Dealing with the most important issue of our times

It’s not the first time I’ve brought this up. The first time was in 2014: Airplane etiquette. There in part I wrote:

I can understand the fury of anyone already crammed into an economy seat having what room there is taken from them. I think of it as the same as talking on the mobile in a loud voice while sitting on the train (and soon on the plane as well).

My own rule:

No pushing seats back until after the evening meal

I understand that on airplanes people have woken early to catch the 8:00 a.m. flight, and others are connecting from flights where whatever it might say on the local clock, it is still past midnight to them. But it is more than courtesy and a kind of etiquette needs to be developed so that at least we can work out who is in the right before the fights break out.

There was a time you could smoke on airplanes as well. Let us hope for a day in the future when people remember the time when you could put your seat back in the middle of the afternoon which by then they will no longer be permitted to do.

Anyway, it now seems to have become a more general issue: We Need To Come To A National Consensus On Airplane Seat Reclining. And in this contribution to the debate, five rules are proposed. These are the headings of the proposed rules but read the full extension at the link. In fact, read the link, with these as the solution.

1) Seriously Consider Not Reclining

2) If You Feel Compelled To Recline, Be Respectful

3) Sometimes It’s Totally Fine To Recline

4) Balance Health Issues

5) Know The Limits

But there is also civil disobedience as discussed in this post: American Airlines threatened to arrest me, says woman whose seat was continuously punched by man sitting behind her.

As the space between seats becomes smaller and smaller, this will become an issue that grows larger and larger. Beyond everything else, with computer technology as it is, flight time can be productive, but with the seat in front reclining, one can no longer see the screen and the ability to do serious work compromised.

These are my revised rules:

1) Before the trays from the evening meal have been cleared away, passengers must seek approval from the passengers behind them before they recline their seats.

2) The person in the seat behind has the absolute right to refuse.

3) Once the evening meal has been served and the trays have been taken away, passengers have an absolute right to recline their seats until the morning meal is served.

It seems to be a property-rights issue: who has possession of the space between one’s own seat where one is sitting and the back of the seat of the passenger in front at the moment the plane is about to take off? This is not an issue in which spontaneous order seems able to provide a solution.

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49 Responses to Dealing with the most important issue of our times

  1. notafan

    Up to stewards to police the reclining during service period.

    My observation is that mostly they do.

    As for the guy punching.

    Common assault.

    Not the lady in fronts fault he purchased a no recline seat.

    That said a 13 or 14 hour the plane is full flight in economy is a living hell.

    Why can’t airlines have more comfortable seats?

    They could replace the existing seat covers with ones padded with memory foam, at the very least.

  2. rickw

    I forcibly pushed the reclining seat forward once because douch in front reclined at full speed and the tray table catch had hooked on top edge of laptop screen. After disentangling the two I let him know that he could now recline his seat.

    Not very hard to make it work to everyone’s satisfaction with a bit of care, consideration and communication.

  3. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    There is nothing more infuriating than some inconsiderate imbecile blathering away loudly on a mobile phone on the train. I hear a lot of people do this and a significant proportion of them often eventually don’t appear to actually be talking to anybody, they’re simply blathering incessantly into a phone.

    I know if someone called me and proceeded to blather incessantly I would simply hang up on them.

  4. This must be at the top of the list of First World problems.

  5. Iampeter

    Certainly a bigger issue than “open borders,” or “deep state,” or other nonsense terms not really describing anything specific, made up by people not really knowledgeable about politics.

  6. tombell

    the spaces gets smaller and the people get bigger! a recipe for confrontation. I fly a lot. A lot. If I do recline (not too often) I try to do so … slowly. And usually later in the flight. These people who just push back at a million miles an hour really p*ss me off. Particularly if I have my tray out with my laptop/ drink on it. And seriously on, say, a PER-ADL trip (other than the red eye) why in god’s name do you really need to recline at all?

    glad I got that out of the system!!

  7. Terry

    What are these evil “Carbon” belchers even doing on a plane?

    Someone arrest them now.

  8. Youngster

    If you want space to work, pay for business class.

    For us plebs, reclining is one of the last “pleasures” in air travel. Particularly when you are 6’2″, reclining is almost a necessity. I simply cannot fit into a standard seat in the upright position on some airlines – my knees are jammed into the seat in front.

    A little kindness goes a long way though – be thoughtful about the people behind you, particularly at meal times and during daytime flights.

  9. tombell

    oh … and before i forget, what about your adipose neighbour spilling over into your seat space?

  10. duncanm

    they will no longer be permitted to do.

    ref. previous post. “Nanny State”

  11. I’ve flown cattle class a bit and used to being cramped up in a small space, I’m thin so it’s not such a problem. Sitting still for hours is worse than the confined space. I usually watch a movie to pass the time.

