In a nasty brawl filled with foul language and violence, a passenger spit on a flight attendant then tackled her when she slapped him.
I would start by watching the video below, which was allegedly filmed last Friday. The video, taken by the wife of the man at the center of controversy, documents a terse exchange between several members of the Brussels Air flight crew and the irate passenger. Apparently, the man complained that his mother-in-law was being “elbowed” by the two men she was sitting between. Flight attendants dismissed the complaint (it’s not clear why), which agitated the man. The video then begins.
I think the passenger acted despicably. There is no justification for threatening words and profanity. There is no justification for spitting in someone’s face then lunging at her, especially a male toward a female. Particularly in this world of fear over COVID-19, spitting becomes a particularly egregious act.
I don’t even fault, from a human perspective, the flight attendant slapping back the unhinged passengers for his nasty act against her. Sometimes anger gets the best of us. But here’s the thing: the flight attendant was not just another passenger. Instead, she was in position of authority over the passenger and had a duty to rise above the nasty action of the passengers she was trying to calm. It was her job to be stronger, to be better, to be wiser than the irate passengers. And she failed. And yet I cannot fault her…even the most disciplined human beings can only take so much abuse.
Folks, you cannot escape from the racial element of this situation. Let the record show the passenger was black and the flight crew was white. I don’t dismiss the passenger’s anger, even though it does not excuse his behavior. He was trying to take care of his mother-in-law. He saw, or at least sensed because of the narrow elbow room, that she was being squished by two men on either side. He reported it and was dismissed; his concerns were not taken seriously. As a passenger, I’d be mad too.
Anger and rage are such a bitter combination, especially in a travel world laced with fear and uncertainty. I hope the flight attendant presses assault charges against the passenger who spit on her and then attacked her. But she failed too, perhaps even more so, by failing to do her job, be the peacemaker, and rise above what quickly descended into a very nasty situation.