American Airlines Passenger Gets Her Seat Punched Constantly After Reclining

***Update: 02/12/20@16:55 – Added statement from American Airlines***

A passenger on an American Airlines flight faced the wrath of a man behind her when she had the sheer nerve to recline her seat. The female passenger alleges that the man repeatedly punched the back of her seat, and then set about being the most irritating he could possibly be for the remainder of the flight. Here’s what happened.

American eagle E175
The incident occurred onboard an American Eagle operated E175. Photo: Nathan Coats via Wikimedia

What happened?

Wendi was flying American Airlines on a normal short-haul flight. Leaving from New Orleans and traveling to Charlotte on the 31st January, Wendi was boarded onto an Embraer E175 operated by Republic Airways on behalf of American Airlines. After a while, she decided to take the opportunity to recline a little and get comfortable for the flight. However, the passenger behind was not happy.

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Rather than requesting gently that she sit her seat a little more upright, the man behind allegedly punched the back of Wendi’s seat multiple times, she estimates around nine. At this point, she started filming.

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Although the punching stopped, the passenger behind Wendi continued to make her life a misery by shaking her seat violently for some time. At one point he even looks up and smiles at the discomfort he is causing his fellow passenger. All the time, he barely breaks stride from watching his video on his mobile phone.

Wendi’s day only got worse when she was caught making the film by a flight attendant. She says that the flight attendant asked her to stop filming and seemed very off with her. The man behind, on the other hand, was offered a complimentary cocktail. She even said that the airline told her to “call the FBI” if she wanted to complain!

Simple Flying asked American Airlines about this incident, who told us,

“We are aware of a customer dispute that transpired on American Eagle flight 4392, operated by Republic Airways on January 31. The safety and comfort of our customers and team members is our top priority, and our team is looking into the issue.”

Who’s in the wrong here?

While the knee jerk reaction to a problem with seats being reclined is often to say, ‘don’t recline your seat then’, this situation does seem a bit bizarre. There was no meal service going on, the man behind seemed to have plenty of room, so we’re struggling to see what his problem was.

Clearly, there’s only one side of the story told here, and there are some pretty strong unwritten rules on reclining your seat on a flight. The BBC says you shouldn’t recline your seat during meal service or in the first few minutes after takeoff, but other than that, it’s your prerogative to do so if you wish.

However, if you do want to recline your seat, it’s often better to consult the person behind you rather than just slamming your seat back. It gives the opportunity for the person behind to ask you to wait, or, with any luck, to cheerfully agree.

Sadly for Wendi, it seems she got more than just a bumpy ride that day. Since the flight, she has allegedly been having problems with her back and has experienced headaches, which isn’t really a surprise given the discomfort she endured.

If it was you, would you have given in and just sat your seat up to stop the conflict? Or would you have stayed in recline mode on principle? Let us know in the comments.

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Janaka Chandrasekera

MSY-CLT maximum 01:45 minutes flight.
Would have been the best to have the seat upright.
No punching.
No kicking.
Everybody is happy.

Lily

The woman said she has a back problem I have one too, and the ‘ergonomic’ airline seats are
torture for me. After about an hour, my lower back is painful, and leaning the seat back a bit relieves the pressure and pain. Why should I have to sit in pain so the personal behind me can have maximum ‘comfort’?

Lin

Punching, kicking or any type of behavior like that is NEVER Ok, reclined or not. WTF is wrong with you that you think it is OK?

Bill

This issue falls under the auspices of “my space”. Your seat (including recline position) on an aircraft is categorised as space that you have purchased for your comfortable transportation. Thus, no one can encroach upon your space…e.g. the person sitting next to you, in front of you or behind you.
The cubic footage you have purchased is yours. If the person in the most forward seat fully reclines, then it’s likely that everyone behind him/her will do the same thing. Concertina effect! Pity the ones at the back with a bulkhead behind them and no recline!

Matt

Doesn’t seem like another part of the story is necessary. She reclined her seat and the person behind was angry. You really can’t recline a seat in cattle class anymore. There just isn’t enough room. It’s really the airlines fault. If that little bit of recline is making it difficult to fly.

Lily

We want leg room, but most aren’t willing to pay for it. Most people, when booking a flight, look for the cheapest seats. People only seem to want to pay for extra time (departure/arrival time/ nonstop flights). Otherwise, they book cheap seats and complain about the space, service, and food. Flights have become incredibly cheap on a historical basis – its never been cheaper to fly than in the past few years. The downside of cheap is lower service and the cramped space . If you want room, you’ll have to pay more. If you think everyone should get more… Read more »

Alllan

Well how would you even know when you’re booking how much legroom an economy ticket offers? There seems to be a wide variance depending on airline and aircraft type, and perhaps even the actual row/seat chosen, but that type of information is really not available at the time of booking. I suppose everyone should just assume that they have to pay for the extra legroom with an upgraded seat? Or fly business or first class?