    During the flight I look behind me and make eye contact, if they ask or look like they’re asking, I just say I’m checking if they’ve reclined yet. Sometimes a gentleman will tap me on the shoulder later to let me know, I excuse ladies from touching random males, it’s not a good idea.

    On superior airlines if the person in front has reclined a bit early, especially before dinner, a hostie will often rescue me. I think they appreciate passengers who are obviously inconvenienced not making a fuss.

  12. Jock

    All too much trouble Steve. I would have removed my shoes and socks and put the mouldering mass under her seat. Punching: wrong. Revenge by smell: correct.

  13. Infidel Tiger

    Stupid bitch is now suing the airline.

    What the video doesn’t show is her selfishness knocked his drink over.

  14. Pete of Perth

    As Mikey Mann would say… hide the decline. Doubt he flies cattle class.

  15. Digger

    I use a simple trick on every flight I take and I use it because it is my contention that I purchased that space when I paid for my ticket.

    After takeoff I put my hand on the top of the seat in front and I hold it there and apply some pressure without alerting the passenger in front until several minutes after the seat belt sign goes off. People around me seem to think I am just holding on because I don’t like flying or some other reason.

    I have held up a few who have tried to recline and they have all eventually ceased trying because they think the recline function is unserviceable. I traveled by plane at least 30 times last year. Mostly short trips, Tassie to Melbourne or Sydney.

    Sometimes I have been caught after letting the seat go but they are less than those I have prevented reclining…

    I am ready to discuss my position on purchasing that space with either the passenger in front or the flight crew.

  16. woolfe

    Youngster if you are 6’2″ you should fly business. Why should some poor soul behind you have to be squashed because of your height?

  17. calli

    Buy exit row if you’re stuck in economy. The Beloved is 6’3” and a bit with really long shanks and simply can’t fit in normal economy seats.

    If we are really stuck, he politely asks the passenger in front not to recline too much and shows them exactly why. Most of them are fine with it.

    My best reclining story involves Mr Fishnets Downer himself – Adelaide to Sydney. Reclined straight back at speed into the flight attendant’s hand as she poured the Beloved a drink. We scored some bottles of excellent plonk out of that one. And a Qantas tea towel as a reminder. 😀

  18. BorisG

    If you want space to work, pay for business class.

    For us plebs, reclining is one of the last “pleasures” in air travel.

    My thoughts exactly.

  19. Ubique

    On long-haul flights just reclining your seat an inch or two can make quite a difference without discomfiting and annoying the person behind you. Fully reclining your seat is only after lights out.

  20. John. Brumble

    Don’t recline your seat on domestic flights, you selfish bastards.

  21. Mother Lode

    If the person in front of the back row is not permitted to recline then the person in front of them also cannot be permitted to recline for the same reason.

    And so it goes all the way to the front of the plane.

  22. 1735099

    I was woken from a fitful nap on a Brisbane – LA Qantas flight not long before the 747s were replaced by Dreamliners, by a noisy altercation between an assertive New Yorker (female) and a WA bogan.
    She was upset because he’d reclined abruptly without warning and thrown her laptop off the tray.
    She was vocal and he was not going to apologise.
    It got to the point where the cabin steward in charge had to intervene after two more junior staff had unsuccessfully tried to calm things down.
    Passengers within cooee were over it by this time. Someone suggested that they should be locked in a toilet and left to sort it out. That elicited a few giggles.
    Eventually bogan was relocated. I think he did OK out of it because they found him a seat near an exit.
    Something weird happens to people at altitude.

  23. FelixKruell

    You have an absolute right to recline at all times (other than as dictated by the airline – at takeoff, landing and meals). It’s part of your space or ‘property’ on the plane.

    But if you want to be polite (and it’s entirely up to you), ask, or wait til after evening meals, or just recline a bit, or slowly.

    Simple.

  24. Wil

    A nightmare flight from Dubai to Melbourne, and the great hulk in front of me took a knockout pill after seat belts off. All my strength with knees up and hands on seat could not move him from full back down position, the mongrel. I had to eat my meals on my lap, and was cramped in a narrow envelope and ended up with altitude fatigue and a bad temper. The crew had to get him awake for landing. No easy task. I bet he has a sore neck from having it frailed around by me in my futile efforts. Should be a money back guarantee for disgruntled self loading freight like me. Anyway, never again on Dubai cattle class.
    And it was a bloody window seat which meant I either had to test my bladder to the extreme or have both neighbors stand up in the aisle twice, to and from the toilet.

