Please do not recline your seat

There’s this video going around, filmed by a woman who has reclined her seat on a plane, of the man behind her — who is unable to recline his seat — repeatedly punching the back of her seat in protest.

It’s fuelled a good amount of this week’s outrage on social media and in news outlets. Who is in the wrong?? Tell us what you think in the comments!!

First of all, the guy punching the seat is behaving objectionably. Anger management classes might be warranted.

Second, the existence of the seat reclining feature does not entitle anyone to use it without consideration for the person behind them. There’s this books podcast I love, but I nearly stopped listening to it when one of the hosts ranted about how the seatbelts-no-longer-compulsory alert is ‘the universal signal to recline your seat’ and anyone who protests is being rude.

I never recline my seat, and that’s because if the person in front of me reclines their seat, I enjoy grooves in my knees for days afterward. I wish they would do away with it. If you want to sleep on a plane, pay more for a premium seat. If you just want to lean back while you watch MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT on a fuzzy seven-inch screen, you are a sociopath.

Which isn’t to say I’m not a sociopath when it comes to certain other controversial debates regarding personal use of public spaces. But when it comes to reclining your seat on a plane, I am Greta Thunberg standing up to the lawmakers and sycophants; I am The Resistance. I am fighting for good.

This is all just a distraction from the real issue, though. The real issue is that airlines have commodified comfort on planes, and that millions have bought into it wholeheartedly, to the extent that many of the responses to the video are along the lines of, ‘the guy shouldn’t complain it’s his fault he paid for a seat that doesn’t recline’.

A sane world would have plane seats that offered comfort to everyone at a consistent price.

A saner world probably wouldn’t have planes at all, as the temperature in Antarctica hits 20°C.

But let’s not get distracted from the distraction, which is the real real issue here.

2 Comments

Filed under travel

2 responses to “Please do not recline your seat

  1. In the good old days if you reclined your seat it didn’t matter, as there was a decent gap between the rows of seats so it didn’t affect the person behind you.

    Nowadays most short haul planes don’t have the seat recline button at all. My most recent flight from AKL to ZQN, a 2 hour flight and the seats didn’t recline.

    Long haul flights where the plane goes dark and you’re supposed to sleep – well, you should be able to recline on those. If everyone is reclined there’s no problem – I recline, you recline, we all recline.

    But anyone who reclines on a short haul daytime flight is being selfish.

    • A fair set of views. My view is that if the person in front of me in economy reclines their seat, I am uncomfortable, regardless of whether I recline mine. But that’s my cross to bear, and being tall comes with advantages as well.

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