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Passengers in viral airline videos have same lawyer

Attorney Thomas Demetrio speaks about the removal of Dr. David Dao from a United Airlines flight. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

DALLAS — The woman seen sobbing in a viral video after an American Airlines flight attendant took away her stroller now has a lawyer — the same attorney representing a man dragged off a United Express flight earlier this month.

Chicago lawyer Thomas Demetrio says the flight attendant was “out of control” and nearly hit one of the woman’s two young children with the stroller.

An American Airlines spokesman said Monday that the company has been in contact with the woman and refunded her tickets and upgraded her to first class for the rest of her trip to Argentina.

A woman is seen sobbing in a viral video after an American Airlines flight attendant took away her stroller.
A woman is seen sobbing in a viral video after an American Airlines flight attendant took away her stroller.

The airline says the woman’s doublewide stroller was tagged to be checked as cargo at the door to the plane, but instead she took it into the cabin, leading to the confrontation with the flight attendant.

The airline spokesman said American is still investigating the incident and has grounded the flight attendant. American said in a statement Friday that the scene captured on video “does not reflect our values or how we care for our customers.”

The president of the union representing American’s flight attendants said the employee deserves credit for staying on the plane after being challenged by a male passenger who sided with the woman. The man threatened the employee that he could “knock you flat.” The flight attendant responded by taunting the passenger to hit him.

“Was it the most perfect response? No,” said Bob Ross, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, who added that some details of the incident are still unclear. But “he flew that flight with that [male] passenger to Dallas. He had every right to get off.”

Had the employee done so, Ross said, the flight would have been canceled and all the passengers stranded because there were no backup flight attendants in San Francisco.

Ross said he protested the airline’s decision to ground the flight attendant, a veteran employee based in Philadelphia. American and the union declined to identify him.

The incident before a flight from San Francisco to Dallas came two weeks after airport police in Chicago dragged a passenger off a plane after he refused to give up his seat to make room for an airline employee.

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Demetrio said the passenger, David Dao, a 69-year-old Kentucky physician, plans to file a lawsuit. He said it was too soon to know whether the woman on the American Airlines plane would sue.

Video of both events has put airlines on the defensive in the court of public opinion.

“We live in the age of cellphone video, so corporations have to take heed,” Demetrio told NBC-TV.

In the Dao case, Demetrio said United CEO Oscar Munoz had the opportunity to apologize and didn’t, called Dao belligerent, and then finally issued an apology. Demetrio has said previously that he and his client accepted the airline CEO’s public apology but think it was insincere.

Dr. David Dao is dragged off a United Airlines flight April 9. | Twitter
Dr. David Dao is dragged off a United Airlines flight April 9. | Twitter