American Airlines Flight Attendant Assaulted After Smacking Passenger’s Phone

An American Airline flight attendant apparently had his luggage spread on a bench at the Charlotte airport, and a passenger asked if he’d move his belongings to make a spot. The passenger says that the man’s partner “started getting on my case.”

She took out the phone to record the flight attendant’s indifference – impolite, perhaps but not illegal – and the crewmember “knocked [the] phone to the ground.” And, the woman says, her husband “did what he did.”

The passenger actually posted video to twitter showing her own husband grabbing the flight attendant by the chest and forcing him down towards the bench – surely evidence of assault.

The passenger reports that after this incident, the flight attendant says he was keeping his distance and spreading out because he was sick with Covid. Which is odd, considering he was in uniform and working. But American Airlines awards attendance points to flight attendants who call out sick, so they’re incentivized to work when unwell and expose themselves to passengers.

How do we even begin to sort who’s wrong here?

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, 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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  1. FA seems to be an ass, but if he was hogging the whole bench, the passenger should have just filmed him doing so and shared that with AA.

  2. There’s something a lot of people on this blog miss:

    Assault: Any intentional act that causes another person to fear an attack or imminent physical harm.

    (Such as, and for example, knocking their phone out of their hand).

    Assault and battery: Assault followed by an ACTUAL attack or physical harm.

    So, the flight attendant started it, and the passenger escalated. The flight attendant committed assault. The passenger committed assault and battery.

    (I’m bringing this up because I’ve used the legal definition of assault before and been told the conduct didn’t count).

    Assault is often used to refer to assault and battery, but if somebody actually knows they’re likely to use it correctly like I do…and then confuse everyone ;).

  3. Sounds like the FA assaulted the passenger first by knocking the phone to the ground. The husband was reacting to the assault on his wife. Perfectly legal regardless if the guy was an FA.

  4. @Jennifer P. Thanks — that’s very helpful info. I for one did not appreciate the legal distinction.

  5. A lot of people don’t, including people who could file charges. You can file charges for assault even if you aren’t hurt, as long as you genuinely thought you would be and a reasonable person would agree. It’s harder because you have to convince the court that most people would have been scared, but…

  6. Flight attendant assaulted first, this was self defense. Flight attendant needs to be fired on the spot. I hope those passengers get a 7 figure settlement from the airline.

  7. The headline is wrong. Assault was first committed by the flight attendant and the passenger’s husband did assault and battery in her defense. It is kind of funny about the Covid-19 claim after the fact. I think it is not true because USA airline employees are professional liars. If it is true, it shows his utter disdain for the people who he is supposed to be doing a job for.

  8. People always put their luggage on the seat next to them so old disabled passengers can’t sit at the departure gate. I said to a passenger “Would you mind moving your luggage so others can sit” and a fight almost started. The flight attendant (in uniform) should be fired!

  9. Yeah, and flight attendants in particular know better, or should, the amount they travel.

    Half the time I don’t even sit at the gate myself, esp. if it’s a longer flight. I’m about to be sitting for a few hours, gonna stretch my legs while I can!

  10. There are gate wating area seats. There are occasional tables between some seats. I assume that seats are for temporarily depositing a passenger’s rear end, and the occasional table could bear a small carry-on with your hand securing it. Then there’s the real world of overly-entitled flight staff, passengers, and social behaviors conditioned in solitary Zoom basements and never brought up. Can’t some tiktik series on Court TV resolve this? I surely can’t (even knowing scholarly legal history of assault and battery.) And I doubt that escaping to a lounge would avoid this type of behavior.

  11. FAs claim that they are there primarily for your safety. My foot.

    FAs have a lot of unprofessional behavior.

  12. @Jr this a “View From the Wing.” It’s a business venture started by Gary that focused on travel topics. If you want familiar murder stories might I suggest “View from the Morgue.”

  13. This is probably my biggest gripe about people in an airport, putting their bags on a seat. The bag needs to be put on the floor. What is the matter? Is the bag tired and needs to sit down on a seat instead of the floor? Where has the bag been before depositing it on the seat? Maybe in a toilet stall? How many times have I seen people including myself that can’t find a seat because of some selfish, ignorant slob who’s too lazy to put their bag in front of them like I do. Saving a seat for your partner with a bag? Sorry, if you can’t find your partner in the gate area that you need to take up a seat with your bag. I won’t tell you what I do to people when I can’t find a seat, that is after I politely ask if I can sit down. and are denied. Politeness usually works.

