After Kicking Off Maskless 2 Year Old, American Flight Attendant Threatens Complaining Passenger

On Wednesday’s American Airlines flight AA3573 from Key West to Miami, passengers missed connections after a 40 minute delay caused by a flight attendant kicking off a mother and her crying two year old who wouldn’t keep their mask on.

The whole planeload of passengers was offloaded, and when another passenger expressed frustration the flight attendant threatened to have her kicked off too for ‘smelling like alcohol’. On a 7 a.m. flight. Where both that passenger and flight attendant were wearing masks. The American Airlines slogan is caring for people on life’s journey.

There’s a federal mask mandate requiring passengers two years and older to wear masks in airport and on flights. Before that it was a requirement at most major airlines (Delta allowed exceptions for young children.) Masking is not optional for two year olds, although how an airline enforces the rule is effectively at their discretion. It seems that this crew handled it in about the worst possible way.

According to an American AAdvantage Executive Platinum member who shared the story to Facebook,

The lady was trying to lug her carry on bag, the baby and the car seat all onto the plane, the baby kept crying, and Of course….here it comes…..baby didn’t have a MASK ON……as she boarded..[the flight attendant] aggressively scolded the mom about the baby’s mask. …the mom stopped mid aisle fumbling over and over to try and get the mask on this crying baby.

All flight attendant did to assist was say “ma’am you need to step off the plane”….the clearly overwhelmed mom exasperated kept saying “Im trying, Im trying”. Flight attendants response was appalling “If she (baby) cant wear a mask then she shouldn’t travel with you.”

…[Another passenger] got up and offered to help the lady carry the car seat and she got the baby’s mask on and proceeded to her seat a few rows behind me. ..I hear [the flight attendant] say, “she better have that mask on, if I go back there an its not on, Im tossing her off this plane”.

The baby stops crying when drinking from the bottle, and is allowed to be maskless while doing so, while starts crying when the bottle is taken away. A gate agent tried “to de-escalate the situation” with the “angry flight attendant.” Eventually the pilot came out and tried “talking to flight attendant” but eventually an announcement was made that everyone would have to get off of the flight, and the woman and her two year old weren’t allowed back on.

Some readers are thinking at this point, “good – the crying baby was removed.” But it’s a sub-50 minute flight, which was delayed nearly that long, and most passengers on this route are connecting. And the single mom and her toddler had been trying to fly American Airlines since Saturday but due to irregular operations and full flights had finally been rebooked onto the flight that became an issue.

As the Executive Platinum passenger deplaned, she says, she told the flight attendant “You should be ashamed of yourself. A crying baby, really?”

That was it…I didn’t say anymore to her, just kept walking off the plane……mumbled to [husband] a bit more about how we were going to miss our connection and that we should just stay here.

Once every one was off and back in the terminal (including another poor lady in a wheel chair that had to walk up and down the ramp and extra time each way now barely making it). Another girl was crying that she was going to miss her connection and ultimately miss her brothers funeral (she had a double connection to somewhere out west – and said she barely scraped the money together to get this flight).

…[When the plane re-boarded] I walked toward my seat again, passing angry flight attendant…I just shook my head in disgust. She proceed to march over to my seat, as I got situated and said in a clearly confrontational voice….”Do you have a problem?” ..she repeated it over and over, and then I finally said “yes”.

She called over first gate attendant immediately and said that I was threatening her and that “she should have me kicked off the flight too…she again says “Do you have a problem?” I didn’t want to answer…because YES I did have a problem with her behavior but NO I didn’t want to delay the flight any further for the other passengers on the flight.

..[W]hen I didn’t answer she angrily exclaimed to the gate attendant whom she had called over .”Do you SMELL ALCOHOL, I SMELL ALCOHOL.” ..This was a 7am flight….we left our hotel at 5am..we were packed and tucked into bed by 7pm..Also, she had a mask on, an N95 Mask (maybe a double mask) and Bart & I were fully masked up as well…Again she asked if I had a problem and was I going to be quiet and behave?…I said “fine”. She again repeated the question and said “Say Yes or No”. Knowing I was about to be holding up the plane further and Bart prodding me to just say what she wanted….I reluctantly did. She said “Could you repeat that” as if she wanted to rub it in that she again relished so much power over peoples travel ability. I repeated the answer to her as she wished, as I thought about the poor girl crying in the back of the plane waiting to get to her brothers funeral. She strutted back up front like a peacock and flight proceeds to take off.

According to an American Airlines spokesperson,

“Two customers were removed from American Airlines flight 3573 prior to departure from Key West (EYW) for failing to comply with the federal face mask requirement. After agreeing to comply with the face mask requirement, the customers were rebooked for travel on the next available flight to Dallas / Fort Worth (DFW) and completed travel later that day.

We are reviewing this incident and a member of our team has reached out to the customers to learn more about their experience.”

