demonstrate how a more responsible airline goes about its business. Now though, it’s joining them in the airline hall of shame.
The fact that a member of American Airlines’ staff has then been filmed aggressively confronting a customer after the initial incident with the pram will have left many in its head office groaning in dismay – especially its PR team.
I've never been on a domestic US flight so have no idea of the general customer experience, other than what I’ve seen reported in recent weeks. Most have been vocal critics, quick to condemn poor customer service and a lack of regard for passenger welfare.
Piers Morgan in particular was scathing of his past experiences, saying he’d have to be dragged onto a United flight, let alone off it.
The American Airlines incident is in no way as bad as United’s appalling customer treatment (after all, the lady involved was still conscious), but it’s certainly very far from good. According to eye witnesses the mother in question was extremely confrontational and aggressive in refusing to put the pram into the hold as it wasn’t managing to fit in one of the overhead lockers. However, the staff member reciprocated her aggression and even took it up a notch when attempting to pull the pram out of her hands. It was in the process of this that he accidentally hit the woman in the head and nearly struck her baby, leaving her in tears. An on-looking passenger, who apparently heard of the incident second hand rather than saw it directly, stepped in to confront the male staff member pointing out that if he’d tried the same approach with him he’d have been ‘flattened’. With tensions running high, the last thing you need is a staff member flaring up in retort.
I can sympathise with the airline worker in this instance as I’m sure they see their fair share of rude and aggressive customers during the course of their work. With Americans often stereotyped as being quick to complain and brash, I’m sure they’ve had to deal with many similar incidents in the past. But the fact remains that he’s a professional working in a professional, customer facing environment. He should be trained to deescalate situations, not aggressively escalate them.
The fault here lies with the airline and this is why it’s been singled out in the press. With the whole passenger experience under the microscope at present it’s a terrible time to become embroiled in the mire. Bad PR to you, American Airlines.