Recline Or Not Recline: That Is The Question

In one of Metropolitan Airport News first year’s articles, I wrote a column on reclining seats, and how rude travelers are to hitch them down all the way to the lowest setting; especially during meal time. Things have changed in the industry. First; in order to maximize the number of passengers, almost all airlines have reduced the distance from forward to aft and crammed in more seats. And secondly, they have also reduced the angle the seat can go back, hopefully not causing too much discomfort to the passenger behind you. But it appears neither move has ended the controversy about reclining seats. 

The boosted revenue from the added seats suits the airline just fine, but the reclining seat issue has created a twitter firestorm. Passengers with exceptionally long legs have to sit like a Himalayan monk to fit into their seat when the passenger in front of them has their seat back down. 

The internet is polarized over a viral video involving an American Airlines passenger who claims she was assaulted while reclining her seat on a recent flight. When I was faced with this predicament, I tried negotiation rather than confrontation; “Sir, I cannot eat while your head is on my lap, can you adjust your seat a few notches upward, thank you.” 

The video shows a male passenger seated behind her repeatedly bumping the back of her reclined seat. While many have condemned the man’s inappropriate behavior, some have criticized the woman for escalating the situation by pulling out her phone and filming the episode and reclining her seat in the first place.

Like the rest of the world, Twitter is torn on this raging air travel debate.

Unsurprisingly, plenty of people made the case for reclining your seat, typically asserting that since you paid for it you have the right to use it how you choose or pointing out that most airplane seats only recline a short distance anyway.

We live in an age of narcissism; and people feel their wants over-ride other people’s needs. If the person sitting behind you is pregnant or traveling with a child on her lap, or if they are 6’5” and have very long legs, the rules become a problem, and make the flight a nightmare. I was particularly unhinged by the twitter remark, “I paid for it, I can do what I want.” That is an attitude that stokes conflict; as if being legal is the only measurement and being courteous is ignored.

Even Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Line weighed in. Bastian said passengers “have the right to recline,” but that they should ask the person behind them before they do so, particularly if the passenger behind them is tall.

“I think the proper thing to do is, if you’re going to recline into somebody, that you ask if it’s OK first and then you do it,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” after being asked about reclining etiquette.

What’s Your Position On This Topic?

Share your opinion on this hot topic, are you for or against reclining?

Joseph Alba
Mr. Alba was previously Editor of the Airport Press for 12 years covering both local as well as global aviation news. Prior to this, Mr. Alba had Executive positions in Systems Engineering and Marketing with IBM World Trade, and had foreign assignments in the Far East and Latin America earning three Outstanding Achievement Awards. Mr. Alba also directed a new function dealing with Alternate Fuels for Public Service Electric & Gas company in New Jersey and founded a Natural Gas Vehicle Consortium consisting of car company executives and fleet owners, and NGV suppliers in New Jersey. Mr. Alba was a founding partner of ATA, an IT Consulting company which is still active in Central and South America. After leaving the armed forces, Mr. Alba’s initial employee was the U.S. Defense Department as an analyst.


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