Lily

Yep, if you want leg room, you have to pay for it. If you want cheap, you’ll be cramped. Your choice. (also, there are websites devoted to helping you figure out which seat on your plane may be the best for you (room/price trade-off)

Ibrahim

Economy seats are squeezed enough, should keep it upright if the other passenger isn’t comfortable with it.

Joe

So that justifies the idiot behind her punching her seat instead of just asking her to not recline it?

John MacLeod

I’m glad I wasn’t flying with either of those passengers! Come on, this was a flight which presumably was scheduled to take just under two hours! It may well be that Wendi was technically entitled to recline her seat, but I would hold her to be at best an extremely-inconsiderate passenger and I can’t say I would be pleased to have the passenger in front of me do that on a flight of less than two hours. And she seems to have got the flight number wrong as well, so perhaps her account of events is inaccurate in other respects.… Read more »

Anonymous

I just wonder why people are not able to talk anymore. It seem the passenger was sitting with his back to a partition and could not recline himself. But what’s stopping him to ask the lady in front to refrain from reclining ? What’s the lady stopping to ask the passenger behind her if he is ok? Instead, people are punching seats, making videos and claiming apologies.

El Aye 90002

The airline is ultimately at fault for squeezing everyone in like cattle and think it okay to recline onto someone’s knees. Both she and he had some jackhole in them, as well. Being courtesy is a trait too often missing in today’s society.

Barry Crews

I can sympathise with the treatment on the flight, but headaches and back problems? Sounds like you are trying for the lawyer lottery to me!

Lily

The ‘ergonomic’ airline seats are seriously uncomfortable for me. After about an hour, my lower back starts feeling compressed and painful. I’ve tried everything to ease the pain, but reclining the seat a little is the best way to take the pressure off and relieve the pain. Its real – and its bad.

Tell me why I should have to fly in pain so the guy behind me gets a bit more leg room?

Viapanam

Reclining seats are one of the most annoying aspects of flying today. The airlines have brought this problem on themselves. When they reduced sat pitch, they should have eliminated seat recline. One of the very few pleasures of flying the LCC Spirit and Frontier are that the seats do not recline so this is not a problem. Rudeness is never excusable, but it sounds to me as if the women in the reclining seat was more interested in making a social media splash than in resolving the issue.

Joseph

While the woman should have been a little more considerate considering that it was a short flight, that man had no business doing what he did to her that was utter disrespect ,he could have nicely asked her to raise back up her seat.

Tobias Mattsson

That guy is behaving like a 3 year old child instead of being an adult.
It was in her right to recline her seat and I hope she did it slowly and smoothly.
He should just have leaned forward into the isle and say “Excuse me? I am a bit tall, you be so kind and raise your seat? Thank you and have a nice flight!”
Instead he has no morals in his body and apparently can not communicate with words so he starts to punch and rock her seat.

Atom Evel

The guys being passive aggressive… but unfortunately what are her choices? I mean… she could risk confronting him, but she doesn’t know how he’ll react… he’s already being irrational. The guy needs to pay for a seat in the exit row or pay to choose a seat next time if he has a problem with it. I’d have totally reclined it all the way back but leaned forward intentionally. Or kneeled on my seat and just stared at him with a crazy smile and wide open eyes… not saying anything… just invading his space… or asked him what he’s watching…… Read more »

Lily

I don’t care how mad that guy was, or how ‘righteous’ he felt in his anger, he can’t punch people, directly or indirectly.

Damon

What he’s doing is rude, but frankly the airlines should remove the ability for the seat to recline for such small aircraft and flights. No one likes a seat back 3 inches from your face! It’s just rude.

Robert

The male punching the seat should have been restrained. He is wrong, period. He should have been arrested upon arrival and the flight attendant should be fired for not ensuring the comfort and safety of Wendi who had every right to recline her seat!

