Bizarre Lawsuit: American Airlines Bans Passenger For Reclining Seat?

Bizarre Lawsuit: American Airlines Bans Passenger For Reclining Seat?

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A San Diego man is suing American Airlines after he was allegedly banned from the airline over an incident that happened a few years ago. Let’s cover the details, and then I’ll share my take.

The 2019 American Airlines seat recline incident

American Airlines is being sued by a man named David Klein, who alleges he was wrongfully banned from future flights with the company after a flight in 2019, where he got into a “situation” with a flight attendant over seat recline. According to the lawsuit (so let me emphasize that this is the plaintiff’s version of events):

  • On March 29, 2019, Klein and his wife boarded an American Airlines flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles
  • Shortly after they were seated, a flight attendant told Klein to put his seat in the upright position
  • Moments later, before Klein adjusted his seat, the flight attendant passed by again, leaned over, and began to press the seat adjustment button under his armrest
  • Klein was surprised by someone making physical contact with him, so he “moved the flight attendant’s arm away and told her that he would adjust the seat himself,” which he immediately did
  • The flight attendant left, and there was no further interaction between her and Klein
  • Another flight attendant witnessed the incident and apologized to Klein for his colleague’s behavior, stating that she was “having a bad day”

Klein said he considered the matter closed and forgot about it, until…

This incident involves seat recline

How this seat recline situation turned into a lawsuit

In February 2022, Klein made reservations for himself and his wife to travel from Los Angeles to St. Maarten on American Airlines, for a friend’s 60th birthday celebration. Upon arrival at the airport and while checking their bags, the couple was surprised to find that they were not permitted to fly with American Airlines.

American Airlines allegedly refused to explain why he was banned, though he believes that it was related to this 2019 incident, and that the flight attendant “solely out of spite filed a report with the airline that falsely accused plaintiff of refusing to follow safety instructions.”

Klein had asked American Airlines to reinstate his right to travel with the airline, but didn’t receive an answer. Now he’s suing the airline, seeking compensatory damages as well as a court order allowing him to fly with American Airlines again. Klein claims that by not being allowed to fly with American Airlines, he cannot fly to certain destinations, and will incur higher costs and a loss of time by having to take flights on other airlines.

The traveler is now banned from American Airlines

My take on this American Airlines ban story

This is one of those situations where I have to imagine that there’s more to the story. Obviously we’re getting details here through a lawsuit, so that only tells one side of the story. A few things stand out about this:

  • The guy kind of sounds like a jerk; he didn’t follow the flight attendant’s instructions, and then physically grabbed her when she reclined the seat for him; if his version of the events is that he “moved the flight attendant’s arm,” I can’t help but wonder what really happened
  • That being said, in order for a passenger to be banned over an inflight incident, they’d typically receive an official warning from the crew, and/or the airline would reach out to the customer and inform them that they’re banned
  • I wonder if the other details are 100% accurate, like another flight attendant apologizing that a colleague was having a bad day, and that there was no other interaction between the flight attendant and passenger
  • If there is a lot more to this story, then it seems silly to file a lawsuit, when that will presumably all come out

I’m curious to see how this lawsuit evolves, as I’m pretty confident that this isn’t just as described. And if it is as described, then at a minimum American failed horribly in communicating the ban to the traveler.

I’m curious what comes of this lawsuit

Bottom line

A man is suing American Airlines after finding out he was banned while trying to check-in for a flight in February 2022. He claims he was never informed that he was banned, and can only imagine that this involves a March 2019 incident, where he got into a bit of a disagreement with a flight attendant.

According to the traveler, he “moved” a flight attendant’s arm while she tried to put his seat upright for him. While that’s not appropriate, I have to imagine there was more to this in some way than what’s being presented.

What do you make of this lawsuit against American Airlines?

Conversations (19)
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  1. Customerserviceisdead Guest

    I have noticed a lot of cranky flight attendants in the last few years. I get it, I work with people every day, and a lot of people suck. BUT PEOPLE are the reason that you have a job. Don’t feel like dealing with another asshole? It might be time for a little breaky-poo. Take a day off, hit the beach, get some rest. Come back when you’re ready. Can’t afford to take a break?...

    I have noticed a lot of cranky flight attendants in the last few years. I get it, I work with people every day, and a lot of people suck. BUT PEOPLE are the reason that you have a job. Don’t feel like dealing with another asshole? It might be time for a little breaky-poo. Take a day off, hit the beach, get some rest. Come back when you’re ready. Can’t afford to take a break? Suck it up buttercup or get a job in a cubicle with little or no human interaction. Remember, your role is to provide a HIGH STANDARD OF CUSTOMER CARE. Yes, you are also responsible for ensuring that all the passengers are safe and secure before, during and after a flight, that may require asking a customer to comply a second or third time.
    Side note: if someone unexpectedly reached across my body, I would grab their arm as well. He is a grown man, not a child, it was inappropriate on her part to try to adjust his seat for him unless he requested help.

  2. Tanguero Guest

    If he was banned, why did the airline reserve his next flight?

