The Delta pilot who smacked a passenger and then walked away delivered the punch to get the woman to release a choke hold she had on the woman she was fighting ... at least that's what the airline concluded.
When you watch the video, it's confusing. It appears the pilot almost gratuitously delivers the punch out of frustration and then walks away. But a Delta official tells TMZ the video doesn't show everything, and based on interviews with the pilot, eyewitnesses and information from cops ... the pilot saw the woman in question choking out the other woman. And the pilot did what he could to release the dangerous grip.
As we reported ... the pilot was taken off duty after the incident but put back on the schedule after the airline concluded he did nothing wrong.
Neither of the women wanted to press charges against anyone.