In Transit Blog: Another Argument (and Diversion) Over a Reclining Seat

Written By Unknown on Kamis, 04 September 2014 | 17.35

A third flight in less than two weeks made an unscheduled landing Monday night because of passengers fighting over reclining seats. Delta Flight 2370, on its way from La Guardia Airport to Palm Beach International, was diverted to Jacksonville when one passenger began yelling at the woman sitting in front of her for reclining her seat, ABC News reported.

The upset passenger had been trying to sleep with her head on her tray table at the time. When a flight attendant intervened, the argument escalated and the passenger demanded that the plane land, which it did shortly thereafter, in Jacksonville, Fla.

"We haven't hit the end of it," Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, told The Associated Press.

"The conditions continue to march in a direction that will lead to more and more conflict."

As to the cause, Ms. Nelson cited shrinking seats, lack of overhead bin space and fuller flights as part of the problem.

"Disruptions in the cabin have increased in recent years," Corey Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the A.F.A., said in an email.

"Flight attendants are able to handle the situations successfully in most cases. However, if a flight attendant feels that a conflict could escalate to the point where it is threatening the safety of the cabin and the rest of the passengers, then those situations need to be dealt with accordingly."

As to what level of disruption would justify the diversion of a flight, guidelines are laid out in a pilot's flight operations manual, Vincent Whitfield, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, said in an email.

In addition to a variety of factors, he said, interference with any crew member in the performance of his or her duties is a federal crime that can result in a significant fine, a jail sentence or both. Ultimately, any decision to divert is made by the captain in charge of the aircraft.

After this most recent incident, the passenger was questioned by local police, who then escorted her to the rental car area. She was released without charges, according to a report from the Jacksonville Aviation Authority. But one of last week's unruly passengers is facing charges for interfering with a flight crew.

Still, some have called the recent rash of diversions relatively insignificant.

"Let's put this in context," Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a trade group that includes most large carriers, said in an email. "Diversions are extremely rare. About one in 500 flights are diverted for reasons including weather, mechanical issues, medical emergencies and, rarely, passenger disruption. Said another way, 99.7 percent of all flights arrive at the intended destination."

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