  14. Completely unacceptable response from the passenger but flight attendants are asking for it. I’m generalizing and there are notable exceptions but it’s been decades already they are on a power trip. They treat passengers like crap. American Airlines attendants are the worst lot (>4MM accrued miles experience with AA). Clearly that attitude has spilled over to their off duty time as well. They’ve got to be trained so they can find the right balance between maintaining order, safety, security and delivering a pleasant customer inflight experience.

  15. @SOBE ER DOC

    But can I get points and miles from the mortuary? Instead of SkyMiles, DieMiles.

    If so, count me in! What kind of funeral service do I get if I’m a Diamond DieMiles customer when I croak?

  16. That woman was a rude agressive Karen to step in close and film in the FAs face, so close that when he throws up an arm to block her filming it knocks her camera phone out of her hand. Her husband ought to be arrested for assault and battery, grabbing the FA by the collar.

  17. @Thing 1 I’m not sure, but I hear AMEX has a cobranded credit card that provides no value but let’s you stand in line outside of the funeral home so when you get in there is no where to it and the food is marginal.

  18. @ J. Diaz, you can say that the passengers response was unacceptable, that’s your opinion. However, I will admit that I would have reacted the same way as that husband.

    If my wife never touched you but you decide to touch her or her property, sorry, it’s go time!

    Any man who would stand by and let this happen to their wife when she never touched the other person needs to file for divorce so that she can find someone worthy of the title.

  19. I’m old, so if someone were to knock the phone out of my wife’s hand I would conserve as much energy as possible. So, no shouting, just a quick elbow to the bridge of the nose, layranx or temple. Then walk away like nothing happened.

  20. It’s simple when someone is selfish walk away and find some other place to sit
    Don’t be an aggressor.The couple are low class sadly despite everyone being at fault here Physical violence is never ok period

  21. Don’t overlook how close the woman stepped into the seated FA when filming him. Average man’s arm is 30 inches long. Still seated, he was able to swat her phone from her hand. She had no business filming in his face. She and her husband remind me of videos of Spirit passengers getting into it with each other.

  22. So they were all confrontation jerks. What is wrong with us? Too many people or do we just need to bring back the draft so a greater % of the population has some shared concept of who we are?

  23. Why is American Airlines (particularly their flight attendants) ALWAYS in the news? And not for positive news? I would not fly AA if they were the only airline going! It is only going to worse with ongoing contract negotiations….

  24. Knocking someone’s phone from their hand is a crime. However, the husband’s reaction probably doesn’t fall under self defense because there’s no reason to expect the attack to continue. You can’t use force because of past force, only because of a reasonable anticipation of future force–and I see no such anticipation. Thus I think both should be arrested.

  25. First: The passengers are 1000% in the wrong for expecting ANY airline employee to do as they ask in ANY common area of the airport. Your ticket doesn’t grant You access to a bench at the uber stand out in the parking garage. Second: She was definitely taunting him and even threatening his employment by filming him and trying to get him I trouble for not “hopping to” and granting her a seat. Third: That husband needs to be arrested and charged with assault. Lastly: The FA was wrong for slapping the phone, But that doesn’t make the couple “right” or any better.

  26. I don’t care what reason anyone thinks they have, you touch my wife then we have a problem. I will happily take the charge…I got bail money.

    For those of you who would let a man lay hands on your wife, my question to you is what’s your preference, Louis Vuitton or Coach?

    If he felt that the woman was wrong, call the police, I can respect that, even if it were my wife. But you damn sure better not touch her or anything that belongs to her.

  27. @Jennifer P

    You are mostly correct. However “battery” is generally legally defined as an unwanted touching. It does not have to be an attack or even cause physical harm. Knocking the phone out of someone’s hand would be construed as a battery. Spitting on someone has been held up in courts as battery.

    The other point is that some states have different wording. I was a police officer in Maryland when they changed from Assault and Battery to First Degree Assault and Second Degree Assault. Dropping the use of Battery all together. Some states use Simple Assault and Aggrivated or Felony Assault.

