When a passenger, harrowed by an unprecedented delay in his flight schedule, approached a member of the ground staff at France's Nice Airport with a query, little did he know that he would be greeted with a sucker punch in the face by the airport employee. The passenger in question was also carrying a baby in his arms.
The passenger was scheduled to travel from Nice to Luton airport outside London on an EasyJet flight late Sunday morning, the Washington Post reported. However, the flight got delayed for an exhaustive 13 hours due to a mechanical problem with the aircraft.
'Not our employee,' says EasyJet
EasyJet has said that the airport employee does not work for the airline but for the airport's special assistance provider Samsic — a contractor that helps passengers at the airport by providing them with more information.
"EasyJet is very concerned to see this picture and can confirm the person in the photo is not an EasyJet member of staff and they do not work for EasyJet's ground handling agents in Nice... We are urgently taking this up with Nice Airport and their special assistance provider Samsic who we understand the person photographed works for," the airline said in a statement.
It also apologised for the flight delay saying that it was caused due to a technical problem. Another aircraft was flown in to Nice Airport from London.
"Passengers were provided with updates and refreshment vouchers during this time and the flight landed in London Luton last night," the airline said.
Airport employee suspended
"We had a serious problem with someone of staff from our subcontractor Samsic," Jean-François Guitard, a director at Nice Airport told CNN adding that the infant-carrying passenger complained about the flight delay to an employee of Samsic. The employee, who was unable to answer the passenger's question, suddenly hit back by punching him in the face.
"Clearly it is a misconduct situation. We apologize strongly about this situation regarding this passenger. There is no reason for a staff member to fight a passenger," Guitard said adding that the airport authorities had contacted Samsic, which informed them that the employee in question had been suspended.
'Airport employee just whacked him,' says fellow passenger
Arabella Arkwright, a passenger scheduled to travel on the same flight, had taken a video and a photograph of the incident and then tweeted it to British media outlets and the airline. The picture shows an airport worker punching a man's face, just inches away from the baby.
"It was awful the whole thing. I just can't believe people can behave like that," Arkwright told CNN adding that her husband restrained the airport worker while waiting for the police to arrive at the scene.
The passenger was also taken away, along with the baby, but was later allowed to board the flight in time for its eventual takeoff after a 13-hour delay. He had a fresh mark of the punch on his face.
"The EasyJet employee lifted his hand first and pushed the mobile phone out of the man's hand. You could see it go flying. The man pushed him back, like he was protecting the baby... And then the (worker) just whacked him," Arkwright told the Washington Post.
She added that company managers were nowhere to be seen even as the airport employee continued to interact with the airline's customers despite not being on their payroll.
— Arabella Ark (@ArabellaArkwri1) July 29, 2017
'Flight personnel didn't have answers for flight delay'
Arkwright said that the EasyJet personnel did not have any answers for the delay in flight schedule. No information about the same was communicated to the passengers, who had been waiting at the airport for about 13 hours. Food vouchers distributed by the employees of the airline barely covered the cost of a muffin at Starbucks, Arkwright added.
The stranded passengers also heard calls for other EasyJet flights going to Luton Airport. When the passengers were finally asked to board the aircraft after almost 13 hours, they were made to wait at the aircraft's door, Arkwright said adding that they were stuck on a sky bridge for half an hour before walking back to the airport.
"We'd been trying to get information out of them all day long. I've seen their statements. They said they kept people informed. We had to keep going up with questions. On their app they had one thing. On the board they had another thing. On the website they had another," Arkwright told the Washington Post.
"Information was contradictory all day as the departure time got put back and back - so as not to get people angry at the outset and/ or because there was no f***ing Plan B," she added.