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United Airlines Fight Over Seat Worthy of F-16 Fighter Jets and Fuel Dump

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by hearit

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In The News

If anyone wonders how U.S. Defense funds are allocated and fuel surcharges for plane flights utilized, just ask United Airlines. An international flight returns to Virginia, F-16 fighter jets in tow after a passenger argument over a reclined seat.

A United Airlines plane carrying144 passengers returned to Washington-Dulles International Airport after a decision, made by the United pilot, to make an "emergency landing" due to the fight. The plane's return to Dulles was accompanied by United States F-16 fighter jets. The airline pilot claims a fight broke out between passengers and he didn't know the severity of the situation. No passengers were arrested or detained by police once the flight landed.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirms that Flight 990 -- an international flight bound for Accra, Ghana -- instead turned around to land at the same airport where it had originally departed shorty prior, Dulles in Chantilly, Virginia. The the red-eye flight landed in Virginia just after midnight Sunday which canceled the 11-hour flight to Ghana.

Two F-16 military fighter jets were dispatched from Andrews Air Force Base after the pilot reported the onboard problem, according to the U.S. Navy. Fighter jets literally shadowed the airline flight all the way back to Virginia -- to ensure the plane landed safely.

"They were just following typical procedures when you have disturbances," Lewis said.
"It's pretty commonplace whenever there's an airspace violation," he said.

The argument between two passengers began shortly after takeoff: a plane passenger lowered his seat backward, and the passenger behind him objected to the seat he perceived as too far into his personal space. The flier in the reclined seat was smacked in the head by the other passenger -- which sparked a fistfight between the two men on board.

The United Airlines pilot apparently decided to return to Dulles airport because he was unsure of the scope of the problem. In an interesting use of resources, the situation also seemed to warrant the accompaniment of military resources and fighter jets -- despite the fact that the fight between passengers was completely unrelated to any terrorist threat, and that no one was arrested.

U.S. military's Air Force fighter jets have been placed on a standby status to assist with flight disturbances since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.

The United Boeing 767 additionally dumped fuel as a safety precaution before landing back at Dulles, in order to lighten the plane's weight on arrival. The dumped fuel would be that same precious fuel now so expensive that that the airline industry has been pushing fuel surcharges on to passengers. Per U.S. Transportation Department rules, airline companies are not allowed to break out fuel surcharges when advertising flight fares, so passengers will see the fuel surcharge as an overall, generic, plane fare increase.


Dulles International Airport
1 Saarinen Circle
Dulles, VA 20166-7506
United States
Phone: (703) 572-2700
38° 57' 47.9448" N, 77° 27' 31.4064" W
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