No, you’re not reading that headline wrong.
In June I shared the video footage of a July 2015 incident where a United employee shoved a passenger to the ground at a check-in facility at Houston Airport. While the passenger and customer service agent had different perspectives on what happened (we’ll get into that in a bit), here’s a video of the incident:
United investigated this incident within weeks of when it occurred, and the customer service agent ended up being fired. Only a couple of years later did the passenger file a lawsuit, though, presumably trying to piggyback off Dr. Dao’s settlement. So while we knew about that lawsuit, there’s now a further development in the case.
The former United customer service agent in the above video, Alejandro Anastasia, is suing for a million dollars, claiming he was assaulted by the passenger and that United failed to provide proper training and a safe work environment.
So, how do the two stories compare? Both passengers agree that the incident started when the passenger had an “illegible” boarding pass and was turned away from the TSA checkpoint because he needed a new one. That’s when he approached the customer service agent, where the above incident started.
Per NBC News, here’s how the two versions of the story differ. According to the passenger:
According to Tigner’s suit, he asked the United employees for a new boarding pass, but Anastasia and Phillips-Allred allegedly refused, “laughed” and “cursed” at the passenger, before Anastasia pushed him down.
Meanwhile according to the former customer service agent:
In Anastasia’s version of the encounter, he told TODAY that Tigner approached him telling him that United needed to “hire people that speak English,” after an employee at the ticket counter had trouble understanding him.
“The lady behind the counter didn’t understand me, didn’t really speak very good English,” Tigner said. He then sought out Anastasia’s help fixing his ticket.
In court documents, Anastasia claimed that Tigner began shouting profanities and using racial slurs during their conversation.
Tigner denies using racial slurs.
Anastasia said he outstretched his arms and backed away after Tigner “got in [his] face” and stepped on his toe, according to court documents.
Here’s a video interview with both parties:
Obviously I don’t know exactly what happened (and I doubt anyone does), though I do have a few observations based on the video:
- I imagine the passenger really was raising his voice and perhaps being aggressive, because the third customer service agent walks over shortly after he approaches the other two, presumably because he’s being loud; I don’t think she would have done that if he were just asking a question quietly
- Obviously we don’t know whether or not he used any racial slurs
- The passenger does seem to “flail” his hands a bit in a way that could be perceived as somewhat aggressive
All that being said, there’s absolutely zero justification for him to be pushed to the ground. ZERO. Even using the customer service agent’s explanation, he claims he “outstretched his arms.” Um, if you feel like someone is being aggressive, why don’t you back away from them rather than “outstretching your arms” (aka pushing them to the ground)?
Furthermore, if he never intended to throw the guy to the ground, why didn’t he offer to assist him as soon as he fell down, rather than walking away?
Even if we believe the passenger was being aggressive, there’s simply zero excuse for what happened. Customer service agents should be trained in deescalating situations. So maybe he’s onto something with his lawsuit, in claiming that United doesn’t provide proper training to their employees. In my opinion it’s perhaps more reflective of their corporate culture and lack of hiring skills than specific training, though.
What do you think? Does the former United customer service agent’s story add up?