  3. iamhere Guest

    It is quite common for FAs to help passengers with putting their seatback upright especially when they are in a rush before takeoff. If what he says happened is true there was no need for him to move her arm or hand - he could have told her he would do it himself. Question is why did he not leave the seat up after the first time she passed through the aisle. I wonder what...

    It is quite common for FAs to help passengers with putting their seatback upright especially when they are in a rush before takeoff. If what he says happened is true there was no need for him to move her arm or hand - he could have told her he would do it himself. Question is why did he not leave the seat up after the first time she passed through the aisle. I wonder what other details are missing because it sounds like an incomplete story, but this is the US - people will sue for about anything.

  4. Alan Guest

    No one should be reclining seats. It is an infringement on your space. As it you have very little room on most flights. I fly for leisure about 5 times a year. Recently I have paid more $ to have better comfort. I think it is for the best that seats do not recline. They are jamming more and more into planes these days without someone taking a few inches of your space.

  5. observer Guest

    I totally believe this passenger. I witnessed a similar "incident" where a passenger was escorted off the plane for asking the FA not to touch him. Airline will always side with FA most likely for liability reasons. It's much harder to fight FAs suit than that from a passenger. All FA and airline have to say is that they perceived a passenger to be a threat to the safety. No court in this country will side with passenger.

  6. Daniel Guest

    Regardless of 2019 situation, either you notify and ban him and his FF account and block ticket booking or you dont,

  7. D3kingg Guest

    Follow crew instructions. Kleinberg bought this upon himself. I’m glad he didn’t go to the Cayman Islands the 60th birthday party was probably better without him.

  8. glenn t Diamond

    Whatever the back story is here it is obvious this guy is looking for a payday, nothing else. I hope AA do not cave and if it gets to a hearing is dismissed with costs against this opportunist.

  9. AA Miles are Good. Guest

    Now let's hear the Real story!

  10. Santastico Guest

    He should celebrate he has been banned from AA. There are many other better airlines he can fly out of LAX.

  11. uldguy Diamond

    I sure wish this would go to trial. I’ll bring the popcorn!

  12. Sel, D. Guest

    If he was banned without notice and allowed to purchase a ticket, especially if his frequent flier number was attached, and denied boarding at the airport he is due compensation. Regarding future flights, AA should have the right to ban him for any reason, except for those that are protected (gender, race, etc.).

    Regarding his story, if true, I completely agree. FA’s should be required to verbally request a passenger put their chair up...

    If he was banned without notice and allowed to purchase a ticket, especially if his frequent flier number was attached, and denied boarding at the airport he is due compensation. Regarding future flights, AA should have the right to ban him for any reason, except for those that are protected (gender, race, etc.).

    Regarding his story, if true, I completely agree. FA’s should be required to verbally request a passenger put their chair up before reaching into their space. This has happened to me twice during the same taxi because my chair was broken - the second time I did gently swat away the FA’s hand. It’s a gross violation of space, and my hip is an in appropriate place for someone to place their hands without consent.

    1. TravelinWilly Diamond

      “It’s a gross violation of space, and my hip is an in appropriate place for someone to place their hands without consent.”

      *Someone* is s snowflake.

      Did your hip break when the f/a’s hand brushed it?

      Are you healed now?

    2. Sel, D. Guest

      It’s inappropriate and unprofessional. I’m not your child. Perhaps you’re okay with physical touching on any part of your body or a child’s body as long as it doesn’t cause any *physical* harm. Do you work for Ballenciaga by chance?

    3. SwimBikeFly Guest

      Double standard much? I can be sued into oblivion for accidentally brushing a flight attendant but the same can't go the other way around?

    4. JDee Diamond

      No need to be a condescending dickwit with your comments

  13. derek Guest

    If he sued in federal court instead of state court, we could easily see the papers online.

    I recently saw a case in federal court where a 30 year old ex-prostitute sued the post office because they wouldn't let her not work overtime. She said she was disabled and couldn't work overtime. Another search shows that she is not fat and looks around 25-30, not 40.

  14. Maryland Guest

    So they take a reservation, and wait until you're at the airport to tell Klein he is banned? Hmm. And Klein is guessing the ban was from the 2019 incident, but cannot be sure because he hasn't flown since 2019? That would indicate his losses from the ban are marginal at best and his lawsuit is frivolous. Way too much missing information in this story to be understood.

  15. Klaus Guest

    Off-Topic: Do we have any updates about the intercom ghosts on AA?

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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TravelinWilly Diamond

“It’s a gross violation of space, and my hip is an in appropriate place for someone to place their hands without consent.” *Someone* is s snowflake. Did your hip break when the f/a’s hand brushed it? Are you healed now?

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Santastico Guest

He should celebrate he has been banned from AA. There are many other better airlines he can fly out of LAX.

3
Sel, D. Guest

It’s inappropriate and unprofessional. I’m not your child. Perhaps you’re okay with physical touching on any part of your body or a child’s body as long as it doesn’t cause any *physical* harm. Do you work for Ballenciaga by chance?

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