Return to Transcripts main page


Survey Shows 85 Percent of Flight Attendants Have Dealt with Unruly Passengers; Unemployment Rate for Black and Latino Women on the Rise; American Suni Lee Wins Individual All-Around Gold. Aired 10:30- 11a ET

Aired July 29, 2021 - 10:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Disturbing videos of unruly passengers on airplanes have become all too common lately. Look, look at these, out of control travelers have become increasingly aggressive, sometimes violent. The FAA has reported more than 3,600 incidents on planes this year alone and a brand-new survey out right now of nearly 5,000 flight attendants really details how dangerous things have become. 85 percent said they have dealt with unruly passengers this year. 17 percent said the incidents got physical.

Let me bring in Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants. Good morning. This is the first time we are seeing the results, the public is seeing these results, and they are horrible, frankly. What do you take away from what all of your flight attendants have said?

SARA NELSON, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS CWA: Well, it is very difficult because I'm looking at the individual comments about what has gone on. And flight attendants are experiencing something that we've never seen before in aviation. In fact, if we stay on this trend, we're going to have more incidents in this year alone than we've seen in the entire history of aviation.

And so it is not just the things that make it on the evening news, it is the comments and disrespect and calling names and punching seat backs and throwing trash and following flight attendants down the terminal still yelling at them. We've just never experienced anything like this at work and flight attendant are tired and fed up and we cannot accept this as the new normal.

HARLOW: No, we can't. And that is stunning to say it is on the pace to the most ever.


Do you have a sense, Sara, from all of these comments and the feedback you've got from the flight attendant as to the main driver? I know some of this has been over mask mandates and they're just enforcing what the federal said to do and the FAA, this is also a moment of just intense political division in this country. What do you think the root driver or drivers of this are?

NELSON: We often see the result of political conflict or social conflict on our planes. We see that close and personal, and, of course, we're in a metal tube enclosed, and so it is more intense there. And what we have seen is that there has been conflicting information over the last year-and-a-half about what the public should be doing, what they should believe. And what that is doing is it's bringing people to the door of the airplane really confused and under the guise that we're in conflict with each other.

And I want to be really clear, Poppy. This is actually a relatively small group of people who are acting out like this but it is bigger and more common than anything we've ever seen before and it is more pervasive throughout the plane.

So, normally, in the past, we would have had one passenger, maybe two acting out and we have the rest of the passengers to help us create order and to help us tamp that down. And now, what we're seeing is that everyone is coming to the door of the plane inexperienced, unsure of the procedures. We have more workload because of that. And then the ones who are acting out we're not able to get back to fast enough to de-escalate and calm that down.

All of these things are contributing factors, and it is alcohol, it is mask compliance, but it is also just basic compliance with safety regulations that have been in place for decades.

HARLOW: What makes this I think even more troubling that I saw reading through this just released report, Sara, is that 71 percent of flight attendants told you that -- who filed incidents with their managements that they didn't get a response. So I'm wondering what your message is to those in power and also, you know, to the FAA and those other agencies.

NELSON: Well, look, there is a couple of things that we have to be doing here. There is much more that can be done across aviation, coordination with the airlines, airports, law enforcement, we can do a lot more to keep these problems on the ground because what we also saw is that there are indications many times in the airport or in the gate and those people are coming on the planes. And the vast majority of the incidents are actually happening in flight when we don't have anywhere to go or anywhere to put these people.

There has got to be a better coordination, a better response from the airlines. We also put out this survey because the FAA has really taken this very seriously. And since January 13th, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson put in place the zero-tolerance policy. The FAA has put out all kinds of communications, even children telling people how to behave and communicating those consequences, and that has been very helpful. It's been helpful to have that backing from the federal government.

But we need DOJ to step in and use the statute is already in place. People can face up to 20 years in prison. We need criminal prosecution so that people take this seriously and we also need better coordination. We need DOT to bring the industry together to have better coordination and response in keeping these problems on the ground.

HARLOW: Well, let's end on this. I want to show our viewers some video of a fascinating piece our Pete Muntean did yesterday, if they haven't seen it yet. And this is basically a TSA-led self-defense training seminar for flight attendants. Can you tell us -- what he reported is that a small number have signed up. Is this something that you're encouraging all of your union members to go through to help?

NELSON: We always encourage flight attendant to take this class. It is a voluntary class, so they have to do it on their time off and at their cost to get to the training so it makes it very difficult. It really should be mandatory as a part of our regular training that is paid for by the airlines so that every flight attendant can have access to this and have the repeat lessons that allow them to be able responsible quickly when they are startled.

So I've been through the class. It is very helpful. It helps you just understand better how to stand, better how to protect yourself, very helpful training. It was on pause for a while because of COVID. And TSA has figured out how to get it started back again because that is where we are. We need martial arts in order to defend ourselves on the plane.

HARLOW: Sadly. Sara Nelson, thank you, thanks for your leadership. We'll have you back soon.

NELSON: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: A disturbing trend is reemerging, unemployment for black and Latino women is on the rise again. We're going to take a closer look at the women behind these numbers, ahead.



HARLOW: The unemployment rate for black and Latino women is on the rise again. Right now, jobless claims among black women are nearly double what they were before the pandemic and it comes as some states like Louisiana are ending federal unemployment extended benefits early.

Our Vanessa Yurkevich has this story from New Orleans.


VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Four generations and a 100-year-old family recipe is what got Nicole Route and her family through the toughest year of their lives.

