The controversy over reclining your seat when travelling on a plane is still rumbling on. Just this week a United Airlines flight diverted to Chicago to have two passengers removed because an argument over reclining rights was escalating out of control. One passenger was using a small gadget, banned by United Airlines, that prevents the seat in front from reclining. The second passenger resented not being able to recline.
Since I wrote on this subject almost two years ago Ryanair, and more recently, Monarch Airlines have solved the problem by changing to non-reclining seats. This is fine for short haul flights but is far from ideal on medium and long haul flights especially when it involves an overnight flight.
Personal space is at a premium in economy and no one is happy when that space is invaded. A Skyscanner survey found that a whopping 91% of passengers would be in favour of banning reclining seats on short haul flights and 43% felt there should be some restrictions on reclining seats even on long haul flights. A survey of cabin crew revealed that 6 out of 10 had been involved in or witnessed an altercation over reclining seats.
Someone who reclines their seat is invading the already limited space of the person behind. Apart from this it can make working on a laptop impossible or eating a meal difficult. On longer flights where there is an inflight entertainment system in the back of the seat in front it can change the angle of the screen or bring it too close to be seen properly. Is it any wonder that people become frustrated and hostile.
On the other hand there are people who wish to relax on a flight or they are tall or have a medical condition that means the most comfortable way to travel is to recline their seat. Being prevented from doing so can be frustrating too.
It was the clash of the recliner and the non-recliner that led to the fracas on the United Airlines flight and the diversion and removal of two passengers. So what is the answer?
In my previous “Reclining seats on flights” post I suggested a seat design that pivoted in such a way that the reclining seat did not invade the space of the passenger behind. When I travelled on a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 (the double-deck plane) I discovered that such seats do exist. When the seat in front was reclined the back hardly moved. Instead, as I discovered when I reclined, the base of the seat moves forward. You still get the same angle of recline but you lose a bit of legroom; your legroom not someone else’s.
Is this the answer? Yes, if you are not Ryanair, Wizzair, Easyjet or any other airline where there is no legroom to lose. However these are all short haul carriers and there is less need to recline. Perhaps there should be a section where the seats recline and another where they do not. A 9 to 1 ratio would suffice in favour of non-reclining seats if the Skyscanner survey is to be believed. These could even be designated premium seats and attract an extra charge.
What is your take on reclining seats on aircraft? What do you think the solution is? You can leave your answer in the comments below or take the short survey below the banner advertisement. The results will be published in a future post.