Woman punched for reclining plane seat

LOS ANGELES • A man from California has been charged with assault for allegedly punching and choking a woman after she reclined her seat on a flight.

Lawrence Wells, 54, of Richmond, California, faces up to 10 years in prison over the Oct 18 incident that took place on board a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco, according to Agence France-Presse.

According to the indictment, Wells assaulted the victim, identified only by her initials M.D, choking her and punching her in the head with a closed fist shortly after the plane took off.

"Approximately 10 minutes after the flight left the ground, the captain of the aircraft declared an emergency landing and returned to Los Angeles (LA) International Airport where law enforcement... responded to investigate the assault allegation," the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said in a statement.

An FBI spokesman said the victim suffered a concussion.

Flight 2010 left LA International Airport at about 10.30pm and landed back at the airport about 15 minutes later because of a "rapidly escalating situation" involving two passengers who were not travelling together, Southwest said in a statement.

The airline described the incident as a "physical altercation by one passenger against another", according to the Los Angeles Times.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2015, with the headline 'Woman punched for reclining plane seat'. Print Edition | Subscribe