Christie: American Airlines joins the unfriendly skies… Who’s next?

It appears that U.S. air carriers cannot catch a break these days.

You almost feel sorry for them … almost. Truth is, most air travelers, even if their flying experience has been 99.9 percent trouble-free are feeling somehow vindicated for the incident accounting for that .1 percent.

Video of almost every tense incident involving a passenger is finding its way onto Facebook Live, YouTube, Twitter, SnapChat or whatever. And then onto cable and network news, and so on.

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An American Airlines passenger jet takes off from Miami International Airport in Miami. The company said it grounded a flight attendant who got into a verbal confrontation with a passenger after taking a baby stroller away from another passenger on a Friday flight from San Francisco to Dallas-Fort Worth. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

The latest involves Dallas-based American Airlines, which is now investigating after a video surfaced on social media showing a confrontation between a passenger and a flight attendant aboard one of its flights.

The video, filmed by another passenger last Friday, appears to be the aftermath of an incident during boarding of a flight from San Francisco to Dallas. It does not show what happened beforehand.
The video of the encounter starts off with a woman sobbing as she holds a baby. “Just give me back my stroller please,” she says tearfully.
A male passenger stands up and intervenes, apparently upset with how the woman’s situation was handled. He tells the flight attendant, “Hey bud, hey bud. You do that to me, and I’ll knock you flat.”
The flight attendant tells the male passenger to stay out of it, then later taunts him to “hit me, hit me … bring it on.”
From the video, it’s unclear why the woman is distraught. Surain Adyanthaya, who posted the video to Facebook on Friday, said that before the footage, the flight attendant had “violently” taken the stroller, hitting the woman in the process and narrowly missing her baby.
Adyanthaya later posted the airline had “escorted the mother and her kids off the flight” and let the flight attendant back on.
It doesn’t help that this incident comes two weeks after a United Airlines passenger was dragged from his seat and off a plane by Chicago aviation police. United was widely criticized on social media and by industry professionals for the conflicting statements it put out afterward, initially siding with its employees and appearing to blame the passenger.
American learned something from that. They quickly responded: “We have seen the video and have already started an investigation to obtain the facts. What we see on this video does not reflect our values or how we care for our customers,” it said in a statement.
“We are deeply sorry for the pain we have caused this passenger and her family and to any other customers affected by the incident.”
American said it upgraded the woman to first class for the rest of her trip and the attendant has been “removed from duty” as it investigates.
Good move.
But with the amount of flights and passengers, we’re likely to see one of these a week. How many of us haven’t been on a flight where an unruly passenger pushes things to the limit?
How long before a captain simply says, “We’re not taking off until the passenger in 15A peacefully allows a flight attendant to check their bag”? Then what?

Christie: Is it really United Airlines you’re mad at over the Dao incident?

CHICAGO, IL — Demonstrators protest outside the United Airlines terminal at O’Hare International Airport last week in Chicago. United Airlines has been struggling to restore their corporate image after a cell phone video was released showing a passenger being dragged from his seat and bloodied by airport police after he refused to leave a reportedly overbooked flight. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Poor United Airlines just can’t catch a break.

The way the airline mishandled and manhandled a Louisvile doctor a couple Sundays ago — and captured for all time on smartphone video — has sparked justifiable outrage from pretty much anyone who’s seen it.

As well it should. While any consumer who has flown regularly on a U.S.-based carrier the last 20-plus years has a nightmare story — usually involving the term, “stand-by hell” — watching Dr. David Dao being unceremoniously dragged off of a plan kicking and screaming is particularly beyond the pale.

This image made from a video provided by Audra D. Bridges shows Dr. David Dao being removed from the United Airlines flight in Chicago. Video of police officers dragging Dr. Dao from a United Airlines flight sparked an uproar on social media. (Audra D. Bridges via AP)

Dao, who was traveling with his wife, was flying back home through Chicago but was chosen at random (by computer) to give up his seat so that one of four United employees could get to their destination. Overbooking is a time-worn airline practice that has gotten more popular with the airline execs over the years. (We now know, however, that the fight wasn’t even overbooked.)

Anyway, Dao refused. Cue the video milieu, and still cascading outrage from airline customers the world over.

One has to wonder though whether it’s really United that everyone’s mad at, or are did the incident some old — and even recent — feelings about being allegedly used or abused by an airline.

A United Airlines passenger plane lands at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J. Twitter users are poking fun at United’s tactics in having a man removed from an overbooked Chicago to Louisville flight on April 9. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

Everybody’s got a story… Who are you really mad at?

Christie: Tell us: How do we stop these mass shootings?

People take cover at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport after a gunman killed 5 people and injured many more on January 6, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
People take cover at the Fort Lauderdale Airport after a gunman killed 5 people and injured many more on Jan. 6. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

What do we do now?

What do we do after another mass shooting by an alleged mentally ill individual takes the lives of so many.

Even more disturbing is how the Friday afternoon bloodbath at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport further exposes how our airport terminals are big, tempting — some say, soft — targets for armed individuals who want to terrorize or just kill other people.

In March, three coordinated suicide bombings in Brussels, Belgium – two at Brussels Airport and one at a metro station – killed 32 civilians and injured more than 300. The airport explosions were in a departure hall.

In October, three gunmen with automatic weapons and suicide bombs staged an attack at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, killing 45 people and injuring 230. Two of the attackers opened fire near a security checkpoint’s x-ray scanner, and detonated bombs when police returned fire. The third attacker set off a bomb in the parking lot across the street from the terminal.

And now, Fort Lauderdale. According to the latest reports, 26-year-old Esteban Santiago got off a Delta Airlines flight from Anchorage, Alaska, pulled his gun from his checked bag in the baggage area, loaded it in the bathroom and shot at least 13 people — killing five and sending eight people to nearby Broward Health Medical Center.

Santiago, who was discharged from the Army National Guard in August for “unsatisfactory performance,” served in Iraq for about a year starting in 2010. He was a combat engineer.

CNN reported that Santiago showed up at the Anchorage FBI office recently, and was checked into a mental facility after he said he heard voices telling him to join ISIS. And members of his family are now telling media outlets that Santiago “lost his mind in Iraq.”

Whatever his reason may be, our minds automatically go what we can do to prevent this from happening again on U.S. soil. A few ideas:

  1. Stop allowing passengers to carry guns and ammunition in their checked bags on airline flights.
  2. Beef up armed security at U.S. airports and ease restrictions on stop and frisk.
  3. Keep mentally ill people from owning and acquiring firearms in the first place.

But what freedoms would we be willing to give up as a result?

For example, American travelers are notorious for not wanting anything to slow down — read that, ruin — their vacations. We bristle, for example, every time we have to take off our shoes or belt at the airport security checkpoint.

What would you suggest? Tell us: How do we stop these mass shootings?