There seem to be far more mask confrontations on American Airlines than other carriers. That may partially be a function of carrying more passengers, and doing so at lower average fares, than some of their competitors. But it also appears to be a function of how cabin crew react to mask issues. United Airlines seems to have fewer passenger confrontation and, likely because of de-escalation work done after the David Dao incident, tends to just ‘write up’ noncompliant passengers rather than kicking them off aircraft or diverting flights.

Surely that manner of addressing mask non-compliance is superior to removing a two year old, delaying a flight, and causing numerous passengers to miss connections. That’s especially so since the issues were occurring on board the aircraft, with HEPA air filtration, and when young children have represented less of a threat throughout the pandemic. A couple of months younger and the child wouldn’t have been required to wear a mask at all.

Meanwhile, the very next day:

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Really Tim because why would we make this story up ? It was my wife that wrote the original story so before making an ass out of yourself get the facts straight

  2. To the guy who said story was made up, it was not. I was the scolded passenger who wrote the original social media post that this story is referring to. The flight attendant was on an absolute power trip and it was sad and disgusting. As I said in my social media post, I fly AA quite a bit, enough to be EP status, and I’ve never encountered anything like this before. The sorry was corroborated by the mom and baby who were removed from the flight, as they saw my story on social media. So far American Airlines called me after I filed a complaint, apologized, and said and investigation had been opened. But that is it, we will never be allowed to know what if any actions are taken to keep this flight attendant away from customers in the future.

  3. Colleen,
    I am glad you posted your experience and filed a complaint. You are right, you will likely never know of the outcome but if no one complains or post these things on social media the outcome is guaranteed. Nothing will change and this sad excuse of a flight attendant will just keep on bullying people.
    Sometimes AA does take action. I fly out of a regional airport with probably less than a dozen AA employees, so as an XP I had the opportunity to observe and interact with the same people over and over. Most were really good but a few years ago there was a bad gate agent. My wife and I were traveling on an international trip and we checked bags. The agent did not put a premium tag on the bags even though we were in First Class. I politely asked her to put the tag on our bags since it might help get them processed faster. She snapped at me that it made no difference. I had seen her snap at customers over and over for months. When she processed boarding, she would always scowl and never say thank you for flying or greet passengers. I then told her it was worth it to try but she just threw our bags as hard as she could on the belt conveyer. We went on to the gate without further comment. When it became time to board, I was called to the gate and told there was a broken seat in First and I or my wife would have to sit in coach. I protested that we had purchased First Class tickets and not flying on an upgrade, so we should not be the first to be downgraded. She said, “that is the way it is or you can both wait for the next flight”. That was not an option, so we took the seat change. As I was walking away a man walked up to her holding his phone and said, “I just got a text that I have been upgraded”. I was seething but knew we could not afford a delay, so we boarded without comment. There was no one to complain to but her. My wife sat down in First and her seat mate’s boarding pass was laying on the arm rest. It was for a Gold level passenger flying on an upgrade. I immediately complained to AA customer service as soon as it was feasible. It was obvious the gate agent had retaliated simply because I dared question how she was doing her job. I never saw that gate agent at my small regional airport again, so I know she was ether fired or reprimanded and quit. The AA response provided no hint about what action was taken. Only that AA would investigate the incident.. A few days later I and my wife each received 20,000 miles with an email apologizing for our inconvenience. Sometimes justice is served when a bad employee is fired but AA has to know about it to take action.

  4. I just got off a 17 hour long-haul where it ran the full gamut, people with no mask for extended periods of time, some with very loosely fitted masks, and others fully masked. Flight attendants didn’t say a word. Everyone got along fine and it was an enjoyable trip even if it was exhausting.

  5. Why this moron brought a two year old on a plane to begin with is beyond me. What could possibly go wrong? A uncontrollable small child on the worst airline in American, if not the world.

  6. Frustrating that some people have absolutely lost the ability to think for themselves. One more reason for never to fly overbooked AA.

  7. I have a declaration to make anyone reading this comment The next times this happens (and we all know it will )we the American people must stand Up and fight for each others rights as that lady courageously did just imagine if the entire plan would have ganged up against this miserable bitch something tells me the outcome would be different

  8. how silly to say ‘why did that moron bring a two year old” Sometimes you actually have to bring your 2 year old, as you have absolutely no place to leave the 2 year old!! Some people just can’t put their kids away so they can fly to take care of business, or go to court, move an elderly parent, or some other obligation Why cant she just leave that 2 year old home ???? Coz maybe the child will turn on the stove if they are alone, or walk out the door and get hit by a car, or maybe the child will choke, what a moron not to leave the kid alone…… Believe me no one takes a two year old on the plane unless they have to! Oh yeah, and maybe the kid will be traumatized being with out mommy for a month? Does that count, or is that moronic?

  9. I hope some action was taken against the FA..but the UNIONS are in CONTROL so probably nothing happened….

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