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Is reclining rude? Airline passenger's video of man punching seat reignites debate

A passenger on an American Airlines flight plans to press charges against a man seen on video repeatedly punching her reclined seat, which has reignited a longtime debate.
/ Source: TODAY

It's an airplane etiquette debate that seemingly started the minute the Wright brothers completed their first flight: To recline or not to recline?

The dispute was reignited after an American Airlines passenger complained about a flight attendant's reaction to a man sitting behind her who repeatedly hit her seat because she reclined her chair. She captured the scene on a video that has gone viral on Twitter.

"Here’s a great jackhole!" Wendi Williams tweeted on Feb. 8. "He was angry that I reclined my seat and punched it about 9 times - HARD, at which point I began videoing him, and he resigned to this behavior. The other jackhole is the @AmericanAir flight attendant who reprimanded me and offered him rum!"

Williams tweeted that she was on a Jan. 31 flight from New Orleans to Charlotte on American Eagle, a subsidiary of American Airlines, when the incident occurred.

NBC News has not verified what occurred before or after the video was taken. Williams claimed that she has "lost time at work, had to visit a doctor, got x-rays, and have has horrible headaches for a week" due to the encounter.

Williams also wrote that she had a pre-existing neck condition.

"I’ve had extensive neck surgeries - my cervical spine is completely fused, except for C1,'' she tweeted.

She wrote that the man, who appeared to be sitting in the last row and could not recline his own seat, asked her to put her seat back up while he ate off his tray table. She said she complied and then reclined again when he was done, prompting him to hit her seat repeatedly.

Williams claimed the flight attendant sympathized with the unidentified man after she came to check on the situation.

"When the FA came. She rolled her eyes at me and said, 'What?' She then told him it was tight back there and gave him rum!" Williams tweeted. "She told me I had to delete the video! It’s against the law to video on a plane. I asked her name & She gave me a Passenger Disturbance Notice!"

Williams wrote that she was later contacted by American Airlines and told she has to contact the FBI. She tweeted that she plans to file an assault charge with the FBI against the "man who mistook me for a punching bag."

"The airline didn’t really accept any culpability, although she apologized and said what happened was wrong - that’s it,'' she tweeted.

The scenario restarted the endless debate over whether it's proper etiquette for a passenger to recline his or her seat during the flight, especially in the more cramped economy seating.

It's the latest confrontation in the reclining wars, as a passenger tried to choke another passenger for reclining her seat on a flight in 2015 that had to make an emergency landing.

While Williams received backlash for her complaints, there were also others who sympathized with her.

The TODAY anchors also weighed in Thursday.

"Sometimes (I recline), but I certainly don't do that if somebody in front of me reclines,'' Craig Melvin said.

"Unless you're a 2-year-old, you can't be kicking on someone's chair, no matter what happens,'' Savannah Guthrie said.

American Airlines said it's investigating the incident.

"We are aware of a customer dispute that transpired on American Eagle flight 4392, operated by Republic Airways on January 31,'' the airline said in a statement to NBC News. "The safety and comfort of our customers and team members is our top priority, and our team is looking into the issue.”