Reclining Seat Aboard Airplanes Debate: What If the Seat Is Vacated?
A pparently, a minor controversy pertaining to a seat reclined while it is vacated — part of the reclining seat aboard airplanes debate — was sparked as the result of this recent article which I posted; but first, please allow me to reiterate my thoughts regarding this issue.
In this article originally posted on Friday, February 22, 2013 pertaining to this controversial issue of seat recline, I wrote the following:
I personally have never really understood why there is such a big deal pertaining to seat recline. I never had a problem with someone in front of me who decided to recline his or her seat; nor have I had an issue with someone who was seated directly behind me whenever I reclined my seat. I do like to recline my seat even if the additional comfort is only marginal at best — but since learning of how adamant are FlyerTalk members on either side of this issue, I have since asked the passenger behind me if he or she minds if I recline my seat.
In my opinion, the problem stems more from a lack of consideration and respect for fellow passengers rather than from the issue of comfort. Passengers should be able to quickly work out a compromise without having to resort to confrontations to resolve what should be a simple minor issue at best. If passengers were more polite, considerate and respectful of each other, this whole debate over the recline of seats on commercial aircraft would be a minor issue at best — if at all.
When I wrote those statements, I have had passengers sit in front of me and recline for much of the duration of the flight — even on long-haul flights — but on what I called the worst Etihad Airways flight I have ever taken, the passenger in front of me would vacate the seat and leave it reclined. When she would not return immediately, I reached forward and pressed the button so that I could give myself some room while she was gone — usually for greater than a few minutes.
That was the second long-haul flight on which I was a passenger where I experienced the seat in front of me being reclined but vacated, as the first time this happened was aboard an airplane operated by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines from Doha to Amsterdam — and nobody chastised me in the Comments section of that article for reaching forward and pushing the button to de-recline the seat.
That was not the case after posting the article pertaining to the flight operated by Etihad Airways, however.
Matthew — a reader of The Gate — commented that “While I’m not a seat recliner myself, I think it’s bold to ask a fellow passenger to not recline. That is technically their right when they purchased the seat. I cannot believe you reached around to press the button every time she left! How long could she have possibly been gone for? Five minutes? I hope your temporary relief was worth meddling in her business.”
In answer to that question, she was gone for as long as 45 minutes each time — but does Matthew have a point?
“You got lucky”, posted Will — another reader of The Gate — in the Comments section. “The person in front of you has a right to recline. Most would of told you to pound sand. Sometimes those awesome fare deals don’t always turn out to be awesome in real life.”
Although I found part of that comment funny because my feet literally did pound sand for a significant part of the time I was in the Middle East, Will is absolutely correct: the person in front of me does have a right to recline, in my opinion; and yes, I was lucky that the person agreed to not recline when I asked her a full ten hours into the flight, with greater than three hours remaining. I do not believe there is anything wrong with asking — especially after ten hours — and I did ask her in a polite manner.
The last paragraph to end this article which I wrote — Should Seats Which Recline and Not Recline Be Sectioned Off From Each Other? — stated:
For the record, I have never had an issue with a person in front of me who decided to recline his or her seat. I would think that if it ever did bother me, I would politely ask that the person in front of me please consider not reclining. If the person was reasonable enough, a compromise could be worked out where the person could recline for half of the flight and not recline for the other half.
Especially as the person in front of me had her seat reclined for two-thirds of the long flight, I thought that I was being fair and considerate, as I can understand her wanting to sleep during the flight; but she was awake at the point when I politely placed my request to her; and I did want to at least have some time to work on my laptop computer, which would not fully open while on the tray table as long as the seat in front of me was reclined.
There certainly was no confrontation or escalating aggression, as reportedly happened when two passengers were embroiled in a heated argument pertaining to a reclined seat aboard an airplane which operated as United Airlines flight 1462 over seat recline on Sunday, August 24, 2014 — resulting in the airplane being diverted to Chicago, where police and agents of the Transportation Security Administration were summoned.
Although it was really not a problem, it was also slightly more difficult to dine on a meal; and the passenger in front of me ate her food leaning forward while her seat was reclined. I personally would have found dining that way uncomfortable, in my opinion — but, to each his or her own, I suppose.
Joey — yet another reader of The Gate — responded to the article that “I would have asked the passenger in front of you to kindly not recline during meal times. That’s it though. You didn’t mention whether you reclined your seat.”
Normally, what I would do is ask the person in a polite request to please do something — whatever that something may be — but if the person is not there, how can I place the request?
Nevertheless, I agree with Joey. Perhaps I should have asked the passenger in front of me when she returned to her seat that she please not leave the seat reclined whenever she vacated it; and perhaps she was more clueless — that is not meant to be an insult, by the way — than thoughtless, as I do not believe she intentionally was trying to be inconsiderate…
…and as to whether I reclined my seat during that flight: yes, I did — but not during meal time; not while I was working on the laptop computer; and certainly not when I vacated my seat. Even then, my seat was not always reclined; and whenever I turned around to the passenger behind me — the one who repeatedly burped loudly throughout the flight — to ask, he was either sleeping, engaged in conversation with other fellow passengers around him, or not sitting in his seat at that moment.
Despite my opinion that passengers indeed do have a right to recline their seats during times when it is not prohibited, my recent experience — as well as the the responses to that article pertaining to the ongoing debate about reclining seats aboard airplanes — had me thinking:
- Does a person have a right to have his or her seat reclined while he or she vacates it?
- If so, for how long is it deemed acceptable? Five minutes? Ten minutes? An hour?!?
- Does the length of a flight factor into this equation?
- What if a delay — when added to the length of the flight — further exacerbated the situation?
What are your thoughts?
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.