Man Punches Woman’s Seat Because She Reclined

When it comes to the recline vs no-recline debate, things often get a bit…contentious. However, this takes it to another level.

The Incident

Wendi Williams (no, not that one), was traveling from New Orleans to Charlotte on American Airlines flight 4392. The flight was operated on an Embraer ERJ-175 – a regional commuter jet. Wendi was seated in seat 20D, one row from the back of the aircraft.

According to Wendi, she wanted to recline her seat. The man behind her was eating so she kept her seat in the upright position. Once he finished, she reclined. Then this happened :

According to Wendi’s account, the man punched her seat hard several times before resorting to the continuous jabbing. After the incident ramped up, she called the flight attendant. The flight attendant allegedly sympathized with the man and offered him a free bottle of rum. Wendi also claims that she has neck issues and had to miss several days of work due to the repeated trauma.

My Take

First, let’s start with the guy punching the seat. While we don’t hear his side of the story, there is absolutely no excuse for a fully grown adult to punch or kick the back of someone’s seat. Parents that travel with children teach them from a young age that it’s not ok to kick the back of someone’s seat. Even if you were never taught that, it’s common sense once you reach a certain age. But continuously punching it? Come on.

Grow up, be an adult, and politely ask the person in front of you if they’d mind moving their seat up. If they still don’t? Well that sucks, but a flight from New Orleans to Charlotte takes 90 minutes in the air. Factor in that the seat has to be upright for takeoff and landing and you’re looking at an hour tops. Just suck it up for an hour and gripe about it in your group text when you land. While he may look like an adult, he clearly lacks the ability to act like one.

As for Wendi, I really have trouble faulting her at all here. If you want to argue that she shouldn’t have reclined her seat, does that really justify someone hitting the back of her seat?

Should you recline?

When it comes to reclining on a plane, I try to take a consistent approach. If the flight is a long-haul or red eye, go ahead and recline to your heart’s content. Just keep your seat upright for meal service. On a short, daytime flight, I don’t really need to recline. If you still want to recline, just be courteous and aware of the person behind you before doing it.

That said, you’re still fully within your right to do so. The airline installed seats with that button in the armrest for a reason. While some airlines like easyJet have eliminated seats with recline, the majority of those that have are low cost carriers. Their decision has more to do with saving space than trying to avoid conflict.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of which team you’re on, team recline or team no recline, there’s absolutely no justifying the way the man in this video acted. It’s really unacceptable behavior for a child, let alone a fully grown adult. If you have an issue with someone, whether it’s reclining or anything else, be a decent human. It shouldn’t be that hard.

What do you think?

Author: Stephen Hoechst

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  1. Definitely agree with you.

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    • Of course she should be able to fully recline her seat! If a passenger needs more room And that afforded by their particular seat or airline, either book with a different airline or upgrade to premium economy, business or first. It is courteous to sit upright or to slightly recline during meal service, but other than that, reclining to the maximum for my comfort is essential. And yes, I’m “entitled” to do so as a paying passenger. I have zero compassion or understanding for an assaultive man who is punching a woman’s seat like a punk. How he was rewarded with alcohol rather than being warned to stop and other action taken against him is beyond me.

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  2. 2 entitled passengers + 1 crappy airline that moved the seats too close together = unfriendly skies. All 3 share blame. The airline should remove the ability for seats to recline when there’s so little room to begin with.

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  3. The extra space Wendi assumed came at the expense of her fellow passenger. Does she have the RIGHT to recline? I would argue she has the ability. Airlines allow seats to recline – that is true. These should be left for situations where the seat behind you is empty. In those cases reclining a seat does not take away space from someone else.

    He should not have continued to punch her seat. She should have more courteous of a fellow passenger, who appears to be in a row that does not allow him to recline.

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  4. I would wonder if Wendi notified American Airlines or requesting compensation for her neck pain? The man is totally out of line. He needs to grow up. I don’t agree with what the flight attendant did either, but he/she may have been just trying to defuse the situation.

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  5. I agree with you Stephen. But, you left out one player. The flight attendant. Especially if Wendi showed the video to her. Giving the guy some alcohol is like adding fuel to the flame. She gets the Dodo award, the guy gets the A-hole award and Wendi gets a chiropractic bill.

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    • Who is the guy? Wendi was identified, this guy should be declared persona non grata for all airlines. He should be required to buy a Business Class seat next time so he can have more space even when the person in front of him reclines their seat.

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  6. I always recline my seat because I find it very uncomfortable to sit completely upright. My husband does the opposite because he has back issues and he feels better with the seat upright. The seats have the ability to recline. I’ve never had a problem with the person seated in front of me reclining their seat. I’ve never understood the issue. I travel a lot, both coach and business, domestic and international. There is no longer any civility in the air. The man punching the seat should have been duct taped to his seat and hauled off when the flight landed. Kidding. Not.

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  7. And of course the Delta CEO weighs in and sez that passengers should ask before reclining. And that Delta is experimenting with seats that don’t recline as much. Nice dodge here: it lets the CEO off the hook and makes the passengers the problem….when the root cause is the lack of space between seats! How about experimenting with more space between the seats?

    I read an article a couple of years ago that stated the economy comfort seats have just a bit less room than standard coach seats in 1980. (and you’ve seen the trend in the size of passengers since 1980 in terms of height and girth). There was a bill in congress to mandate more space between seats and it failed about a year ago.

    Two real issues with politely asking passengers behind us: the ripple effect of limited seat spacing is not our problem to solve: the passengers are not responsible to figure out what to do about idiots behind us as a result of a strategic decision by airlines to cramp us into smaller spaces. And, our society is quickly losing the ability to be good at face-to-face social interactions. If we could only just text the guy behind us it would be so much less stressful….

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  8. Thank goodness that was not my husband sitting in front of him! I hope he would’ve been a little smarter. My husband would’ve come unglued over such childish actions. I always recline and never thought about it bothering anyone. The person in front of me reclining has never bothered me. So if I unknowingly bothered someone, I would expect that person to politely let me know and ask me to put my seat up. And at that point it is still up to me, why should I be uncomfortable so that he can be more comfortable?

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  9. If I understand things correctly, the man who so rudely punched the reclining seat was in the last row. Is it possible that his seat DIDN’T recline?
    There’s no excuse for his behavior, but it might be relevant to his upset state. As I think we all know, being in a non reclining seat behind a recliner is pretty miserable.
    (In a related vein, I’m puzzled by the flight attendant’s solution/ reaction; sounds like something more was going on here.)

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