Words are a powerful weapon and can instantly inflict great pain. As tensions escalated over a missing checked bag, two
children grown men exchanged terse insults at Memphis International Airport. Now American Airlines has been forced to apologize for a gratuitous slur.
Theresia and Michael Tirado were traveling home to New Jersey when their American Airlines’ flight diverted to Memphis. The Tirado’s tried to claim their checked bag but a baggage agent (apparently employed by Envoy Air but still wearing the AA uniform) was not able to locate it.
Theresia told WREG, a local CBS affiliate:
And my husband said you’re basically useless to us.
That little insult sparked a volley of insults between Tirado and the agent. Somehow, Tirado identified himself as a police officer, prompting the AA employee to allegedly say, “Oh you’re a cop? That means you’re a killer!”
The agent can be heard on video (below) expressing fear that Tirado will kill him.
American Airlines has been in contact with the Triados. It promised the agent above will receive more training and apologized to the family. AA added:
What we see in the video is extremely concerning: In our culture, every interaction with a customer or team member should be grounded in respect. That’s not what we saw here.
I have two thoughts on this incident. First, the AA agent was out of line for insulting the cop. As a uniformed employee in a customer service position, he has the responsibility to bite his tongue and remain professional. No matter what this man may have personally experienced with police, his blanket generalization is disgusting and uncalled for.
That said, we don’t know what was said leading up to the recording. How insulting was the cop? What exactly was said to make the AA agent so mad? Theresia Tirado admits that the agent became angry after her husband called him useless. I can imagine some other harsh words may have been leveled at the agent before he snapped. It doesn’t excuse it, but it also reflects very poorly on Michael Tirado.
AA handled this well. The situation proved an unfortunate escalation of what was likely a matter beyond the control of Tirado or the AA agent. Such language, if leveled, is intolerable. At the same time, we all have a responsibility to treat one another with respect or at least basic courtesy…sometimes even when it is not deserved.