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After literally weeks of negative media attention focused on United over two separate incidents, American Airlines landed themselves in hot water with so-called #strollergate. When will these incidents end? It seems like we can actually *expect* a new airline customer service debacle every week or so these days. And everyone seems to have their phone cameras out and ready.

There has been a ton of coverage on #strollergate already. I don’t really want to re-hash any of it. You can watch the full video here. Here are a couple good posts on other blogs covering the incident:

OMAAT: American Airlines Flight Attendant Grabs Stroller From Mother Boarding Plane

M2M: New American Airlines #StrollerGate Video & Why These Videos May Make the Skies Friendly Once Again!

To their credit, AA actually released a reasonable statement regarding the incident. The same can’t be said of Oscar Muñoz initial statement following the #bumpgate.

The other side of #strollergate

My first thought when viewing the video was that the mother seemed overly hysterical. This is coming at it fresh, since I have been on vacation for the past few days and hadn’t read more than headlines until now. I made sure I found the video first before reading any commentary.

I want to examine the other side of the incident as best I can. What prompted the flight attendant to take the stroller in the first place? It has to be a standard policy of American’s regarding strollers, or something like that. From the ‘traveling with children’ section of aa.com:

“Each ticketed customer is allowed 1 stroller. Only small, collapsible and light strollers (up to 20lbs/9kgs) can be checked at the gate. Any stroller that weighs over 20lbs/9 kgs, is too large or is non−collapsible must be checked at the ticket counter.

Customers are allowed 1 stroller and 1 car seat per ticketed passenger. Both items may be checked at the ticket counter or one item can be checked at the gate and one at the counter. These items are checked at no charge, when traveling with a child or to adopt.

As best I can tell, strollers aren’t supposed to be taken onto the plane as a carry-on items. Not that the woman would have been aware of the policy unless she had read that particular page, but staff should have made her aware. She was supposed to leave the stroller at the end of the jet bridge. Instead, she tried to bring it on the plane.

Additionally, it appears the stroller was a double wide, and probably over 20 pounds. According to American’s policy, this stroller should have been checked in at the ticket counter anyway. It is clear to me that the lady was breaching airline policy in at least one, but possibly two ways. I can imagine her frustration at having to give up the stroller, but the policy seems clear enough.

This in no way excuses the attendant’s behavior

So…given an understanding of American’s stroller policies, I can understand why the flight attendant could have been a bit frustrated by having to deal with a mom attempting to bring a (potentially large) stroller on board. But this is no way excuses how he handled the situation! 

The attendant was incredibly rude, and the fact the he hit the woman with the stroller while forcibly taking it from her is appalling. It was obviously enough to send her into hysterics and to bring out came the cameras.

Honestly, the fellow passenger didn’t help things. He just escalated the situation further. Rather than trying to insert himself into the situation (and then threaten the flight attendant), I really think he should have stayed out of it.

Conclusion

I’m left with two takeaways from this incident:

  1. You should always try to find both sides of a story. While I personally think the vast bulk of the blame for this situation falls on the shoulders of the FA, I wanted to make sure I tried to see the other side.
  2. You should check each airline’s policies carefully if traveling with children and their necessary accoutrements. As my wife and I don’t have kids (yet), I hadn’t looked into stroller policies until now. I highly suggest you do so if you’re flying with young children. Here is a word of warning specifically for AA, and Mommy Points covers everything under the sun.

In a complete aside, I find it interesting how pervasive “-gate” has become following Nixon’s infamous Watergate scandal. It’s literally the go-to description of every airline debacle these days. We’ve had #leggingsgate, #bumpgate, #strollergate, and I’m sure there will be more to come.

What are your thoughts on the #strollergate incident?

Featured image courtesy of Aero Icarus under CC 2.0 license

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