A San Francisco-bound flight was grounded at Los Angeles International Airport Sunday night after a male passenger allegedly grabbed a woman by the throat for reclining her seat.
The plane took off at around 10:25 p.m. Sunday night, and had been in the air for about ten minutes when, according to an email statement from Southwest spokeswoman Melissa Ford, “The pilot in command of Southwest flight #2010 from LAX to San Francisco International airport returned to Los Angeles to allow police access to the cabin because of a rapidly escalating situation involving passengers who were not traveling together.“
"To receive priority handling from air traffic controllers, the Captain declared an emergency, landed uneventfully, and reached a gate where law enforcement officers met the flight.”
According to in-flight audio obtained by NBC, the plane's pilot contacted the control tower at LAX, saying "Evidently, we’ve got two passengers who are in a physical altercation, so we need to get turned around back to LAX."
A witness who spoke with NBC says that after a female passenger put her seat in the reclining position, the man, who was 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.”
The woman moves to another seat, and by 10:43, the flight was back at LAX.
Law enforcement officers met the plane at the gate, ABC7 confirms, and removed the man from the flight.
"An individual was detained for questioning following the return of a SW aircraft to LAX based on allegations of an assault involving a fellow passenger,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimillier said in an emailed statement.
““The allegations involve assault of a fellow passenger but no charges have been filed...No arrest has been made at this time and the investigation is continuing.”
Ford says that the plane's other 136 passengers — everyone but the alleged choker — boarded another flight and landed at San Francisco International Airport at 1:48 this morning, about five hours behind schedule.