CNN’s Maria Cardona wrote in a recent article that airlines should get rid of reclining seats to solve the problem that diverted three flights over the past few weeks. The article went on to say a survey showed that 91% of air travelers would support banning reclining seats on short-distance flights. That percentage went down to 43% supporting the ban on long-distance flights. The article also suggested that if getting rid of seat reclining wasn’t an option maybe airlines should charge passengers extra for reclining seats. These seats would be available where extra legroom is already in place on planes (such as the exit row and premium economy). Then I saw Fox News publish an article essentially saying when a seat is reclined it’s not invading someone else’s space. Their point was that the distance between seats is constant when both are upright or when both are reclined. So if the person in front of you reclines you should be able to recline and get that space back. Lots of opinions out there!
Here’s my take on these two articles. Getting rid of reclining seats is definitely not how we avoid these in-air commotions. Instead, we need to be educating fliers on in-flight etiquette. I wrote about how the two passengers should have handled the situation in the Knee Defender story, but I believe airlines themselves need to also be taking part in etiquette education. (Maybe having video monitors on the jet bridge that show videos of in-flight etiquette suggestions could go a long way?) The Home Warrior said before he met me he would recline in his seat at any time, not realizing that it had the potential cram tall people and limit use of the tray table for the people behind him. Now that he’s educated he’ll ask the person behind him if it’s ok if he reclines (he has back problems time to time so reclining helps). Keep in mind that as Lady Light Travel mentioned there are often medical reasons why a person must recline their seat. They may not be visible but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. (LLT’s whole post is awesome. Everyone who flies should be required to read it.)
Charging extra for reclining seats is also not the solution I’m looking for. Airlines are charging extra left and right for things that used to be free. By taking away the seat reclining option you’re alienating a whole lot of fliers. Those fliers would be the ones that need to recline for medical reasons, the fliers that are sick and tired of airlines continuing to add to their ticket prices, and the fliers that can handle seat reclining situations without airline intervention (like, say, grownups). And what’s to stop the airlines for charging for other free features such as your air vent, your armrest, your tray table! If they start getting away with charging for reclining seats then there’s no telling where they’ll stop.
Back to the Fox article saying reclining your seat isn’t invading someone else’s space if they also recline. That statement may be true for the upper half of your body, but is incorrect in regards to knee space and tray table space. Your knee space and tray table space cannot be regained by simply reclining your seat in return.
The more we educate fliers the friendlier the skies will be. We can’t expect non-frequent fliers to magically know all the rules. If they rarely fly they probably have no idea about this stuff, just like the Home Warrior. For now though, let’s hope that seat reclining commotions stay out of the news because it’s a distraction to some of the bigger problems there are out there (like flight delays!).
Readers, what do you think? Should seat reclining be banned?
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