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Fight Over Reclining Seat Forces Southwest Flight to Return

A reclined seat aboard a Southwest Airlines flight turned into a fight, forcing the captain to return to Los Angeles.

An aggravated flyer could face charges for their part in an alleged altercation aboard a Southwest Airlines flight which caused the captain to return the aircraft to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) shortly after departure. Los Angeles Airport Police responded to Southwest Airlines Flight 2010 on Sunday after reports of a fight breaking out aboard the aircraft.

Los Angeles television station KABC reports the altercation began as the flight was taxiing for takeoff between a man and a woman aboard the flight who were not traveling together. Witnesses claim the confrontation continued after the woman allegedly reclined her seat to the aggravation of the flyer behind her. The situation escalated when the fight became physical.

In an air traffic exchange noted by KABC, the pilots were informed of the situation by flight attendants working the flight. “Evidently we got two passengers that are in a physical altercation so we need to get turned around back to LAX,” the pilots told air traffic controllers prior to returning the flight to Los Angeles.

The flight landed at LAX approximately 15 minutes after taking off, with airport police responding to the incident around 10:45 p.m. local time. According to KABC, the male flyer was removed from the flight by police and temporarily detained by FBI investigators as they sorted out the situation. No arrests were made as a result of the altercation, but the investigation is continuing.

The 136 flyers aboard WN2010 were able to continue their trip aboard a different aircraft, arriving at SFO five hours behind schedule. In a statement, Southwest praised the flight attendants involved, telling KABC they worked to “swiftly [coordinate] with pilots on the flight deck to get the aircraft on the ground safely and quickly after a physical altercation by one passenger against another.”

[Photo: Southwest Airlines]

Comments are Closed.
curunir November 5, 2015

The little trays are for food and drink, not LAPtops. Their design has been the same as far back as I can remember and that is 50 years. The price of air fare has come down so much in inflation adjusted dollars I'm surprised they don't reserve the rear of the plane for chickens and goats.

IgoZoom October 29, 2015

I'm 6'2" and had a woman recline in front of me, jabbing my right knee with the seat hinge! I kindly asked her if we could compromise and she could recline slightly less but enough to be comfortable. She was very apologetic and remained upright for the next hour or so, until I leaned over the seat and insisted that she recline a bit. She did and fell asleep shortly thereafter. I managed to nod off for the last 2.5 hours of our 5 hour flight also. When people are polite, usually it can be worked out without a problem. I've had other recliners who weren't nearly as polite or considerate. One reclined while I was working on my laptop with it sitting on the tray table. It caused my laptop to slide off into the floor!!! Had it not been a Dell Latitude (built like a tank) it would have been damaged. I 'accidentally' kneed and kicked the seatback until he sat upright. I also made it my mission to intimidate him after we deplaned until we left the airport. But most people aren't like that.

starbird October 22, 2015

When you book on an airline that has reclining seats the option to recline is yours, and you should expect others to recline into you. If you do not fit in a seat when someone reclines, you are the one that needs to make other accommodations in the future. ( By the way, for some people sitting straight up on a flight is painful due to the position of the neck on the high back seat, and may be the reason they chose that flight and not a cheaper, non reclining seat airline. ) Bottom line, if you want to give up reclining, how nice of you, but it should not be expected of anyone. Of course, everyone should recline slowly, or inform the passenger behind them that they are about to recline. (This can be done as a statement, not a request. ) It is also perfectly fine to politely inform the person in front of you that you need them to move their seat upright while you get up out of yours, but that they can put it right back.

Thom Anderson October 21, 2015

Interesting quandary, I would say that airlines have done a fair job of trying to avoid charging by the pound or foot although weight and proportions are key issues that could be resolved by a free market. Unfortunately, trains and planes are considered government entities in the US and many other countries and federations. The reality of the current situation is that the airline has sold the same space to two parties. It is not unlike the always fraudulent but normally legalized (you can legalize anything with enough money) discount banking system. You deposit one dollar (or yen or whatever), and they loan out 10. With the airline, they are only selling the same space to 2, thanks goodness. Human kindness demands that the person in front be considerate of the person behind, but they have every right to recline their seat. I once had a seat that reclined quickly at the mere touch of a button and although I never intended for my seat to drop on someone's knees, the person behind me was convinced it was with malice aforethought. Maybe airlines can reserve bulkheads and exit rows for the taller pax. Many already reserve bulkheads for parents with infants. These same shared resource issues arise with armrests in coach and it is no surprise that the middle seat is doubly cursed. I typically try to communicate with my neighbors so that we can do our best to cooperate and possibly time-share. There are, of course, lots of ideas on staggered seating and other novel options to reduce or eliminate these issues while still allowing dense packing (which helps lower costs that might get passed on to the passenger). Again, if it were a free market, those designs would already be in service.

PhilBrown309 October 21, 2015

The real question here seems to be which passenger is entitled to the free space into which a reclining seat can recline. When passenger "A" in a reclining seat is fully upright, I believe most would agree that that free space belongs to passenger "B" seated behind (imagine if "A" draped a coat or blanket over the seat back so that it hung in that free space). Thus, when I find myself in the "B" position I have no problem whatsoever moving into that space if "A" feels the need to make use of the recline option -- my knees will push back into that space and I'll grab that seat back with abandon. The way I see it YOU moved into MY space, not the other way around. Feel free to discuss; I'm curious to hear how the recline-defenders will argue their position.