Frequent Flyer

One would presume he picked his seat and should have known it did not recline. It is a passenger’s right to recline their seat. If it is not OK, the airline should not allow the seats to recline. When you get on the plane you should assume the person in front of you will recline. If that is not acceptable, then buy a first class ticket, drive, walk, ride a train whatever. As far as the claims that doctor’s care is required, that seems a little far fetched. But what is being done might be classified as assault. No question… Read more »

Tammy

I’ve seen a bit of finger pointing here, some at him, some at her, as people try and decide who they think was in the wrong here. Truth be told in my opinion the responsible party here is the airlines. In their own words, the safety and comfort of their customers is their top priority. I don’t believe this to be true, the amount of space allotted for each passenger on an aircraft, in anything other than first class, is barely enough room for a toddler. If our comfort rather than the $ was a priority they’d stop giving us… Read more »

Jody Haller

I view this man’s behavior as juvenile. NO ONE is comfortable in coach class, but you can’t control everyone around you and just need to be a grownup. It doesn’t look like this man is necessarily unable to sit back comfortably in his seat and endure close quarters like everyone else. What an A-hole!

Jody Haller

I view this man’s behavior as juvenile. NO ONE is comfortable in coach class. It doesn’t look like this man is necessarily unable to sit back comfortably in his seat and endure close quarters like everyone else. What an A-hole!

Jody Haller

I view this man’s behavior as juvenile. NO ONE is comfortable in coach class. It doesn’t look like this man is necessarily unable to sit back comfortably in his seat and endure close quarters like everyone else. What an jerk!

Lotzaspotz

Maximum risk, minimum benefit. Unless you want to mix it up with a crazy person and possibly get injured, put your seat upright and file your formal written complaints later. This was a short flight. Not worth the hassle.

Lattegal

He should be arrested for his rude behavior and pay for a first class seat ticket to the woman. This man exhibits bullying! He should be flaged in the future when flyin.

She could of spoken to the flight attedant and explained that the man was being disruptive.

In my time of flying, i recline my seat, i do not ask for permission to recline.

Tom

At this point in aviation history, reclining your seat is an aggressive act. You literally take all of the limited space the person behind you has and you put your head in their lap. The last flight I was on the a-hole in front of me dropped their seat back into my dinner. Don’t recline your seat!

Gerry S

After the first punch she should have realized that reclining was an issue and offered to to minimize her recline. Certain everything was then going to be okay.

Joe

But why should she agree to the demands of a guy whose immediate reaction to something mildly irritating is assault and being a jackhole? Flying may be stressful for you, but you can bet half the people on the plane also are worried about missing their transfer flight or whatever. I’d have happily minimized my recline if the guy had simply said, “Sorry, could you please mover your seat forwards?”.

Joel Steverson

Recline away. There’s no good reason to be uncomfortable on a flight, regardless of duration. The woman who reclined did nothing wrong.

Nobody

At that point? Left the seat reclined, but leanedlforward so the seat rocking wasn’t causing back pain and headaches (semi-eyeroll)

Ivan

I bet he is part of the Incel community, hence why all the kids are out on twitter to get angry for no reason.

Ulises Zarate

Ummmmm…looks like you didn’t notice that the guy was seated in the last row and thus was unable to recline his seat. The female passenger was an inconsiderate, attention-hungry moron who got what she deserved.

Gary

To me I think it is the flight attendant fault in this.
If there was a spare seat available in cattle class or business class.
The flight attendant could of moved one of them to it instead.
I was on a Qantas flight to Frankfurt and the flight attendant seen the person behind me kicking my seat even when upright.
So she told me to grab my things and put me in business class for the rest of the flight.

Howard R Dobin

The guy SHOULD NOT punch the seat, but I understand. Did she a so before reclining? No. So she’s no polite angel. They’ve got us packed in like sardines. The seat SHOULD NOT recline. If there is an entertainment system in the seat back, it can be hard to view. If there isn’t the tray table may not be able to lie flat so a person can watch their phone or tablet hands-free. I’ve got a bad knee and I’m tall. if I’m not flying Jetblue, it’s fairly squashed in there. If you recline, you might actually bang my knee.… Read more »

Dmitriy

Surprised to read the comments like ‘should’ve kept it upright’. It is the passenger’s right to recline the seat. Does not matter the flight length or class.

If someone is not comfortable with it they should politely ask to not recline but still not expect the obedience.

Dmitriy D

Surprised to read the comments like ‘should’ve kept it upright’. It is the passenger’s right to recline the seat. Does not matter the flight length or class.

If someone is not comfortable with it they should politely ask to not recline but still not expect the obedience.

RRdz

People know that most airline offer extra cabin space on their seats, but are to cheap to pay for the upgrades. If you are tall / big pay the little extra. But they have gotten use to airline freebies and purchase the cheapest seat “ last row” as we can see because they are miserable and in title to make everyone else like them

JFP

I saw behavior like this some years ago on a Southwest flight MDW-LAS. Except, in addition to punching the seat, he kept calling the female passenger in front of him a ‘b—h”. Another reason why I rarely fly an American carrier unless denied a choice due to protectionism.