    But, your general understanding of Assault and Battery is correct, they are two different things.

  28. The FA is definitely wrong for escalating the situation; however, I think the husband took it too far with his reaction. That woman needs to seriously learn some manners.

  29. A passenger has no right to demand from an employee in a common area, but the airline has to defend this as a work-related bullying. Shouting a demand like this and video recording this close should already be considered assault.

  30. From all the comments I read, Dwondermeant had the best and most sensible comment.
    Thumbs up for you. You are my kind of person. A lot of different opinions, but you are a Gem.

  31. People and their goddamn phones. I sure hope sometime when they are having a bad day and do something regrettable, the world has their phones focused on them. Karma

  32. FA committed battery by smacking the phone. Unlikely there was zero contact with the victim’s hand, and in any case the phone would be considered an extension of the body being in the hand.

    The guy who responded used legal/justified force acting in defense of another.

  33. Sign of the times, everyone is entitled and judging by the size of the bags there was no room to pack common sense.
    BTW, for those of you 50 and under, these type of “disrespect” problems rarely occurred when the cabin staff were Stewardesses . . . even with free alcohol on SWA.

  34. As a 56 year-old gay guy, let me just break it down for you and say what you’re probably thinking or want to say. BITCHY TIRED OLD QUEEN!!! Making us all look bad.

  35. What you all don’t know and she didn’t post there was nothing polite about what she did and there were two flight attendants on that bench.
    Her and her husband called him a faggot flight attendant before she started filming.
    This lady was looking for content
    I know I was near them.
    I have emailed the company because this couple targeted them.

  36. @ Eric Hanson say Flight attendant assaulted first, this was self defense. Flight attendant needs to be fired on the spot. I hope those passengers get a 7 figure settlement from the airline.

    NO out of the scope of his employment. He is off the clock. Employer is Not liable for what he does when he is not working, thus they did not pay him to sit on a bench.

    You are the reason why the legal system is craps and why McDs Coffee is worth $1 million hot.

  37. A certain demographic that’s been indoctrinated to be the perpetual victim thinks assault is justified when a certain word is uttered or they are “disrespected”. Meanwhile a political party enables them for votes.

  38. @ James B, I don’t think many of us here are defending the lady who was recording…she was probably being the ass most of us are thinking she is. HOWEVER, you still can’t put your damn paws on another person just because they’ve pissed you off. And if you do, you have to know there will be consequences.

    It used to be taught as early as kindergarten to keep your hands to yourself. If you can’t do that, regardless of how angry you get, be prepared for what’s to come.

    If you think for a moment that your wife, husband, mother, father, child, etc hasn’t pissed someone off to the point of them wanting to lay hands on them then you’re a fool. Thankfully, for most of us, we can exercise restraint and keep our hands to ourselves.

    Was this lady an ass for doing what she did, absolutely! Was the flight attendant right to be angry, yep. I wouldn’t want a phone pointed in my face either. However, being an FA, he had to know that some folks are just seeking attention…and he played right into her hands.

    But no matter what that lady did, shy of putting her hands on him or his property, he should have kept his damn grubby paws to himself. He had options, he chose the wrong one.

    I’ve said it a few times already in my previous comments, if my wife never touched you, I would ask for your own sake, please don’t touch her or her property because if I’m around, prepare to get just what this FA got.

    If someone lays hands on my wife without her doing so first, I promise I will do my best to tune your ass up. And nope, I don’t think I’m a badass or a tough guy, it’s just no one has a right to lay hands on another person unless they’ve done so first…and recording someone doesn’t constitute a physical touch.

  39. Okay. So the flight attendant was rude. So are alot of people. Im a flight attendant. Do you realize that we sonetines serve up to 500 passengers a day. He could have let her sit down ” but I’m a passenger” I’m pretty mild mannered but don’t you dare get in my face with a camera. He said no. Move on. The passengers husband should go to jail. Sorry, they were both asses, but the passengers husband took it too far. All of this over a seat. Good grief

  40. The woman and man were violating the FA’s space. They were trying to start something. They saw a smaller and older FA (and perhaps gay) and started to crowd him, she had her phone out and recording from the beginning, and she was violating his personal space with it. The were making remarks aimed at him before they even spoke to him directly.

    These two are bullies and probably scammers.

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