Southwest Airlines Returns To LAX After Alleged Violent Altercation Over Reclining Seats

Southwest Airlines used to say that you’re now free to move about the country, but it appears that you’re not free to move back your seat. Some passengers may not like it if you recline your seat on board the tight and cramped quarters.

A Southwest Airlines flight was forced to head back to LAX after a male passenger allegedly choked a woman during the flight because she was reclining her seat, according to witnesses. Flight 2010 was headed for San Francisco, but then turned around on late Sunday night because of an alleged violent altercation that took place 30 minutes into the flight.

According to a report via Yahoo News, there was a “rapidly escalating situation involving passengers who were not traveling together,” Southwest Airlines said in a statement.

“Flight 2010, declaring an emergency,” the pilot was heard saying on to the passengers on the audio transmission that was obtained by NBC News. “Evidently we’ve got two passengers that are in a physical altercation.”

Another passenger on the Southwest Airlines flight took a video of the altercation that took place on board. The passenger, who wished to remain anonymous, shared the video with NBC Bay Area, although it hasn’t yet been released to the internet. The 15-second clip features a flight attendant and what appears to be a police officer talking to a woman in flip flops sitting in the front row. The police officer tells the woman that she will have to press charges for a misdemeanor.

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The video also shows a man wearing a white button down dress shirt and eyeglasses. Another passenger described the man as “calm” during the video, but it’s unclear whether it was the unruly man who attempted to choke the woman.

Another passenger, who describes herself as Melanie or “Melanita,” shared a photo of the incident on Instagram, which has now been deleted. In German, she described what she saw with the hashtags #dramababy and #welcometola. According to the NBC Bay Area report, she wrote that she saw the man “strangling a woman because she tilts her seat back.” She also wrote that nine “cop cars” arrived to the Southwest Airlines flight once it landed at LAX Airport.

During an interview with NBC News, she said that she saw the woman recline her seat back, which was when the man “started choking her. She shouted for help and the crew came to see what happened. The man stayed very calm during the situation.” If Melanie and the anonymous passenger’s reports are accurate, then the man wearing the button-down shirt could have been the man who choked the woman in the flip flops.

Melanie then said that the woman switched seats with another man who was originally seated in the first row. The whole ordeal reportedly took about 13 minutes. Then the Southwest Airlines flight made an emergency landing at LAX. From there, police met up with the plane, and the man was asked to leave the flight.

(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for #TackleEbola)

The witnesses told NBC News that a man attempted to choke a woman because she tried to recline her seat back. The unidentified man was taken into custody by the Los Angeles Airport Police. So far, no arrests have been made, Los Angeles FBI spokesperson Laura Eimeller told Inside Edition. The remaining 136 passengers on the Southwest Airlines flight boarded a separate fight and arrived in San Francisco five hours later — at 1:48 a.m. Monday.

One of the passengers on the Southwest flight was KBLX radio host and comedian Mark Curry. He spoke to NBC Bay Area about the alleged violent incident that took place on the flight. Curry said that he was taking a nap on the flight when he woke up to a lot of chaos on board. He was asked by one of the flight attendants if he could help hold down the unruly passenger.

“I thought it was a terrorist so I jumped up. I didn’t know what to do. A guy got into it with a lady and choked her or something. The lady was frantic. They wanted me to put restraints on the guy. They asked if I could help. I said, ‘At 30,000 feet, yes! I’ll beat anybody down.’ It was an incredible situation.”

According to the International Airport Transport Association, it costs the airlines $200,000 every time a flight is diverted. The last time a Southwest Airlines made an emergency landing was back in July, when a pilot noticed there was a blown tire. Flight 2869 (flying from Denver to Los Angeles) returned safely back to the Denver International Airport, after the pilot noticed the mechanical problem.

[Image: Scott Olson / Getty Images]