The Harvard student says she was kicked off her flight to LGA after crew members called police over her insistence that her 4-month-old’s stroller be returned during a lengthy delay at ATL.
Briana Williams says that she and her infant daughter were forced to spend the night at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) after she demanded that the 4-month-old’s gate-checked stroller be returned when passengers were off-loaded at the terminal because of a weather delay. The 23-year-old mom claims that the captain of the American Airlines flight not only needlessly refused her request, but also inappropriately summoned law enforcement when she refused to disembark without some form of assistance for her and her child.
Williams insists that she was simply trying to make the point that carrying luggage and her young daughter would be a near impossible burden. Rather than offering sympathy, the Harvard law student says that the pilot, who she describes as “very disgruntled and aggressive,” instead falsely told police that she was dangerous.
“This type of unregulated discretion is a segue into discriminatory policy,” Williams explained to the Daily News.” The pilot put me in a potentially dangerous situation with law enforcement as a young, black woman, saying that I was a ‘threat.’ This type of rhetoric paralyzes the African-American community, and I want to ensure that policies are put in place that regulate the pilot’s discretionary abilities.”
There is no evidence to indicate that the captain’s actions were motivated by racial bias, and by William’s own admission, she refused to deplane without the stroller ignoring the pilot’s instructions. However, the dispute that occurred on the ground after nearly five hours of delays certainly sounds much more like a customer service issue than a matter for law enforcement.
Williams says (and the airline confirms) that she was not allowed to re-board the plane before its ultimate departure. She was instead rescheduled on a flight the next morning. Because the captain’s “behavior deviated from standard,” the airline says Williams was later offered 25,000 AAdvantage miles.
“From the team members we hire to the customers we serve, inclusion and diversity is a way of life at American,” American Airlines spokesperson Ross Feinstein told the newspaper in a statement. “Every day, our team members work to make American a place where people of all generations, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, religious affiliations and backgrounds feel welcome and valued. All of our team members are proud to serve customers of all backgrounds and we are committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone who flies with us.”
While the company has pulled out all the stops to make it clear that racial discrimination is not tolerated, there is mounting evidence that North American airlines might not like children very much. In September, Air Canada issued an apology, terming gate agents’ stubborn refusal to return a gate-checked stroller to the mother of a disabled child, “a truly regrettable situation.” Earlier this year, an American Airlines flight attendant was removed from duty after allegedly physically assaulting the mother of a small child and taking her stroller before a flight in April. Just last week, a family of four connecting on a Southwest Airlines flight, was left behind at Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) after police were summoned in response to yet another stroller-related dispute.