Fight Breaks Out After American Airlines Flight Over Seat Stuck In Recline Position

Reclining seats has been a flashpoint between passengers for years. Spirit Airlines seats don’t recline at all – imagine the conflict on a Spirit flight if they did. Spirit has claimed their seats are ‘pre-reclined’.

But what happens when an American Airlines regional jet flight has a seat that’s pre-reclined, possibly due to poor maintenance?

Sunday afternoon’s American Airlines flight 4698, the new New Orleans – Austin flight operated by Republic, gave us the answer – caught on video from inside the cabin.

Police were called to the gate as the flight pulled in, and detained two men who brawling on board over a seat that reportedly was stuck in the recline position.

Calls to “clear the aisle!” and “return to your seats immediately!” can be heard echoing throughout the cabin, as one passenger adamantly repeats “stop, it’s not worth it!”

…”When the plane finally landed in Austin and the seatbelt sign was turned off, both men jumped up and physically started fighting each other,” said one anonymous passenger.

According to American Airlines,

Law enforcement were requested to meet American Eagle flight 4698, operated by Republic Airways, after arriving to Austin (AUS) from New Orleans (MSY) due to an altercation between passengers.

The most noteworthy things about the incident I suppose are that American (and American Eagle) aren’t serving alcohol in coach, and the dispute didn’t appear to involve a mask disagreement – although both passengers appeared to lose their masks at some point during the fight.

Seat recline is important for passengers on long flights with poorly-padded seats, as a way of distributing passenger weight to reduce back stress. This, though, is a 444 mile flight. The seat didn’t need to be reclined, but it appears passengers didn’t have a choice in the matter and that added fuel to the fire of Spirit-like passengers in close proximity over slightly more than an hour’s journey.

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, 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. What is happening to people? Could the one guy not understand the seat was stuck? This doesn’t even call for mere irritation, much less this behavior.

  2. Well, when you don’t have seat back video for entertainment you need to create your own videos to share. What better subject then unruly people acting out their emotions.

  3. With 9% of American’s mainline flights cancelled and nearly 30% delayed Sunday and 7% cancelled at the start of the day today, American’s operation is broken and passengers systemwide are under enormous stress whether this flight was delayed or not.
    Spirit was even worse with nearly the same number of cancelled flights but a much higher percentage.
    U.S. taxpayers should be given a refund for the pathetic operational performance that most of the airline industry is delivering.

  4. I disagree with your statements about recline. If the seat reclines, I will recline. I “need it”

  5. The AA FAs and cabin service are not helping to reduce the chances of conflicts getting out of control on flights.

    Just a few days ago I saw AA FAs trying to hassle a young adult male for “not wearing a mask” even as he was wearing a mask after given one and it just happened to slip a tiny bit down the bridge of his nose while sleeping. Two FAs repeatedly kept coming up to him to ask if things were ok.

    I, on the other hand, had lowered my mask while in the lavatory — hard to brush the teeth with bottled water otherwise — and forgot to put it back up over my nose and mouth while exiting the lavatory and walking back to my seat. As soon as I noticed that I had failed to put it back over my nose and mouth, I did put it back on properly before putting my backside back in the seat. Not a peep aimed at me, but the guy who had to be given a mask got repeatedly hassled over mask use and had nearby passengers not helping to reduce the chance of an unnecessary escalation and/or risk of conflict in-flight.

    And yet these are the very FAs we are to count on assisting in a catastrophic emergency?

  6. Here is my solution to the violence on American Airlines (AA) flights. Currently, Spirit Airlines (NK) doesn’t have codeshare or loyalty agreements with any other airline. However, suppose American Airlines (or their regional partners) and Spirit Airlines create a codeshare agreement. In that case, forewarned passengers could expect an in-flight fight as a part of their everyday travel experience. Agree or disagree?

  7. Of course assaulting each other and endangering the lives of other innocent people, will go un punished. In a Country that is hugely legalistic. God Bless America.. my home sweet home. Not. Direct head punch as few time. Hope there is no concussion.

  8. I think we should make assault of another person illegal. That will really prevent things from happening like this in the future.

  9. Guwonder- but perhaps the guy sleeping had already been warned to pull up his mask. I have to question, how often does a mask move all on its own when one sleeps?

  10. Where was the Air Marshall? Put one on every flight. Make it clear Air Marshalls can arrest people, handcuff and file federal charges from the plane. Put live streaming video cameras on all planes.
    Trivial extra cost compared to alternative. Most combatants will cool it when they realize all major airports have jail holding rooms!!!

