Ah yes, the great seat recline debate rears its ugly head once again.
Is It “Assault” When You Punch The Seat Of The Passenger In Front Of You?
Legally, assault is intentionally putting another person in reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact. Physical injury is not required. In most jurisdictions, this does not necessarily have to be person-to-person contact but can be implicated through a medium, like a stick, belt…airline seat?
Wendi Williams was on AA4393, an American Eagle flight from New Orleans to Charlotte. During the flight she reclined her seat. The man behind her told her he was eating and asked her not to recline. She obliged, but reclined the seat again when the man had finished eating.
This upset the man behind her, who responded by punching, tapping, and shaking her seat for the remainder of the flight.
She videoed the mans antics, asserting on Twitter that she been assaulted:
@BravoAndy Here’s a great jackhole! He was angry that I reclined my seat and punched it about 9 times – HARD, at which point I began videoing him, and he resigned to this behavior. The other jackhole is the @AmericanAir flight attendant who reprimanded me and offered him rum! pic.twitter.com/dHeUysrKTu
— wendi (@steelersfanOG) February 9, 2020
She later added:
“After much consideration, and exhausting every opportunity for #AmericanAirlines to do the right thing, I’ve decided to share my assault, from the passenger behind me, and the further threats, from an American Airline flight attendant. She offered him a complimentary cocktail!”
According to Williams, when she complained to a flight attendant the flight attendant responded by rolling her eyes, commenting that legroom was tight, demanding that she delete the video, and finally offering the man a free glass of rum.
“Look at his knuckles. He was PUNCHING me prior to the video! It was scary and very painful!”
Well, my little violin is now playing. And yet I am firmly on Williams’ side.
I’m in the camp that you have an absolute right to recline your seat, except during meal service. If someone did that to me, sadly my instinct would be to let the fool think he had won, then slam the chair back as quickly and as hard as I could when he was least suspecting it.
Now, that’s just wrong…I know that would not be right and I wouldn’t do it. But boy would that annoy me, especially if the flight attendant took the man’s side.
Williams did receive a call from American Airlines after her tweet went viral, but was unsatisfied with it. Now she plans to file an FBI complaint and press charges against the passenger.
An American Airlines spokesperson addressed the incident:
“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.”
The man continued to punch her seat even though he knew he was being recorded! That alone is enough to move me to the woman’s side. I know the debate over seat recline rages on and there will likely never be consensus, but hitting the seat in front of you is simply unacceptable.