Reclining On Planes. My Thoughts

Last week, the following video appeared online of a woman reclining her seat and the man behind repeatedly punching it:

Before watching the video, I noticed that the woman in question had said the following:

“I’ve lost time at work, had to visit a doctor, got x-rays, and have has horrible headaches for a week,”

Wendi Williams

I figured the guy must have been going full Mike Tyson on the back of her seat to have that effect on her. After watching the video, that’s not exactly what happened. To be honest, I can’t help but feel that a bout of bad turbulence would have caused more of a disturbance.

I’m Not Saying This Guy Was In The Right.

Lets just get this clear. This guy was acting like a total arse. There’s been more than a few occasions when the person in front of me has reclined fully. The most they have got from me is a bit of an eye roll though.

My opinion is that on a shorthaul flight, there really is no need to be reclining your seat. I’ve been on London – Manchester flights where the person has shoved their seat right back. That flight is no more than 40 minutes in length. Do you really need to recline for what is likely to be around 20 minutes? I get some people might be coming off a long haul flight and are feeling a little tired. I’ve been there myself. Personally, if I’m that tired, I can fall asleep regardless.

On a long haul overnight flight, fair game. But only once the meal service is cleared and the lights have gone out. Upon boarding a Virgin Atlantic flight between London and Washington in 2017, the guy in front reclined fully pretty much the second he sat down. On that occasion I was lucky. Doing their pre departure checks, the crew noticed and asked him to bring his seat forward. He must have thought they meant for the entire flight, as he was upright from that point onwards.

These are the rules I play by at least. On a short haul aircraft, the only time I will recline is if I have nobody in the seat behind me. On an overnight long haul flight, I will try my best to get the seat at the back of the cabin. Which will give me a guilt free recline.

737MAX reclining seats

The (Semi) Official Rules On Reclining

Only once have I witnessed a “discussion” regarding seat reclining. It was on board British Airways on an evening Intra-Europe flight.

  • A guy two rows ahead of me reclines his seat.
  • The person sat behind him starts to complain.
  • The recliner refuses to put his seat up, as the person in front of him has also reclined.
  • The guy sat behind rings the call bell, and complains to them.

When the crew arrived, they said that people are perfectly entitled to recline their seat if they wish. Which is completely fair.

Doesn’t This Contradict What I’ve Said Above?

Yes. Totally.

Whilst I find it annoying when people take to reclining their seats – especially on the real short sectors, I also find it annoying when my alarm clock goes off. This doesn’t change the fact that there’s some things you can’t change. If the seats are designed to recline, then there’s not much you can do to stop people from using the feature if they wish. I personally find it more of an issue that people have taken to bringing devices on to planes to forcefully stop people reclining. Although it would appear that a number of airlines have banned such a device.

If we look at things differently, and say that we were flying in first class:

Say the meal service began, but because the person sat in front of you wanted to sleep, they taped your table shut in case you moving it woke them up… Would that be acceptable?

Or perhaps you were flying in a suite with a door. The last time I had the pleasure, I was in a middle seat. Now I quite like looking out of the window when flying. Would it have been acceptable for me to ask the person across the aisle to keep their door open for the flight, so I could look out?

Again, it comes back to the annoyance factor. Was I annoyed that they closed their door and I couldn’t see a thing? A little. Did I have any right to demand they couldn’t use a feature of their seat, just to benefit myself? Absolutely not. Does the person sat in front of me reclining their seat annoy me? Yes. Do I have any right to demand they couldn’t use a feature of their seat, just to make my journey more pleasant? Absolutely not.

It Won’t Be An Issue In 5 Years Anyway

To be totally honest, this will all be a moot point in a few years anyway. In the ever common trend to squeeze more people into the same size planes, seat manufacturers are doing away with the reclining functions.

Air France non reclining seats

It’s not just the low cost carriers that are fitting these seats either. British Airways, Air France, TAP Portugal and Iberia are amongst the airlines I have seen that have fitted with seats that don’t recline. All of which feature identical seats to whats found on EasyJet.

Non reclining seats on an A320neo

Therefore on shorthaul at least, people reclining probably wont be an issue in the coming years.

How long until that trend expands to long haul flights too though I wonder?

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