Phoenix flier threatened with arrest after spat over extra-large passenger

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- The owner of The Clarendon Hotel in Phoenix takes customer service seriously, which is why he says he was stunned by the way he was treated on a recent Delta flight.

Ben Bethel was flying to Sky Harbor Airport from Detroit this week and found himself in a middle seat next to an oversized passenger.

"He was just a really big guy, and five to seven inches of my seat was being taken up by him. I was squeezed and twisted into the passenger on my other side," Bethel said.

He dealt with it for a couple hours, but 90 minutes outside of Phoenix, Bethel says his limbs were going numb and sweat was seeping through his clothing.

While in flight, Bethel sent tweets to Delta's customer service account and was told to contact a flight attendant.

The flight was full, and Bethel says the flight attendant rudely told him he could not switch seats. He also suggested Bethel remain standing.

Feeling frustrated and unsatisfied, Bethel showed the flight attendant a photo he took of the crew minutes earlier. He says it shows the crew violating policy.

Bethel accused all of the flight attendants of congregating together behind the wings to socialize with another Delta employee who was seated on the flight.

Bethel told the head flight attendant that he was going to file an official complaint with the airline.

"They left the whole front of the plane vulnerable," he said.

Bethel claims the flight attendant overreacted.

"He flipped out. He pulled the phone off and said he was calling the pilot. He said when we landed in Phoenix, he would have the Phoenix Police Department meet me at the gate to arrest me for threatening the crew," Bethel said.

Cooler heads prevailed, and eventually a flight attendant found someone to switch with Bethel for the rest of the flight. He was not arrested.

Unlike United and some other airlines, Delta's policy does not require passengers to book additional seats if they are oversized. However, Delta warns larger passengers that they may be asked to move or wait for another flight with more seating options.

Airline industry watchdogs say in cases like this, it's up to the flight crew to take action before takeoff.

"The passengers being squeezed can, for example, ask to go on the next flight and be upgraded to first class or business class. The airlines should step up and take care of the passenger minding his own space, and not cater to those who are taking up more than their fair share," George Hobica with AirFareWatchdog.com told 3TV.

Bethel says he will fly Delta again, but he asked an airline resolution officer to have the flight attendant reprimanded.

Delta offered Bethel 40,000 free miles for his troubles.