Airport officials in Nice, France, have confirmed that an employee at the Nice Airport has been suspended after punching a passenger who was holding a baby at the time.
The altercation took place on Saturday, as passengers waited to board an EasyJet flight to Luton, England. According to witnesses, the passenger’s wife had been complaining about the flight’s significant delay — more than 12 hours — when her husband approached another airport employee and the exchange turned physical.
“The man with the baby … went over and talked to the Frenchman and the Frenchman didn’t reply, he just smiled and smirked and then whacked this guy on the left side of his face,” said Arabella Arkwright, an EasyJet passenger standing behind the family, in an interview with BBC Radio 5.
Arkwright also took a photo of the altercation, which appears to capture the exact moment the employee’s fist makes contact with the man’s face.
However, video footage obtained by The Sun suggests that the passenger may have swatted at, or possibly shoved the employee first, after the employee had attempted to knock the man's phone out of his hand.
Arkwright claimed that her husband eventually pulled the employee off the father, and that both men were taken away by airport officials. She said the man and his baby were later allowed to board the flight when it left from Nice.
An official for Nice Airport told CNN that the employee — who did not work for EasyJet, but rather a subcontractor called Samsic — had been suspended by his employers at Samsic.
"Clearly it is a misconduct situation,” stated Francois Guitard, a director at the Nice Airport. “We apologize strongly about this situation regarding this passenger. There is no reason for a staff member to fight a passenger.”
EasyJet has since responded to Arkwright’s photo, apologizing for the incident but also reiterating that the airport employee did not work for EasyJet.
“EasyJet was very concerned to hear about the incident in Nice between a passenger and an employee of a contractor of Nice Airport,” the airline said in a statement obtained by Fox News. “The person is not an EasyJet member of staff and also does not work for EasyJet’s ground handling agents in Nice. We took this matter up with Nice Airport and their special assistance provider Samsic and understand the airport has confirmed his suspension.”
The airline also explained that the plane’s delay was due to a mishap during the fueling process, during which the fuel truck drove away with the hose still attached to the aircraft, causing some damage.
Data from FlightAware shows that the aircraft was scheduled to leave the Nice Airport at 11 a.m., but took off at 11.56 p.m.
“We sincerely apologize for the delay in this flight departing Nice and thank passengers for their patience,” added EasyJet.
A representative for Samsic was not immediately available to comment.