Passengers and social media users alike are outraged after a video surfaced showing Southwest Airlines bringing a taxiing plane back to the gate to kick off a previously unruly young girl and the toddler’s parents.
Passenger Alexis Armstrong, who filmed the Southwest Flight 1683 incident, said the two-year-old girl, and a man who was likely her father were asked to leave the Chicago to Atlanta flight Wednesday prior to takeoff. Video shows the end of the incident at Chicago Midway International Airport, in which the man exiting the plane ridicules an airline employee directing them to leave, “I’m glad you screwed up everyone’s day.”
In an interview with Law&Crime, Armstrong said the girl had a brief fit during the boarding process while passengers were still milling about and the man was told, “she needs to calm and sit or she will be escorted off.” The young child reportedly quieted down for five minutes and the plane pushed back from the gate. But just minutes later, the pilot came on and said the plane would be returning to the gate “for a customer service issue and to fill up gas.”
But it was then that several flight attendants and security personnel entered the aircraft, confronted the family and told them to leave immediately.
“No more discussion. Get back at the gate. You know that was the option, and I’m gonna get out of your face,” the videotaped confrontation shows a female Southwest employee telling the family. “We’re cleared for departure, we all need to understand the operation unfortunately.”
“She’s a child. She was scared, he was trying to calm her down,” another passenger can be heard pleading with the flight attendants. Several additional passengers can be heard taking the side of the family, arguing that the child had been quiet for several minutes at that point.
“OK, this is not helpful guys. Do you wanna go to Atlanta? Or…” the airline official snaps back. “The decision has been made,” a second flight attendant says.
The Wednesday video aboard the Southwest Airlines flight is just the latest viral clip showing chaotic scenes aboard planes. The woman who recorded the incident on her phone told Inc., "I am not sure why I even began to film, I just knew from the woman’s attitude and security approaching it wasn’t going to end well.
"All I really wanted was [the video] to be seen by Southwest and apologize to this family,” Armstrong added to Law&Crime.
The airline issued a statement saying the girl and her family were boarded onto the next flight, but they said the flight attendants were simply following pre-flight protocol for disruptive young children:
“After pushback Wednesday evening, Flight 1683 to Atlanta returned to the gate at Chicago Midway to allow supervisors to board the aircraft. Our initial reports indicate a conversation escalated onboard between the crew and a customer traveling with a small child. We always aim for a welcoming and hospitable experience and regret the inconvenience to all involved. The traveling party was booked on the next flight to Atlanta after the original flight continued as planned. We will reach out to the customer to listen to any concerns they have about their experience and look forward to welcoming them onboard again soon.”
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