Two weeks ago, United Airlines got hit with a slew of horrible headlines after airline security forcibly removed a passenger from a flight after he was seated and refused to obey airline orders to vacate the plane. The man, Dr. David Dao, alleges that security broke his nose and knocked out teeth, among other injuries.
The story led to a bevy of narratives about supposed anti-Asian discrimination on airlines, as well as general anger at the airline industry.
On Monday, lawyer Tom Demetrio announced on NBC’s Today that a female passenger on American Airlines had contacted him about suing the airline. What happened? A video shows the woman crying and carrying her baby, as well as another passenger talking to a flight attendant; the woman claims that a flight attendant hit her with a stroller while taking it away from her, nearly hitting her kid, too. American Airlines immediately took action to suspend the flight attendant in question, and apologized “for the pain we have caused this passenger and her family and to any other customers affected by the incident.” According to a Reddit commentor who says he saw the incident:
The Argentinian lady and her two children were in the mid to back of the plane, she was somehow able to get her stroller on board and back to near her seat. Since I was near the front, I cannot know what happened. If she tried to put the stroller in the overhead bin or what. The flight attendant told her she could not have the stroller on the plane and he needs to take it. She refused to let him take it and was to the near point of shouting. The flight attendant shouted up for security very soon on, escalating the situation more… The flight attendant and the woman started making their way to the front of the plane (I forgot who had the stroller at this point). She had her two kids. She shouted something about being an Argentinian woman and yada yada. It was this point where things escalated a bit more. The flight attendant and Argentinian woman were at the front of the plane in the crew area / next to the front door of the plane. She was hanging onto the stroller and refusing to let go. The flight attendant was trying to remove it from the plane. Both were at fault here in my opinion. The flight attendant's tone was overly aggressive. The woman was refusing to let it go and made an aggressive move grabbing the flight attendant (which she should not have done). This angered him and he responded by jerking the stroller harder knocking the Argentinian woman in the head and nearly missing her kids. The flight attendant should not have been so aggressive and should have been aware of the kids.
So, here’s the problem.
What we now have is an attempt to target one of the more unpopular industries in the country. Everybody hates the airlines, the same way most Americans hate their insurance company. Sure, we need the airlines. But we despise them because they control how we fly, they charge us too much, they jack us around, they force us to pay for checked baggage, and the like. We have to deal with pissy flight attendants, idiot TSA agents, and airlines that don’t seem to care very much about cancelling or delaying flights.
And so now, individuals see a ripe target.
Here’s the truth: David Dao should have gotten off the plane. They had the legal right to remove him from the plane. Should they have changed their process for encouraging people to leave? Of course. But as Mike Rowe rightly says:
I don’t want to fly across the country in a steel tube filled with people who get to decide which rules they will follow and which they will ignore. I’ve been on too many flights with too many angry people to worry about the specific circumstances of their outrage, or the details of why they took it upon themselves to ignore a direct command. A plane is not a democracy, and the main cabin is no place to organize a sit-in. The main cabin is a place to follow orders.
The same holds true for this woman on the American Airlines flight. I have two children under the age of four. We always travel with a double stroller. We have never attempted to put it on the plane itself, and if we did so and were asked to check the stroller instead, we would obey the command. But this woman apparently did not, then allegedly got rowdy before being clocked with the stroller in stupid fashion by a flight attendant. How is this the sort of behavior we want to promulgate as a society? We’re now incentivizing every person on every flight to argue with every annoyance, then sue based on the reaction from the airline. Those costs will be passed on to other consumers.
We’ve had politics dominated by hatred for particular industries for years now. We’ve already destroyed the health insurance industry because we hate it but need it. Now we’ll target the airlines. Here’s an idea: If you don’t like how an airline acts, choose a different airline. Otherwise, we’ll just ruin all of them in a fit of pique.