Passenger on American Airlines flight punching woman's reclining seat in front of him

Airline Passenger Punching Reclined Seat

Updated Feb 14, 2020 at 05:18PM EST by Zach.

Added Feb 13, 2020 at 10:57AM EST by Zach.

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Airline Passenger Punching Reclined Seat refers to a viral video featuring a man sitting behind a woman in the last row on an American Airlines flight, punching her reclined seat from behind in protest of her encroaching on his space. The video reignited the controversy and viral debate surrounding whether or not people should recline their seats on planes altogether, attempting to decide who was in the right or wrong.


On February 8th, 2020, Twitter[1] user Wendi tweeted a video (shown below) of a man seated behind her on an American Airlines flight punching the back of her seat. According to her tweet, the man became upset because he was seated in the last row of the plane and couldn't recline his seat, so when she pushed hers back, he protested by hitting her chair for invading his space. The tweet also states that a flight attendant then "reprimanded" her and offered the upset passenger rum for his troubles.


In the following days, the video sparked controversy over both the reaction by the man and the woman, as people online debated the concept of reclining seats being used on planes altogether and whether or not it was good or bad travel etiquette. Both parties involved in the incident had support from various users on Twitter. One example of a user tweeting[2] support for the woman is seen in a reply from the account Melissa Graver (seen below), posted on February 12th, 2020. This reply was liked 368 times and received 41 comments.

Twitter[3] user Rich then replied on the same day (shown below), expressing support for the man's position and calling Wendi "inconsiderate" for her actions toward the upset passenger, as well as "admiring his resilience" for pushing back against the reclining seat intruding into his space. His tweet was liked 284 times and received 37 comments.

On Reddit[4], the video was posted to the r/PublicFreakout sub by Redditor tefunka on February 12th, 2020, under the title "How (not?) to handle a reclined airplane seat." The post became a hotbed of debate as Redditors conversed about the scene and the larger issue in general, tallying over 2,000 comments in just a day. The post itself was also upvoted over 10,000 times.

The media was quick to jump on the story as it spread online, with numerous stations and publications discussing the incident. On February 13th, 2020, NBC's the Today Show[5] featured a segment on this video where they addressed the issue briefly before the hosts then spoke about their personal opinions on the matter. Craig Melvin, one of the hosts on the program, called the man "obnoxious" as the three of them expressed negativity toward the man's behavior regarding the incident.

On February 13th, 2020, Wendi also appeared on TMZ Live, saying that she now wanted to press charges against the man, as well as wanting the flight attendant to be fired. According to TMZ[6], Wendi claims the woman "demanded she delete the video" and cites this as further reasoning for the flight attendant to be reprimanded. TMZ, also spoke with a rep for American Airlines who said, "We are aware of a customer dispute that transpired … The safety and comfort of our customers and team members is our top priority, and our team is looking into the issue." Since the incident, Wendi also said she's had headaches, forcing her to get x-rays and even lost time from work.

Though this is the latest instance of the debate sparking controversy, the concept of reclining seats being used on airlines and whether or not you should is nothing new, as several major news outlets have run stories debating the issue over the years. On July 16th, 2019, The Washington Post[7] ran an article about the debate calling it "One of the touchiest subjects in all of air travel." The article points out several different scenarios and provides opinions on when you should or shouldn't recline your seat on a plane.

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