An American Airlines flight attendant was allegedly assaulted, and had her hair pulled out, during a plane’s emergency landing in Nebraska.
A flight attendant on board a plane that ended up in Nebraska after hitting its scheduled destination due to mechanical problems suffered injuries during an altercation on board during a confrontation that has been described as the worst incident in the airline’s history.
It started when the plane’s hydraulic system failed at the last minute, forcing American Airlines to land in the Cornhusker State. The crew decided not to land in Kansas City, Missouri, as scheduled, but instead had to land in Nebraska and make an emergency landing at the then-capital of the state, Lincoln.
A statement from American Airlines announcing the incident, published by the Washington Post, said a flight attendant approached passengers on the plane to explain that the crew had a mechanical issue with the hydraulic system, and that they could continue the journey if there was sufficient fuel for the trip. But several passengers complained to a first officer when the flight attendant began speaking with the ground crew, who she suggested could be a distraction.
“We are investigating the situation and have reported it to law enforcement,” American Airlines said in a statement. “We take these actions very seriously and are conducting a full review of what occurred.”
The flight attendant was taken to a hospital where she was treated for injuries to her mouth and face. The first officer, the only other person on the plane at the time, told investigators that the flight attendant was out of control from the beginning of the incident.
“She had had enough of us telling her what the problem was and wanted to know what we thought about the air conditioning being on, why the pilot wasn’t sleeping,” the first officer told investigators. “That’s when I turned around to her and said ‘Don’t do this.'”
The first officer said that the captain warned them during flight preparations that passengers could be harassed on board, and that he did not want to allow any potential conflicts to escalate on board. But the pilot also acknowledged that the security features on board could not stop passengers from cursing him or yelling.
“I have no tolerance for it,” the pilot said, according to the report. “My only tools at my disposal are the social skills I’ve developed for my work and my ability to de-escalate these situations.”
It was decided, then, that the first officer would take control of the plane while the second first officer monitored the cabin and greeted passengers as they disembarked. And that, of course, did not work out the way they had planned.
The first officer returned to the cockpit to check on the status of the plane, but the issues persisted, the investigation concluded.
The second pilot was then summoned to order that the pilots return to the cockpit and take control of the plane, while the first officer was asked to prepare the boarding area and to drive the passengers down the runway to their final destination.
The first officer who was forced to abdicate control of the plane was able to brake just in time, bringing the plane to a halt, and every passenger on board was unharmed. But the investigation found that the flight attendant had refused the first officer’s demands to remain quiet during their conversation, and she shoved the first officer, pulling out her hair and breaking her glasses.
“It is one of the worst on-air incidents I’ve ever experienced,” Brian Bennett, a spokesman for American Airlines, told the Post.
It remains unclear what will happen to the flight attendant who assaulted the first officer. But the incident raises questions about the safety of passengers and flight attendants on American Airlines, which recently hired a new chief of safety.
Read the full story at the Washington Post.
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