American Airlines Passenger Dragged Off Flight for Refusing to Change Seats

An American Airlines passenger on board a flight from Dallas Fort Worth to Los Angeles on Monday wound up “forcibly restrained and dragged off..while cuffed to a wheelchair” after he refused to move to a different seat.

He didn’t like the seat in row 36 so he assigned himself a window seat at the front of the cabin. The passenger actually assigned to that seat showed up, but the man wouldn’t move.

In video of the incident, the seat squatter declares, “Don’t force me, don’t violate my freedom. That’s my seat. You don’t like it? Switch it.” He said that he wouldn’t give up the seat even if police showed up, a proposition that would shortly be tested and falsified.

After using NSFW language in defense of the seat that he had planted his personal flag in, a flight attendant tells him “You can’t talk to anyone like that, you’re getting kicked off of this flight.” And indeed he was removed from the aircraft — something which took four police officers strapping him onto a wheelchair to take him off.

Everyone was taken off the aircraft, and the flight missed D0 by 45 minutes. According to the airline, “American contacted law enforcement due to a disruptive passenger who caused a disturbance during the boarding process.” The man was not arrested.

(HT: Paul H.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This person is unreasonable, combative and cannot follow instructions that are reasonable. He cannot fly today. What if he decides that the pilots seat should be his seat? AA was right to forcibly remove him. If this were a bank or post office or police station there would be no question to remove him. Same goes for an airplane.

  2. In this case he got what he deserved. He was not in his assigned seat, and instead tried to upgrade himself at the expense of another passenger’s rights. He should have been arrested.

  3. Doug: NSFW = Not Safe For Work *to listen to)
    D0. Departure on time. Departure Zero. American uses that as a key metric on running a good operation. Other airlines use On Time Arrival.

  4. Why aren’t these people charged, especially when they threaten passengers and the flight attendants? If I was a passenger and threatened by this type of person I’d insist that charges be filed. And why doesn’t the flight attendants and pilots unions insist on charges?

  5. Must have been disappointed with Mueller’s disastrous Congressional hearing and took it out on an airline. Sad!

  6. The headline for this article isn’t accurate. It should be something more along the lines of “American Airlines Passenger Forcibly Removed From Flight After Refusing to Sit in Assigned Seat.” The given headline implies some sort of injustice imposed upon the removed passenger, while in actuality the removed passenger was the cause of the disruption.

  7. Looks like Dale from King of the Hill … How in the heck did he not get arrested for kicking at police officers?

  8. You headline is is very misleading. He wasn’t dragged off the flight for refusing to change seats. He was removed for refusing to sit in his assigned seat and becoming disruptive.

  9. If AA refused to accommodate him on another flight then he just paid his ‘fine’ for the disruption.

  10. Hopefully the proper statement is that “he has not been arrested yet”. Hopefully by now they have him in the can (he should at least be in there for the duration of the flight, in case he left something bad on the plane). And nobody addressed the idea that the pilot and flight attendant unions should be insisting that charges be filed.

    And please stop all this trump/racial/white BS crap. It has nothing to do with this, and anybody who thinks that that is what went on in that plane is nuts.

  11. @jw. They cannot control themselves. Doctors have been reporting Trump Derangement associate Brain Damage for a while now. Brain degradation is sad and leads to early Zombie syndrome. If they convert to full zombie, then the only solution is to find a hot Japanese woman in a bikini with a Katana to slice them into pieces. I have seen in multiple movies.

  12. I hope he was banned for life from the airline. And I wish he had been arrested for disorderly conduct and for trespassing (he had no claim to that seat). If his only penalty was to miss his flight, that is way too lenient in my view.

  13. Pretty misleading headline, Gary. This guy is clearly a wackjob and AA was right to remove him. I’m impressed they were able to remove this guy, and then apparently deplane and re-board everyone else and take off only 45 minutes late.

  14. Why wasn’t he arrested ?
    Why isn’t he being forced to pay compensation to every passenger for the delay he caused ?
    Why isn’t he bei g forced to pay the airline for any costs they incurred ?

  15. @Amapas: More like the faulty logic of an AAlexandria Ocasio-Maduro.

    “Create jobs->Ban Amazon HQ”

  16. @Jake

    WRONG. Your racist comments are not wanted. And if you had actually listen to everything he said he very clearly wasn’t always speaking English.

