Viral video of man repeatedly ‘punching’ woman’s plane seat sparks Twitter debate on reclining

Travel desk
Footage of a woman being 'punched' by a male passenger onboard an American Airlines flight has gone viral: Twitter.com/AmicaAli

Footage of a man repeatedly punching the back of a woman’s plane seat mid-flight has divided opinion.

The incident occurred onboard an American Airlines flight from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Charlotte, North Carolina, as passenger Wendi Williams reclined her seat.

Video shot by another passenger shows the man, seated in the last row of the aircraft, banging the back of Ms Williams’ chair while watching something on his mobile phone.

As a result, her aisle seat can be seen shaking back and forth.

Ms Williams has claimed that the incident amounts to “assault”, although online commentators have disagreed – instead asking why she didn’t ask him to stop, or pull up her reclined seat.

Ms Williams added that the man asked her to pull her seat up while he ate; which she did.

“When he finished eating, I reclined it again. Then the barrage of punches came. I didn’t know you can’t recline your seat! Why do they recline? Everyone else had theirs reclined,” she said.

Twitter user Liz Lischillina called the man’s behaviour “rude and aggressive”; while user @ladytinab said: “It is considered bad manners to recline more than an inch.

“I am guilty of getting angry when someone does that when I’m stuck in economy.”

“I will be calling the FBI to press charges against the ‘man’ who mistook me for a punching bag,” Ms Williams wrote on Twitter.

“My only crime was reclining my seat.”

A spokesperson for American Airlines told The Independent: “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.”

To recline or not to recline airline seats has long been a controversial topic.

A few years ago, two American law professors proposed a bargaining system whereby passengers would have to pay for the privilege of putting their seat back – or be paid to refrain from doing so.

Christopher Buccafusco and Christopher Jon Sprigman from New York did a study to find out how much people would be prepared to lay out to take advantage of their reclining capabilities.

On average, passengers would be willing to pay $12 (£9.20) to the passenger behind them to lean back. However, those sitting in the seat behind would demand far more, requiring $39 (£29.90) before they sacrificed their legroom.

On the other side of the coin, the study found that passengers would cough up $18 (£14) to stop the person in front reclining – while the person in front would require $41 (£31) to refrain from doing so.