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Reclining Your Seat In An Airplane: Your Right? A Privilege? Or Are You Just Plain Rude?

Alright, I know this is an age old debate.

Still, I've decided to blog about this because on one my recent flights, I encountered an interesting situation (which made my blood boil) where an elderly couple sitting behind me deliberately prevented my seat from reclining and decided they would kick the back of my seat and make *tsk tsk* noices each time I attempted to recline.

I didn't want to kick up too big a fuss just in case a video of me challenging an elderly couple popped up online in "news of the week". But regardless, I was puzzled. Aren't I allowed to recline? Why would the couple behind me react so indignantly to it?

Apparently, the question on whether one should recline on a flight is a "zero-sum game.” Simply put, the gain of one person is the pain of the person behind.”

So as I thought about it, I spoke to a number of people to get their opinions on this matter, and did some research of my own online; and here's what I found.

Apparently, in the USA, this is a huge debate with opinions divided into 3 camps;

1. My Seat, My Right

2. Recliners Are Rude Jerks

3. It's The Airline's Fault (because they are greedy and cram the plane with too many seats)

I was amazed to discover the "Knee Defender" (picture below), an "Anti - Reclining" device that prevents whoever is in the seat in front of you the ability to recline.

Such a device actually exists, and even more amazing, there is a huge demand for it. Who would have guessed? There are a very large number of people who are against reclining on flights.

While the "Knee Defender" has since been banned by some airlines, understandably because it causes conflict in the skies; it is still available on sale.

Here's some info about the "Knee Defender"

This cool contraption aside, let's explore the arguments in both camps.

[I WILL Recline!]

In this camp, people feel that sitting upright isn't comfortable (rightly so), and since they have an option, a button that enables the reclining function which they paid for, why not?

Image Credit:

Among the many view points of "Pro - Recliners" are;

1. Many people are believe that "I paid for my seat, it's my right to make myself comfortable"

2. I'm reclining, why don't you? It's not my problem if you don't.

3. Since the seat is capable of reclining at the push of a button, why not recline? What's the button for then?

4. If my reclining bothers you, then you shouldn't use the tray table at the back of my seat because that bothers me.

5. On a short flight, reclining isn't exactly necessary, but on a long haul flight after food, reclining is surely a right.

6. If you're not happy about the lack of space and recliners, go pay for Business Class.

[You'd Better Stay Upright!]

Meanwhile, in the "Anti - Reclining" camp, the general point of view here is; Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should.

But hey, the "Anti - Reclining" camp have a point too.

1. When you recline you are basically saying your a selfish prick; only your comfort and travel needs matter, and you're not bothered about the comfort of other travellers.

2. Just because the seat is enabled to recline means it's okay to lower yourself down onto a strangers lap and infringe on his personal space? The people who are for reclining are the same people who kick up a fuss when the person in front of them reclines into their lap when they are having meals.

3. Reclining is rude and selfish. Moving a seat back doesn't significantly enhance the traveling experience but it does make it significantly uncomfortable for the person behind.

4. Just like how you're within your rights to use the toilet doesn't mean you should spend the entire flight in them and deprive other the passengers of a toilet. There is a "call button" which gives you the "right" to ask for assistance from flight crew. Try pressing that button 20 times in a flight and see if you get dirty looks from the stewardess.

5. The only instance one should recline is when the seat behind is empty.

6. The argument that if you find yourself with not enough space, you are within your rights to recline too is out of point. We should be the change we want to see, and not go along with the flow.

[My Stand]

(There's no sitting on the fence with this one)

On hindsight, in my experience with the elderly couple who kept kicking my seat whenever I reclined, I guess I should have beckoned the air crew over for help instead of feeling frustrated and resorting to angry glares.

Still, I'll make a stand here, put up my hands and declare that i'm in the "Pro Reclining" camp.

While i'm firmly in this camp, there is an "etiquette" I've always abided by .

1. Reclining is fine but put your seat up right at meal times. It goes back down only after you see that the cabin crew have cleared all the trays.

2. Before reclining, I try to check if the person behind me is also reclining, or that he/she at least isn't working on their lap top before I recline.

3. I never recline fully 100%. That, I agree is truly a selfish thing to do. Unless you have some physical disability, in which case you should have informed the cabin crew so they could have made special arrangements, no one needs to recline fully. I recline no more than 20 - 50%. That's enough to ensure i'm not overly uncomfortable with an upright seat, and ensures I don't "punish" the person behind me either.

So, which camp are you on? The "My Seat, My Right" camp? Or are you on the "Recliners Are Selfish A**holes" camp? It's an interesting topic isn't it? :)

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