  11. As a pilot instructor for a major airline, I see it all. Today’s passengers make airline flying a glorified “Ralph Kramden” experience. Many board the plane in shorts, pajamas, flip flops and T-shirts. None of them think of the issues should an emergency (gawd forbid) occur. They will be the ones that will surely be injured going down the emergency slide or worse. Coupled with surly flight attendants who have not been properly trained in customer service, delays caused by numerous issues, sometimes, beyond the airline’s control, rules and laws that MUST be adhered to, and too many “Ken’s and Karen’s” who (1) don’t know the rules/laws regarding masks, on board computer use, cell phone use (there are FCC & FAA rules as to WHY cell phones must be in the “airplane mode” and (2) are unwilling to compromise, on occasions, cause news headlines. Interference with a flight or cabin crew is a federal offense. If a flight is diverted because of passenger misconduct, my airline will send you a bill. You’d better have a high credit balance on your credit card! Of course, collecting might be an issue but guaranteed, you will be banned from ever flying the airline again and we prosecute! Yes, there is a banned list and the airlines do share information. While I have no authority as to the actual operation of the aircraft on a revenue flight, I have been asked by the captain to intervene with passenger misconduct on occasions when the flight attendants have exhausted their talents or are simply task saturated. Our flight attendants try to understand the passenger’s problem or conduct and address it politely. Most of the time it works. On the rare occasion that it doesn’t, our captains have told the flight attendants that “I have your back. If you don’t like it…I don’t like it.” and will put the jet on the ground at the nearest suitable airport and have the miscreants removed. That vote of confidence allows our flight attendants to do their job with the knowledge that they have some control over the situation. That bit of extra backing allows them to be courteous, polite and at the same time enforce the rules that they didn’t make.

  12. There were def 3 men involved in this excess of testosterone, as seen in the video.

    Why were only 2 arrested?

    FWIW, it does appear the guy that threw the first punch took an absolute beating. There is some justice in the universe.

  13. Gary Leff is obese. He claims to be libertarian, let’s see how long he will let this completely factual comment stand.

  14. SERIOUSLY GET REAL, A mask can easily move while moving about in your sleep. If it did move a little it’s not a big deal. There’s enough trouble in this world without trying to create more!

  15. I think Spirit has a worse reputation than it deserves because it costs less. Makes some feel better about paying more but seriously, I see so much more going on with American, unfortunately, as its my fav. I don’t know if a lot of people just forgot how to behave in the past year? I used to fly a lot, But obviously not for the past year or so. My next trip is coming up and honestly, I’m a little nervous. I don’t want to get tangled up in someone’s drama, or have to sit on the runway for hours because we got diverted. Damn lol

  16. I love the outrage from people over a “fight” on a plane. People get shot and stabbed, beat to a pulp, etc many times A DAY in America’s poorest neighborhoods. But a couple of people punching each other and putting each other in a headlock on a plane where people are crammed inches from each other seems to stir outrage and demands for terrorist level no fly lists, governmental bans, and massive fines.
    Liberal White people – “If you want to fight and hurt each other, keep it in your neighborhood, just don’t do it when we are flying to our vacation home in Florida”

  17. I just can’t wait until that mean orange man leaves office so everything is normal and people are nice to each other. I’m so sick of the mean tweets.

  18. Where’s the snarky flight attendant who calmly says “Pardon me, sirs, but could you please leave my aircraft and go fly Spirit?”

  19. Jerry, I’m sure you voted for the racist former president.. I don’t know any liberals who brag about grabbing women by their genitals or mock the disabled. Buy you and white supremacists nationwide keep insulting liberals

  20. @Allen
    Well I guess supporting and having empathy for poor people (of all races) and bashing rich white liberals who choose to fly over all of America’s problems while telling people to trust them has turned into White Supremacy and somehow its Trumps fault because he said some mean, bad words.

  21. Insane behaviour will continue to escalate until people are punished. What’s so hard to understand about this fact? I love how the commenters immediately blame race or Trump. I guess it keeps them from actually having to think.

  22. I used to look forward to flying. Now the airports and planes are filled with the same assholes I find all over large US cities. Thank you for neutering our police everywhere thus insuring that you can’t go anywhere without these losers acting out.

  23. So … American … again … and on a flight with origin & destination below the Mason-Dixon line … again. Just an observation (and a personal note of flight path avoidance – for the time being) …

  24. @Don, it was not Biden’s fault he was given crap. Obama received the same thing from Bush. Do i see a pattern here?

    These PAX are just low class trash who should drive. Driving kills more PAX then Flying. You do not see this activity on wide body or long haul flights but you do on flights where trash flys.

  25. You will not receive a bonus if you had any altercation in the last 48 mths.

  26. Anyone involved in the fight should be permanently banned from the airlines. If you can’t act like an adult, you shouldn’t be there.

  27. Mel, it was self defense! The only one that should be arrested and banned is the white guy who started it. Get real!

  28. American Airlines is pushing our stress levels through the roof when flying! Seats and legroom are getting tighter every year so they can pack us in like sardines. . The last flight I was on my seat did not go back and I’m 6’2”. It’s extremely uncomfortable even for 1 hour and my flight was a 4 hours. American Airlines is to blame for all this disruption !

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