CHICAGO — Southwest Airlines is taking some heat after flight attendants escorted a man and a young girl off a flight at Midway International Airport in Chicago on Wednesday afternoon, according to WGN.
Passenger Alexis Armstrong, 24, of Joliet, filmed part of the incident on her cellphone in a video that has since gone viral. Armstrong said Southwest staff removed the man and the child, believed to be his daughter, from Flight 1683 to Atlanta shortly before takeoff Wednesday.
Armstrong said the girl, who she thought was about 2 years old, appeared scared to fly and wanted to sit in her father's lap — not her own seat — before takeoff.
“Then the flight attendant in red came over and said she needs to calm and sit or will be escorted off. The man calms the child, gets her popcorn, sets her up,” Armstrong told Inc.
The little girl had calmed down by the time Southwest employees decided to remove the family from the plane, according to Armstrong.
In the video, two flight attendants can be seen talking to the man and a woman sitting next to him. One flight attendant says, "We all need to understand the operation, unfortunately. This is not helpful guys. Do you want to go to Atlanta? The decision's been made."
Video shows the man holding the toddler as he and the woman then get off the plane.
Armstrong, who was sitting in a row behind and across the aisle from them, said she didn't think they should have been kicked off.
"All I really wanted was [the video] to be seen by [Southwest] and apologize to this family. I am a mom and my heart was hurting for this dad. Southwest owes them an apology," Armstrong told Inc. "I did NOT think this would blow up, I am not sure why I even began to film, I just knew from the woman's attitude and security approaching it wasn't going to end well."
Southwest Airlines released the following statement:
"After pushback Wednesday evening, Flight 1683 to Atlanta returned to the gate at Midway to allow supervisors to board the aircraft. Our initial reports indicate a conversation escalated on board between the crew and a customer traveling with a small child. We always aim for a welcoming and hospitable experience and regret the inconvenience to all involved. The traveling party was booked on the next flight to Atlanta after the original flight continued as planned. We will reach out to the customer[s] to listen to any concerns they have about their experience and look forward to welcoming them on board again soon."