An image from the video of the fight that has been circulating online. (Internet photo)
A brawl between two Chinese men that forced a Swiss International Air Lines flight to turn back to Zurich on Sunday was caused by an argument over a reclining seat, reports Global Times, a Chinese tabloid published under the auspices of the state-run People's Daily.
On Sept. 2, Swiss flight LX197 from Zurich to Beijing was barely past Moscow when a 57-year-old passenger's in-flight meal was disturbed when the 27-year-old passenger sitting in front of him reclined his chair. When the younger man failed to respond to his protests, the older man slapped him on the head with an open hand, causing a fight to break out and spill into the aisles. The chief purser was reportedly also struck by accident during the mayhem.
Cabin staff and other passengers eventually restrained the older man, who reportedly appeared intoxicated, and placed him at the back of the plane, where he continued to shout for an hour. The pilot decided to turn the plane back to Zurich, where local authorities took both men into custody upon arrival.
A Swiss prosecutor said on Monday local time that the older man was released after being ordered to pay a fine for undermining the safety of public transport, and both men were required to cover their own legal costs.
A spokesperson from Swiss told Global Times that the flight was eventually canceled and that the company has not ruled out taking further action against the pair, including to recover the costs for the extra jet fuel and the accommodation expenses of passengers who were forced to stay in Zurich for the night.
A video clip of the older man after the fight has been circulating widely on Chinese microblogs, with many netizens commentating that the incident was humiliating and damaging to the country's image.