A flight has been forced to turn back and make an emergency landing, delaying passengers for five hours, because a male passenger was allegedly trying to strangle the woman in front of him over a seat-recline dispute.
Southwest Airlines flight 2010 from Los Angeles to San Francisco turned back to LAX because of a “rapidly escalating situation involving passengers who were not travelling together,” the airline said in a statement.
Witnesses quoted the victim saying a stranger sitting behind her tried to strangle her because she put her seat back, NBC News reported.
A German passenger, identified as Melanie, related on Instagram how she saw a man “strangling a woman because she tilts her seat back” and nine “cop cars” met the plane when it landed. Melanie said that when the woman put her seat back to the recline position, the man seated behind her “started choking her. She shouted for help and the crew came to see what happened. The man stayed very calm during the whole situation.”
Passengers described the calm man as wearing a white button-down shirt and glasses. His demeanour was not ruffled, apparently, by the process of throttling a fellow passenger.
The assailant was said to have been detained by Los Angeles Airport Police, but in a baffling twist, no arrest was made. Los Angeles FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told local media the FBI investigation was continuing.
Southwest spokesman Dan Landson told the San Francisco Chronicle: “Our crew members are trained to ensure the safe operation of every flight we operate. Initial information is that the flight attendants swiftly coordinated with pilots on the flight deck to get the aircraft on the ground safely and quickly.”
Written by Peter Needham