A viral video on Twitter has the internet divided over airplane etiquette, after one passenger showed the man behind her punching the back of her seat, allegedly because her seat was reclined. Now, people are debating who was in the wrong and whether it’s necessary to ask permission before reclining on a plane.
Wendi Williams is the woman who posted the video after she sat in the second-to-last row on a Jan. 31 American Airlines flight from New Orleans to Charlotte and faced aggressive behavior from the man seated behind her. According to Williams’s Twitter posts, she had been reclined in her seat until the man — whose name hasn’t been reported — asked her to lift her chair up while he was eating a meal. She complied and later returned to a reclined position while he watched a movie on his phone. Then, Williams wrote that he started punching her chair.
I was returning from a teachers’ convention. The man asked me, with an attitude, to put my seat up because he was eating. I did. I then reclined it again when he was finished. At that point, he started hammering away at me. That’s when I started videoing and tried to call the FA.
— wendi (@steelersfanOG) February 8, 2020
She began videotaping on her phone while calling over a flight attendant to hopefully resolve the issue. Matters became worse, she says, when the flight attendant reprimanded Williams and offered the aggravated passenger an alcoholic beverage.
When the FA came. She rolled her eyes at me and said, “What?” She then told him it was tight back there and gave him rum! She told me I had to delete the video! It’s against the law to video on a plane. I asked her name & She gave me a Passenger Disturbance Notice! https://t.co/zRwy5JYr9s
— wendi (@steelersfanOG) February 8, 2020
After allegedly trying and failing to resolve the issue with American Airlines quietly, Williams posted a snippet of the video that she had taken of the “angry” passenger, which has since been obtained in full by Yahoo Lifestyle.
“Here’s a great jackhole!” Williams wrote in a tweet to Bravo’s Andy Cohen. “The other jackhole is the @AmericanAir flight attendant.”
Williams also claimed she plans to escalate the incident by calling the FBI to press charges against “the man who mistook me for a punching bag.”
I was contacted via phone by @AmericanAir, they apologized but really didn’t accept any responsibility for the flight attendant’s actions. I will be calling the FBI to press charges against the “man” who mistook me for a punching bag. Anyone who doesn’t like it, I don’t care!
— wendi (@steelersfanOG) February 9, 2020
But the thousands of people who have responded to Williams’s tweet don’t necessarily agree with her. Instead, they’re divided into those who think the man got too aggressive, and those that find she was in the wrong — especially considering that the man had the aircraft’s last seat against a wall and wasn’t able to recline.
Hi wendi how about u think about other passengers instead of your self 😄
— Ash Coyne (@Ashcoynebwfc) February 12, 2020
Why were you so inconsiderate? Reclining airline seats is such a dud move.
I admire his resilience.
Why would you share this video when it puts you in such a bad light?
— Rich (@MisterRch) February 12, 2020
It was a plane, not your private lounge. You don't recline so far you're on someone else's face. Which is why the flight attendant reprimanded you. Get a clue lady.
— 🇦🇺🇬🇧🇮🇪🇺🇸 @EmmaDownUnder 🇵🇱🇭🇺🇷🇺🇦🇺 (@emm_downunder) February 13, 2020
Wendi, Do you see how little room this poor guy had? When you were leaned back he can barely even use his table. Sorry, but you kind of had this coming.
— Betsy Bellavia (@BellaviaBetsy) February 13, 2020
Looks like Wendi is the new “Karen.” 🙄 Be considerate of other people Karen, er, Wendi, and stop reclining your seat on regional jets. It’s rude and I too learned the hard way just as you probably have by now, if you’re smart.
— Heath (@heath_in_SoCal) February 13, 2020
Those that came to Williams’s defense pointed out that the aircraft and its seats are made to recline.
I’m 6’2”, travel extensively, and always pay for the extra leg room. This boy is in the wrong, that’s assault. All the people tweeting “you should have asked to recline first” - I have never seen someone ask if it’s okay.
This is why I don’t fly American anymore too.
— Molly Pitcher (@AmazonMistress) February 12, 2020
How people can defend this passive aggressive man in beyond me. Seats recline for a reason. When you take a seat in the last row, you consent to all discomforts associated with it. Otherwise, spend extra for more comfort.
— Lydia G (@Lygure) February 12, 2020
It's ridiculous for ppl to say you shouldn't recline your seat. It's an option for a reason. You're fully within your right. If he needs more room, he should have gotten a seat that accommodated that. Why should you be inconvenienced? You paid for your seat.
— Melissa Graver (@MelissaGraver) February 12, 2020
Using a standard function for the purpose it was meant for isn’t an excuse for this man to bully you into submission. Shame on AA. Would he have done this to another man?
— Salvatore (@Salvi1969) February 12, 2020
Elaine Swann, a lifestyle and etiquette expert, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that Williams was in the right by exercising her ability to recline, which is not only a part of the chair’s function, but also encouraged by airlines on every flight.
“The seats are made to recline, that’s why the button exists. In addition to that, the flight attendant on every single flight says, ‘Sit back and relax and enjoy the flight.’ So not only has the airline crafted the seat for this particular type of use, you’re also invited to do so by the flight crew,” Swann explains. “So every person is within reason. There’s nothing that says you should not recline your seat. Doesn’t matter.”
She goes on to say that the heated debate is a result of people empathizing with the man, who is occupying one of the worst seats on the aircraft. “That seat brings anger and angst toward most people. They’re looking at where he was sitting and recognizing that that is literally one of the worst seats on the aircraft. And so they’re sympathizing with him from that perspective,” Swann says. “Then they’re twisting it and saying because his seat doesn’t recline and he’s all the way back, then the person in front of him should do something differently.”
Still, Swann maintains that there is no exception that takes away a passenger’s right to recline. She additionally condemns the male passenger’s behavior.
“This guy was utterly rude, and actually quite aggressive and a little bit scary,” she concludes. “Doesn’t matter where you’re sitting. If your seat has the button and it can move back, then your seat goes back That’s it, period.”
American Airlines provided the following statement to Yahoo Lifestyle:
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.
And while Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian recently told CNBC that he “never” reclines and suggests that “The proper thing to do is, if you’re going to recline into somebody, you ask if it’s OK first,” American Airlines simply asks for respect from all passengers on its flights.
“We believe that our passengers should always be respectful of one another,” a representative for the airline tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Williams did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.
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