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We’ve really been in a string of bad airline PR incidents. The recent bout has included #leggingsgate, which graduated to #bumpgate, followed by #strollergate other stories, such as a giant rabbit dying at O’Hare and a family getting tossed off a flight from Hawaii (SEE: Family kicked off Delta flight for sitting in seat that (kind of) didn’t belong to them).

One incident that made the news early this week included footage of a Delta pilot hitting a woman at Atlanta airport. At face value it seems both really shocking…and par for the course given the past several weeks.

There were at least two filmed vantage points (here and here) to the fight. The footage clearly shows two women getting into a tussle in the jetway. A third woman joins in after several seconds. Fair warning: the videos contain some cursing.

A Delta pilot enters the situation

Partway through the video, you see a Delta pilot enter the scuffle. I’m pretty sure he is the one who says, “Knock it off!”, which you can hear moments before he steps in.

A few seconds later, the video shows him grabbing one of the women by the arm, and then clearly hitting her. He steps back almost immediately after that. The question is: can this be justified?

A little background

What isn’t clear from the raw footage is what brought the two women to blows with each other. The way the phones were out and ready shows that passengers knew *something* was likely to happen.

The two women who got into the fight in the jetway had already been antagonizing each other. According to witnesses, they were nearly at blows earlier while on the flight. The incident on the jetway was just the culmination.

What really happened

According to Delta, the pilot entered the situation when he believed one of the women had the other in a dangerous choke hold. From the footage, it does appear that is the case. One woman has her legs locked around the neck of the other. The pilot’s action does indeed help release the hold.

It’s pretty clear to me in the video that the pilot is irritated, but I do believe that he was acting in the best interest of the passengers. He is composed, and only enters the situation for a few seconds.

Yes, the footage clearly shows him hit one of the women. But he probably helped de-escalate the situation and keep one of the women out of physical danger. This was Delta’s take at least. The airline removed the pilot from duty while they investigated, but they concluded that he had indeed acted appropriately and in the best interest of the passengers.

Ultimately, none of the women wanted to press charges against any of the other women, or against the pilot.

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