  17. @Stu umm he isn’t even speaking english at one point.Nice try with the race card nonsense.

  18. Why not arrested? Maybe he was off his meds. Maybe he was on his meds. Maybe he didn’t understand the rules. Maybe his plane was changed and his original seat was downgraded and he corrected the problem. Maybe he was in basic economy and wanted to upgrade. Maybe he didnt like the person next to him. Maybe the person next to him didnt like him.
    Oh well, who knows. It looks like AA has updated their irate customer policy and because prior incidents were typically handled poorly, they now under react when pushed.
    Here is what AA could have done for the individual with the correct ticket: free round trip for him and one other person, and an upgrade on the next flight out or full refund for this ticket and take the empty seat. Both subject to a nondisclosure agreement with a hefty penalty if violated.
    The rationale is a little outside the box, but probably worth it for D0 and one less non-newsworthy story. And if they already decided not to arrest, what did they accomplish?

  19. Hopefully someone reminded him that Hillary lost nearly 3 years ago, and so he should have gotten over it by now and should stop taking out his anger in public, especially on airplanes.

  20. @ pretty much all commenters. It appears that many of you have led a very sheltered life and perhaps your life experiences have come from the 6 o’clock news. If you ever had a family member or friend that has issues such as this man you would realize that’s it’s not racial or political, it’s mental and/drugs and it’s an illness. To be under the illusion that those with serious mental issues cannot and do not purchase an airline ticket is at best naive. The “trigger” of spending 3 hours in a metal tube with 200 others with God knows what ailments, at 35,000 feet going 550 mph, ain’t what it once was.

  21. @Kevin- Blogging 101 is to use clickbait-y titles that imply an outsized response to an ordinary event. Then once you click on it you get the actual details and realize how intentionally misleading the title was intended to be.

  22. The primary reason not to arrest this fellow is that immediate detention might well not be necessary to accomplish the short term public safety objectives. He was removed from the aircraft, and likely from the airport as well which would seem to alleviate the immediate concerns. The law enforcement officers involved undoubtedly have filed reports and evidence, and a decision will be made on whether filing charges and issuing a warrant for him to appear in court are appropriate under the circumstances.

    Who knows, maybe he thought he was on a Southwest flight……..

  23. If I am not mistaken, those front row bulkhead seats incur an extra charge on AA. I think they are MCE seats. So if he didn’t pay he could have gotten a misdemeanor theft of service rap.

  24. He said “That’s my seat.” I bet what happened to him is the SAME thing they just did to me.

    Ironically, on July 26th (the same day this happened) I booked a flight on American Airlines from SNA to DFW. I had aisle seats confirmed for the flight there and the flight back (I had an email with the seat assignments and (CONFIRMED) next to them).

    I went to check in today and they said that I didn’t have assigned seats. I work for a company with over 600,000 people and they chose AA as a “preferred” vendor and we are supposed to get premium seat assignments free as part of the agreement.

    I called our corporate travel office and they said they didn’t know why it happened but my seats were now showing not assigned. Then I called American and they told me that at 6:xx pm (I forget the exact minutes) their records showed my seats as assigned in the aisle seats I chose. Then they told me that at 10:xx pm the same day that my corporate travel people unassigned my seats. I flat out told the American Airlines customer service person I didn’t believe her. I then called back my corporate travel and they checked their records again and said AA had pulled the seat assignments. Then they called AA on my behalf and AA turned around and blamed ME for unassigning the seats, saying I must not have completed the seat assignment request. Meanwhile I had received an email on 7/26 saying that my aisle seats were confirmed.

    I would be willing to bet that they saw I had a premium seat without paying for it (ignoring their obligations to my employer for having received “preferred airline” status) and sold it to someone else who was willing to pay a seat premium of $100 or whatever for the seat.

    Needless to say I will avoid flying with them again and I’m providing this same feedback to the people at the company who deal with choosing preferred airline vendors.

    We need to start another anti-trust lawsuit against these extortive seat assignment premiums. We also need Elon Musk to hurry up and finish his hyperloop so the airlines will have some real competition and we will have a viable alternative to air travel.

  25. No, I’m not. I just really want some legitimate alternative to flying. The rest of the developed world gets to have high speed trains and we can’t have nice things in the US.

    Also, I don’t want anyone to think I’m excusing this guy’s behavior. I’m just really sick of the airlines jerking us around and gouging us every way they can think of..

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