I remember flying to Johannesburg in South Africa with British Airways several years ago and having to endure a seat back in my face for almost the entire journey. It was difficult to eat, difficult to work and difficult to watch anything on the seat back inflight entertainment system. The only relief came when cabin staff told the offending recliner that he had to put the seat in the upright position while meals were served to enable those behind to eat.
It is not an experience I wish to repeat. I avoided flying British Airways long haul for several years because their seat design meant there was a risk of a long uncomfortable flight. Even now I think twice before flying British Airways long haul; I am yet to be convinced that it will be a comfortable few hours. I do however often fly them on short haul flights and have reviewed them on this blog.
In the previous post on the reclining seats survey it seemed that a large majority of passengers wanted reclining seats banned on flights less than three hours. On flights longer than three hours however, the survey revealed that a majority of passengers would like reclining seats.
The airlines cannot afford to alienate passengers even the significant minority who do or do not want reclining seats banned (depending on the length of the flight). So the second part of the survey addresses what some of the solutions might be.
What else do the survey results show us?
The 4th question asked, “Do you think that there should be a section of the cabin where seats do recline?” It is interesting that half of those asked were undecided. This might reflect that a choice would have to be made at booking or check-in as to whether you are going to want to recline during the flight or not.
Only three-in-one of those who were decided did not want a section of the cabin reserved for seats that reclined whereas three times as many would like to see a section devoted to non-recling seats. On its own the results for this question do not give a clear cut result that airlines could use.
The 5th question asked, “Would you pay a premium to sit in a seat that recline?”
The results here show that 60% of passengers either do not want a reclining seat or do not want to pay extra for it. That leaves 40% willing to pay for the privilege of having reclining seat. This is a route that we as passengers are becoming more used to. After all seats with more legroom now attract a premium as do other services that make our journey more comfortable.
At the end the survey we asked an open-ended question; “What do you think is the best solution to the reclining seats controversy?” This question was optional and not everyone answered and apart from a couple of rants about air travel in general the overwhelming majority of answers could be categorised under “better seat design”. Those I have chosen below sum up the answers
The airlines should install better designed seats.
Make it clear to all that seats may recline. Ensure that the recline is minimal based upon the pitch
Redesign seats so that they do not invade the space of the person behind.
While the results of this survey do not give any clear cut answers there are a number of things that are evident. Firstly there are sizeable numbers of passengers in both the reclining and non-reclining camp. Secondly banning reclining seats or not is going to alienate one group or the other and airlines cannot afford to do that – or divert the aircraft when disagreements escalate. Thirdly charging a premium is unlikely to work to anyone’s satisfaction except the airlines who will use it as another revenue stream.
I have flown on two airlines, Oman Air and Singapore Airlines, that have installed seats that are designed in such a way that they recline without taking up the personal space of the person behind. In both cases I was less stressed at the endif the flight that I was on the British Airways flight to South Africa. I have not flown British Airways long haul since that time so cannot comment on their current seat design but you can be assured that any review I write on this blog of any long haul flight will look at seat design.
So the ball is very definitely in the airlines court. Better seat design is the best answer and will make a lot more passengers happy whether they want to recline or not.
Join the conversation: What are your views on reclining seats? How do you see these results? How do you think the problem could be resolved? Let us hear what you have to say in the comments below.