2:00PM ET: Updated with comment from United Airlines, longer video
A United Airlines employee and a passenger were captured on video fighting at a Newark Liberty International Airport airport check-in desk, with both men exchanging blows and the United employee, though bloody, coming back for more.
Fist Fight Between United Airlines Employee And Passenger At Newark Airport
Here’s a look the undated video that first appeared on Instagram and currently appears to be our most complete record of the event:
An earlier version omitted the important first few seconds:
Here’s a longer version of the video; however, it doesn’t show how the altercation between the passenger and boarding agent started. pic.twitter.com/TmT27S5e2C
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- The employee threw the first punch (or slap)
- The passenger retaliated
- A fight ensued
- It is unclear what occurred before the video began
But it still isn’t clear what caused the fight. It isn’t clear if earlier punches were thrown or even when this happened, either, though it was posted on Instagram Sunday afternoon.
From what I can gather, this is a United Ground Express (UGE) agent at Newark Airport (I recognize the check-in area). UGE is a subsidiary of United Airlines. Those employees assist United check-in agents with luggage tagging and handling.
United Airlines has only issued a cautionary statement on the incident:
“United Airlines does not tolerate violence of any kind at our airports or on board our planes, and we are working with local authorities to further investigate this matter.”
It’s sad example that United, like any company, is only as strong as its weakest link. The company has made such monumental strides in transforming its culture over the last few years. Employee morale is up. Just last week United Airlines launched its first national ad campaign in a decade, entitled, “Good Leads The Way.”
And now, as you read this, the C-level team has likely hastily assembled an emergency meeting with the PR team to discuss damage control for this incident, which will be lampooned across late night television and make headlines around the world. This incident will be the mocking new face of “Good Leads The Way.” David Dao will be invoked.
It doesn’t matter who started it. United lost. It has already lost.
United’s best way to handle this is not to blame the passenger, even if he holds 90% of the blame. Instead, United’s best response is to state:
Whatever the context, we hold our employees to higher standards. The employee has been terminated. We do not tolerate violence at United Airlines.
Here’s the thing: this wasn’t self-defense any way you cut it. People don’t just get upset and I’m going to speculate here. I bet the passenger was horribly rude. Check out the huge piece of luggage in the video. Perhaps there was an overweight fee involved. Perhaps that surprised the passenger and he said some nasty things to the United employee. Maybe some profanity or even some racial stuff.
It. Doesn’t. Matter.
There can be no claiming of self-defense when you have ample time to walk away safely. “Stand your ground” is not a defense. Whatever happened before the video started recording, the United agent could have walked away and called the police. Instead, he chose to fight.
Even if he was subject to absolutely disgusting abuse, he’s the one wearing the uniform and he must be held to a higher standard. He must be terminated. United must condemn his behavior with no caveats.
United Airlines faces a PR disaster with a new video of United Ground Express employee fighting with a passenger at Newark Airport. It must react swiftly in condemning the conduct of its employee…there is no other way forward.