A tale of two passengers

Or, perhaps more appropriately, a tale from two passengers. It is often interesting to read rants online because it is pretty clear that everyone sees themselves a little better than they really are, especially when confronted by authority for doing something wrong. It is not often, however, that both sides of the story are laid bare at the same time. Every time I read one of those posts and wonder to myself, "What did the other guy think was happening?" I end up generally disappointed as I’ll never really know.

This past week was the exception, as two different tales of a flight from Newark to St. Martin unfolded. Foul language, fighting over a seat reclining and a flight attendant threatening to remove one passenger. Super juicy stuff!

First, the events as experienced by Passenger A:

As is customary when I take my seat, I recline the seatback to enjoy the few extra inches of comfort while still on the ground. As soon as the forward boarding door is closed, I put the seat to its normal position.

Now, let me get to the juicy details:

I was seated in coach for this flight.

After I recline my coach seat, the person sitting behind me starts kneeing my seat back repeatedly. Then, she starts making loud comments, obviously so I could hear them, to her travel partner (could’ve been her husband, boyfriend, brother…not really sure).

The comments were of a nature that I shouldn’t have my seat reclined, that it was against the rules and I obviously have no idea what I am doing.
Here’s my first mistake (yes, I do admit some culpability).

I turn around and tell the lady kicking my seat that if you ask me to not recline my seat, I’ll move it forward a little bit, I tell her she doesn’t need to kick my seatback. Again she says, well its against Continental policy to recline your seat before take off.

Some more words were exchanged between us, as things obviously start taking a turn for the worse. The lady sitting behind eventually stops a flight attendant and asks her to have me please move my seat forward. The flight attendant says I am allowed to have it reclined until the safety demonstration begins. So, at this point I decide the heck with it, I’m gonna leave my seat reclined.

After some more back and forth and nastiness, I finally turn around and call the couple sitting behind me an a$$hole. Not to loud, but loud enough for the lead flight attendant to hear me as he walked by. At this point he stops and engages me and without him even asking what the problem was, he threatened to have me removed from the plane.

Everytime I tried to explain to him what the problem was, he just said, Sir, I will have you removed from the plane.

At this point I am very aggravated now, my voice raising, trying to remain calm, I ask for the flight attendants name. he gave me his first name and said thats all I am getting.

Finally, after threatening me one last time with removing me from the plane, we push back and the people sitting behind me were given different seats.

And the same scene, as told by the passenger behind him:

My travel partner went to his aisle seat, and accidentally touched the row in front of him and shook the seat a little. You know how it is during boarding…trying to get to your seat and not disturb anyone, but the rows are tight and so he accidentally grabbed that chair to stabilize himself. It probably didn’t help that the seat was fully reclined which makes it a little more difficult to board. My friend looked at me and shrugged with the "I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb that person" look and I commented back to him I’m sure it’s not that big of a deal – it’s boarding time so people understand that seats will be banged etc as people are trying to board. The person in the chair was clearly annoyed and gave some nasty looks. I apologized quietly because I was so shocked at the horrid look, but he probably didn’t hear me.

I boarded towards the end because I was running late to the airport. Unfortunately, the overheads were pretty full, so I was trying to put my purse, and jacket under the chair in front of me and I think I may have knocked his chair a bit. I’m pretty sure I did, because the next thing I knew, the person put his seat in the full upright position. I thought that was kind of him – he was allowing me to stow my stuff, so I leaned down to organize then bam – he slammed his chair back hard and it hit me in the forehead. I didn’t want to make a scene, so I just turned to my friend and commented how I thought it was kind of rude.

Next thing you know, the person turns around and calls me an @**hole very loudly. I was just stunned, but luckily the FA was walking by and helped the situation. He told the person in front of me that kind of behavior is unacceptable and not tolerated. The guy tried to argue with the FA in a loud voice and by this time, people from several rows were watching. I was just so embarrassed. I tried to crawl down my seat and hide from being seen.

My take on this whole thing – after I finished laughing hysterically at both sides – is that they are both wrong. Assuming even half of each of their stories are true, both come off looking pretty bad here.

Oh, and were I the flight attendant I’d probably do the same thing. I don’t care what got you so riled up, but if you are so easily excitable that you’re going to throw a fit on the plane even before we’ve departed you’ve identified yourself to me as combative and unstable. That’s not someone I want with me in a small metal tube for the next 5 hours.

What’s your take on the story? Who is right and who is wrong? And why couldn’t they both just remember that they were going to St. Martin and that they’d be on Maho Beach in a few hours and chill out?

Oh, and there’s a decent enough chance that at least one of the threads is fiction, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the entertainment.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Pretty hilarious although it’s obvious the second post isn’t actually the person who was behind the original poster.

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