NICOLE ROUTE, UNEMPLOYED: I never thought that we would be doing this for survival.

YURKEVICH: The Louisiana family's crawfish bisque recipe unexpectedly turned into a small business during the pandemic, helping to pay bills during a year of loss. First, it was Nicole's job in the oil and gas industry --


ROUTE: This is my B.B.

YURKEVICH: -- then she lost her grandfather to COVID.

ROUTE: You think what else could happen to you and then you, boom, lose your uncle too.

YURKEVICH: And now she's losing unemployment benefits. Louisiana is ending the extra $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits early at the end of this month.

And despite labor shortages, Nicole said she's applied to over 150 jobs since the winter, struggling to land one that pays enough to support her family.

ROUTE: You know, I get a lot of people talk about it is because everybody is on unemployment and nobody wants to work anymore, but reality is $8, $9, $10, $20 an hour just does not sustain life for a family.

YURKEVICH: Women are still struggling to recover out of the pandemic, facing issues like balancing work and child care. Unemployment rates for black women remain almost twice as high as before the pandemic.

Nicole is switching industries to tech hoping that will open new opportunities. Until one sticks, she's surviving off dwindling savings and unemployment.

ROUTE: I do think there are opportunities for people like myself to get a piece of that booming economy that everybody is talking about. It is just not booming for everybody.

YURKEVICH: Nicole is not the only one struggling to find a job. While the lines of people waiting for food here in New Orleans and around the country have slowed, Louisiana still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

BETTY THOMAS, COO, GIVING HOPE FOOD PANTRY: I don't know if they think this is the new normal with people still being out of work, unemployed, in lines for food. Most of these women who come here are in the hospitality industry.

YURKEVICH: Andrea Jones is one of those women in line. She's worked in hospitality but says her hotel still doesn't have enough business in their banquet hall to bring her back.

ANDREA JONES, RELIES ON FOOD PANTRY: The central for being here today is to make sure I still eat. It gives me a little hope because I don't have to go out -- I don't have money that I could go spend to get the food.

YURKEVICH: Food kept the Route family afloat during COVID. But now, Nicole is hoping studying for a new tech certification will give her a leg up in the job market. That test is next month, the same time her $300 a week in unemployment benefits run out.

Is there a point when the money is gone altogether?

ROUTE: The point is not to ever get to that point. If I have to work at night and during the day, then I'll do it. Whatever it is, I will do it to feed my family, period.

YURKEVICH: Vanessa Yurkevich, CNN, New Orleans, Louisiana.


HARLOW: Vanessa, thank you so much for that reporting.

Well, ahead, an American gymnast will bring home the gold in the women's all-around gymnastics competition. It is not Simone Biles. Meet Suni Lee. I can't wait to tell you more about her, ahead.



HARLOW: Well, the GOAT, the greatest gymnast of all time, Simone Biles, did not compete in the women's individual all-around but Team USA still bringing home the gold, and what a great story this is on top of everything.

Coy Wire is in Tokyo with more. I am smiling so much for Suni Lee right now.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. St. Paul as another hometown hero, someone other than Poppy Harlow, the greatest of all time, without the GOAT competing. Poppy, it was wide open and it was 18- year-old Suni Lee stepping up on the sport's biggest stage as she captured that gold after she and her family have been through so much.

Suni Lee missed two months since 2020 with a broken bone in her foot, two months with an Achilles injury, she lost her aunt and uncle due to COVID. She says she felt like quitting at times, Poppy, but she persevered. And it all came down to the floor routine today here in Tokyo. She needed to score a 13.467, she racked a 13.7. It would hold for the gold.

Lee started gymnastics when she was six years old. She grew up one of five kids in St. Paul, Minnesota, raised by her parents, Yi then John (ph), both immigrants from Laos. Her dad built her a beam in the backyard out of wood because they couldn't afford a real one, Poppy. The beam is there to this day. She calls her dad her best friend and the reason she does it all.

In 2019, John Lee fell while helping a neighbor trim a tree. He was paralyzed from the chest down. He's hardly been able to see his daughter compete ever since that injury. So you imagine, Poppy, back in your home state, your hometown, the emotion when Lee's family saw what had just happened, when those results came in. You can't imagine what this family has been through. We can only imagine, right? Well, Poppy, I was there tonight for this event and I did see the defending all-around Olympic champ Simone Biles there in the stands, she was at the edge of her seat at times. She could barely sit still. She was cheering on the one who would eventually take her crown, it is Suni Lee's moment. She's keeping a dominant run alive. American women have now won five straight Olympic all-around titles.


All right, we have some great news in the pool for the Team USA today as well, Caeleb Dressel in his second Olympic. Some tout him as the next Michael Phelps. That is a lot of pressure. He had already won three relay golds but he now has won his first gold on his own with an Olympic record to boot. He won the 100-meter free from the jump.

Look at this start, Poppy. He got an arm length lead off the blocks and would end up winning by that same length. Caleb h trains like a football player. His trainer told me after this race that all of the explosive training that he did in a garage during the pandemic were on full display.

His parents his biggest inspiration, they were watching back in Florida. There is his wife, Megan, as well. Look at this. I mean, this is what it is all about. These stands here in Tokyo, they're empty, but that doesn't take away these huge moments from these families and these athletes.

There is Caleb right there. He's a self-admitted crier. He says, I cry a lot, but I don't mind it.

HARLOW: This all makes me smile so much. Coy, thanks for bringing us a little joy. We needed it.

All right, thanks to all of you for joining me today. I'll see you right back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan is next.