Skip to main content

Tip Sheets

Viral videos of onboard clashes are not the full story

Media Contact

Rebecca Valli

Videos of heated confrontations between flight attendants and passengers have recently spurred global uproar after being uploaded online.


Risa M. Mish

Risa M. Mish

Professor of Practice of Management

Risa Mish, professor of management at Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business, says that the public should not be quick to judge employees confronting customers on viral video clips.

Mish says:

“In no way would I condone an employee mistreating a passenger in the manner that the video appears to show. I do have a more general concern, however, about viewers drawing inferences from video clips of interactions between employees and customers, because we don’t get to see what transpired immediately before the interaction that is shown.

“A critical thinking approach includes considering what you don’t know, as well as you what you do know, before reaching a conclusion.

“In the American Airline incident, it is hard to imagine what prior behavior would have justified grabbing a stroller from the mother when she was holding another child. However, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine a slightly different scenario – for example, a passenger striking another passenger with a backpack. How would we feel about a flight attendant attempting to intervene, including by holding the backpack that the passenger was using to strike another? If the only video we saw was the flight attendant grabbing the backpack, we might be quick to judge the flight attendant as inappropriate. If, on the other hand, we saw the full video, we might praise the flight attendant for intervening to prevent harm to another passenger.”


Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.