F-16s Escort United Airlines Flight After Fight Erupts Over Reclining Seat

WASHINGTON -- An international flight was escorted back to Washington, D.C., by U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jets after an argument between two passengers over a reclining seat erupted into a brawl, The Washington Post reported late Tuesday.

According to sources, not long after the Ghana-bound United Airlines Boeing 767 -- with 144 passengers on board -- took off from Dulles International Airport at 10:44 p.m. local time Sunday, one passenger reclined his seat into the lap of the person behind.

A fight broke out -- with one passenger striking the other in the head -- before a flight attendant and fellow passenger intervened.

A United spokesman told the Post that the pilot was unsure of the extent of the in-flight incident and decided, for safety's sake, to go back to Dulles.

As the plane returned, an air traffic controller asked about the passenger at the center of the disturbance, with pilots replying, "The passenger is not secured at this time; the passenger has settled down, though, but an assault has taken place, but at this time he is not secured."

As a precaution, two F-16s were scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Air Force fighter jets have been held on standby to assist with such disturbances since September 11, 2001, and a rise in terrorist attempts on planes.