Fistfight on United Airlines Flight to Ghana Leads to F-16 Escort

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A fight between passengers erupted on a United Airlines Boeing 767 bound for Ghana from Dulles International Airport on Sunday the Washington Post reports. What started it? A reclining seat into the "personal space" of another passenger.

We've all been there. The cramped confines of a plane can cause tension, and it sometimes boils over past politeness and things get said. This time, more than harsh words flew down the aisles.

According to the Washington Post, the fight started with a slap to the head and was followed by "peacemakers diving about the cabin to intervene and a pair of Air Force F-16 fighter jets scrambling into the night skies over Washington."

In an MSNBC report of the fight, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander William Lewis said of the F-16 fighters scrambling, "They were just following typical procedures when you have disturbances. It's pretty commonplace whenever there's an airspace violation."

Commonplace or not, the United Airlines Ghana bound Boeing 767 dumped most of its fuel because the plane would have been too heavy to land, and returned to Dulles airport where the cranky brawlers were met by Dulles Police Force officers.

This isn't the first time a reclined seat has caused in-flight fisticuffs. In November 2010 a man on an American Airlines flight got so upset about a reclined seat that he pulled another man's ear so strongly that his glasses came off.

For that schoolyard style tuff back in November, Tomislav Zelenovic was charged with one count of "assault by striking, beating, or wounding on an aircraft," and faced up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

So what does somebody get for throwing punches and causing a 767 to dump most of 16,700 gallons of fuel?

Apparently nothing.

In what could only be described as a first, at least without going back through 20 years of airline incident news reports, Rob Yingling, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority told the Washington Post that "Officers determined that the incident didn't warrant pressing charges."

Maybe airlines in the U.S. could discourage future in-flight fights on planes by following the lead of Hong Kong Airlines and start training flight attendants in Kung Fu.

Below is an audio recording of the pilot of the United flight and the control tower.

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