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David Parker Brown is editor in chief of Seattle-based airlinereporter.
com, which covers travel, aviation and airlines from a global perspective.
Sarah Schlichter is senior editor of independenttraveler.com.
DECEMBER 2014 The Costco Connection 19
DON’T YOU HATE it
when the person in front
of you reclines his or her
seat right into your lap?
Honestly, I do too—but I
remain firmly against
the idea of banning the
practice of plane-seat
Even if you’re on a plane for two or three
hours it’s important to have the option of
reclining. Tilting your seat back can mean getting an hour or so of vital sleep instead of staring blearily at your Kindle the whole flight.
I’ve also heard from numerous travelers
with back problems, who say that tilting their
seat helps them fly more comfortably. And
those of us with healthy spines have just as
much right to recline a few inches as our fellow
travelers have to stay upright if they want to.
After years of the airlines shrinking seats
and piling on extra fees, there’s no need for
passengers to give up one of the few little luxuries they have left. They just need to treat
each other with a little civility.
First off, when it comes to reclining, it
shouldn’t be a free-for-all. Are the cabin lights
out on a night flight? Go for it! Crank your seat
back and take a snooze. Are the flight atten-
dants coming down the aisle with the dinner
cart? Sit up straight so the person behind you
can “enjoy” his or her airline meal without
your head looming over the tray table. Of
course, seats should always be upright during
take-off and landing for safety reasons.
It never hurts to check who’s behind you
before deciding whether to recline. If it’s a Wilt
Chamberlain–size passenger who’s already
suffering with his knees crunched into his
chest, have a heart and keep your seat upright.
But if the person behind you has sufficient
legroom (or, better yet, has already reclined),
feel free to proceed with caution. Move back
slowly, and only as far as you need to in order
to feel comfortable. You may even want to give
the passenger behind you a quick heads-up
before you scoot back into his or her space.
On the opposite side of the issue (or the
seat, in this particular case), if you really don’t
want the person in front of you reclining—
maybe he didn’t notice that you’re 6' 9" for
instance, or you need to get a little work done
on your laptop for the next hour—ask nicely if
the person in front would mind keeping his or
her seat upright. While not everyone will
oblige, most travelers respond well to a polite
request, especially if you have a good reason
Sure, you’ll have the occasional passenger
who doesn’t follow these common-sense rules,
but let’s not allow a few disrespectful travelers to
ruin the flying experience for the rest of us. C
FLYING IN THE U.S.
has evolved to a point
where it no longer
makes sense for econ-
omy passengers to have
the ability to recline
their seats. This is espe-
cially true on short-haul
flights—say, less than two hours.
Recently, the topic of banning reclining
seats on airplanes has come to the forefront
due to a growth in in-flight altercations, some
resulting in flights being diverted.
Because of demands from passengers
asking for the lowest fares possible airlines
have become creative in figuring out how to
add additional seats to their aircraft. Part of
the solution is reducing seat pitch (the distance between the same point on two rows of
seats), which directly affects a passenger’s
I do not fully blame airlines for this
change, since passengers have voted with their
pocketbooks that, although they might say
they want more legroom, when it comes down
to it, most are not willing to pay for that space.
For many passengers, reduced legroom
might be annoying and mildly uncomfortable,
but is manageable. That is, until the person in
front of them decides to recline his or her seat.
Laptops get crushed, drinks get spilled and
you’ve got a seat-back 6 inches from your face
for the next few hours. Is it really worth the
minor recline? I think not.
Personally, I haven’t reclined an economy
seat in 15 years. Even though I have had the
“right” to do so, I feel it is rude to impede on
the small amount of space given to the passenger behind me.
Already, some airlines in the U.S., like
Spirit and Allegiant, do not allow any of their
seats to recline. It shouldn’t be too surprising
that both are among the lowest-cost (and,
counterintuitively, most profitable) airlines in
In the airline world, space costs money.
While many passengers don’t have extra cash
to spend, the easy solution to enjoying more
space is to pay for it by upgrading to a premium economy product.
But if you can’t afford the extra space,
please don’t turn to “anti-reclining” or “
seat-locking” devices, like the Knee Defender,
which just makes you ruder than a person trying to recline his or her seat.
Until the airline business figures out what
its next steps might be, think twice before hitting that recline button. C
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