In this guy’s case, his antics were uncalled for. He should be looking at available ground transport options for the rest of his life. That is, after he serves a jail term for simple assault. He should’ve been arrested and escorted off the plane at his destination.

Mr David Powell

I’d have stayed reclined.

Gerry S

Simple assault is a physical attack on a PERSON. There is no such thing as assaulting an inanimate object. And I am not even a lawyer. Sometimes (I am a New Yorker) an inconsiderate act requires another in payment. Payback IS a witch!

Barb

This guy was a jerk !! She has every right to recline her seat!!! Stewardess should be suspended for a week!! He should be banned!!

Barb

This guy was a jerk !! She has every right to recline her seat!!! Stewardess should be suspended for a week!! He should be banned!!

Brian

There’s no way he had plenty of room. The back row of an American Eagle Embraer 175 is the most uncomfortable seat I’ve ever been in. It feels like it sits more upright than other seats, had almost no leg room and is right next to the only restroom. Whoever designed this cabin configuration is a masochist. That said, he should not have done any of the things he did. If it had been me I would have just gotten out of the seat and stood in the aisle. That last row should never have anyone over 6’1″ sitting in… Read more »

Brian

There’s no way he had plenty of room. The back row of an American Eagle Embraer 175 is the most uncomfortable seat I’ve ever been in. It feels like it sits more upright than other seats, had almost no leg room and is right next to the only restroom. Whoever designed this cabin configuration is a masochist. That said, he should not have done any of the things he did. If it had been me I would have just gotten out of the seat and stood in the aisle. That last row on that over plane should not have anyone… Read more »

StopHittingWomen

who is this idiot guy behind her?!!! he was literally punching her in the back of her head through the chair. he must really hate women. does he hit his girlfriend/wife?! probably hates his own mom! would not be surprised if he hits women all the time and enjoys insulting women behind their backs. mr.baldy must be a self-absorbed goon.

Mack Ball

This is all on the airlines and the hostile environment they have created cramming passengers into too small of spaces.

Mack Ball

Back problems and headaches after that? You’ve got to be kidding.

J.B.

The guy is a bully. The flight attendant allowed it to happen being afraid to do the right thing. The airline builds airplanes that created this situation.

Kim

If you shouldn’t recline, it shouldn’t be an option.
Furthermore, if this man has a wife… I hope his temper is better with her.
No excuse for bullying

Sue Cruse

I HATE IT when on a tightly packed, closely built plane, the person in front of me inevitably HAS to push back full force to recline like first class,
While I, at 5 ft 9 in cannot use my tray table down.
If u want room and comfort, but first class!!

Mike S

The woman is an inconsiderate and deplorable creature. This isn’t her house, it’s not her living room, and it’s not her recliner, it’s an airplane with other people around her and if she had manners she would know better than to recline on top of someone else. I am 6’04” and have been victimized in this way by a rude passenger sitting in front of me, and I had to sit in fetal position from New York to Los Angeles. I was infuriated. Lucky thing I’m civilized. It doesn’t surprise me, in The Age of Rudeness, that so many people… Read more »

Kim

People have ability to recline seat and donut every day. They typically don’t ask because The seat has the capability, they paid for the seat, so they recline. The guy is a jerk, (no way around it) with a sense of entitlement. The airline attendant is a jerk for taking a side and offering a jerk alcohol. I know they don’t like that customers have ability to video on the plane. It’s exposed bad behavior. Maybe airlines should better train their staff. Also, jerk shaking the seat needs to be grounded. You don’t get to behave like a butthead because… Read more »

Dre

Its simple he was wrong what wrong with these people trying to say whos wrong are you dumb this guy was punching a seat if it were a guy there I bet on anything he wouldnt have punched it.hes a crying coward

SJA

This whole situation is almost hilarious. Every second attention is given towards this is time wasted. Really?!! This man/child should be ashamed of himself. No wonder he hasn’t spoke out!! What grown adult behaves like that. The video says it all. On the other hand the woman after being treated ridiculously rude acted on “her right” to recline the seat. At the end of the day this is just a small but perfect example of how poorly we treat our fellow man. These two were like two 4 year olds fighting over a toy. Now I’ve wasted 2 minutes of… Read more »

PaulV

Being 6’4″, I can relate to the guys frustration, but not his actions. It’s not uncommon for people to recline their seats into my knees, usually they realize what has happened and straighten up at least a little. Some will repeatedly try to force the seat through my knees until I point out the problem. A very select few will jam the seat against me, then complain when I have the audacity to move my legs in an attempt to relieve the pressure. I don’t punch the seat, but there’s little I can do to avoid disturbing them somewhat violently… Read more »