Reclining seats on flights

Recently, a debate on Twitter between some of those I follow morphed into a discussion on reclining passengers. There were those who wanted to work, eat or watch the seat-back video on long haul flights who were prevented from doing so by the person in front reclining their chair.

I have been on the receiving end of just such behaviour. On a flight to South Africa with British Airways the moment the seat belt sign was off the person in front reclined their seat. I was unable to use my laptop the seat came back so far and struggled to eat when the meal came around. At this point I had to ask the flight attendant to ask the person in front to put their chair upright so I could eat. As soon as the meal was finished the seat was reclined again. With the seat-back video screen in my face it was difficult to watch a movie to pass the time. By the time we arrived in Jo’berg I would cheerfully have garroted the offending passenger.

This guy has very little room even before the person in front reclines
© Melanie Lukesh http://www.flickr.com/photos/mlukesh/4984904550/

Then there were those who preferred to sleep the flight away. I can also see this side of the argument too. Being forced to stay in an upright position when you want to sleep the flight away is just as bad has having someone else’s seat back in your face. Ever tried getting some shut eye on a Ryanair flight where the seats don’t recline?

So, what’s the answer?

Grab an exit or bulkhead seat if you can? At least there is no one in front to recline into your personal space. It’s also the row where airlines tend to put passengers with infants.

Travel business class? Nice if you can afford it or get an upgrade.

Give people more personal space? That would mean less seats crammed in and a corresponding increase in fares. Would we be willing to pay to not have someone recline into our space. If the debate on Twitter was anything to go by some would and some wouldn’t. On some airlines that is already available as an “Economy Plus” class but it comes with a hefty premium.

At home I have a reclining chair close to the wall which is designed not to knock the wall when reclined. When the back reclines the seat moves forward. It occured to me that such a design would work in an aircraft. With a higher pivot point the seat moves forward and the seat back remains where it was so the person behind is not inconvenienced. The downside is you lose some legroom. Recline and lose legroom; sit upright and keep your legroom. Your choice.

Problem solved? What’s your view on this debate? Are there merits in my solution? Do you have another solution? Feel free to comment below (but please keep it polite)

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