  25. Chris M

    We live in such a time that a bit of coughing will likely clear the seats in front of you if they give you strife.

  26. BorisG

    You have an absolute right to recline at all times (other than as dictated by the airline – at takeoff, landing and meals). It’s part of your space or ‘property’ on the plane.

    But if you want to be polite (and it’s entirely up to you), ask, or wait til after evening meals, or just recline a bit, or slowly.

    Simple.

    Sounds simple but somehow some people think it is their space.

  27. BorisG

    I had to eat my meals on my lap,

    The crew should have woken him up. No exceptions.

  28. Danoz

    Obviously this should go without saying, but just in case not:

    1) Before the trays from the evening meal have been cleared away…
    2) The person in the seat behind has the absolute right to refuse.

    So long as their seat is, too, is in the upright position. Immediately upon reclining their seat, the person in the seat behind revokes their right to refuse.

  29. Tel

    You have an absolute right to recline at all times (other than as dictated by the airline – at takeoff, landing and meals). It’s part of your space or ‘property’ on the plane.

    Gosh … so the exact same argument would give the guy behind an absolute right to use his fists at all times … right? Part of the whole space or property on a plane you see.

  30. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    You have an absolute right to recline at all times (other than as dictated by the airline – at takeoff, landing and meals). It’s part of your space or ‘property’ on the plane

    Anything over four hours or so, these days, I fly business class. I’m remembering flying economy Perth to Adelaide, where the rather aggressive young lady in front of me, reclined her seat, as soon as she could, as far as she could. I did ask if “Excuse me, do you mind if I recline my seat” was part of her vocabulary, only to be informed that she was one of Perth’s top corporate lawyers, on her way to Adelaide for a series of very important meetings, and she just had to get some rest on the aircraft.

    “I would have thought that one of Perth’s top corporate lawyers would be flying business class, ya?”

  31. mareeS

    The very reason we fly business class with flat-bed overnight. We aren’t squillionaires, but we choose our airlines for this facility on longer flights. People are such pigs on aircraft now, it’s better to pay up and have your own pod rather than go zoo class.

    I would get arrested and locked up if I said my bit out loud about some of the behaviour that happens in economy, which is why we pay not to be there.

    Sorry if that sounds a bit elitist, but it isn’t. We save ourselves potential jail time by paying extra.

    We were enjoying a bit of small ship travel over recent years, but now that ships seem to be becoming floating quarantine camps, we are just planning slow two-person driving trips this year. Especially after we arrived home from Jakarta in November, I spent 4 days in bed with “flu” and have a persistent cough that didn’t quite progress to pneumonia, but threatened to. One wonders, now.

  32. Russell

    Lots of new aircraft in British Airways fleet do not recline … period.
    Funny to watch newbie pax trying to make them go back with no button. They try to push with their feet and arch their backs but nothing gives.
    This will be the final solution because we cannot have serious arguments in such a cramped thin tube.

  33. dover_beach

    You have an absolute right to recline at all times (other than as dictated by the airline – at takeoff, landing and meals). It’s part of your space or ‘property’ on the plane

    I doubt this given it would interfere with the amenity of the passenger immediately behind, as they will find it difficult to read, or watch movies, or use their PC/ tablet if the person in front of them spends most of the flight reclined. Also, given its use can be dictated by flight crew it is closer to, if not, a privelege.

  34. Geriatric Mayfly

    Part of the problem might be to do with greedy airlines and the way they configure the seating. It’s all about bums on seats; bugger the notion of a happy camper.

  35. rickw

    Wasn’t there some company flogging anti recline wedges? Put down your tray table and insert the wedges between the tray support and the seat in front?

  36. FelixKruell

    Tel:

    Gosh … so the exact same argument would give the guy behind an absolute right to use his fists at all times … right? Part of the whole space or property on a plane you see.

    Hardly. He used his fists on someone else’s property.

  37. FelixKruell

    Zulu:

    “I would have thought that one of Perth’s top corporate lawyers would be flying business class, ya?”

    Nah, only public servants still get business class on domestic flights…

  38. FelixKruell

    Dover:

    I doubt this given it would interfere with the amenity of the passenger immediately behind, as they will find it difficult to read, or watch movies, or use their PC/ tablet if the person in front of them spends most of the flight reclined.

    The fact it may interfere with someone else’s amenity doesn’t stop it being your space to use.

    Put another way, you can no more stop someone reclining than you can insist they store your bag on their lap because it’s more amenable for you.

  39. Aynsley Kellow

    Felix,
    Correct. I’m always amused that the Business Class section on flights operating on the Canberra route have about twice the number of seats to the rest. I was consulting for a large company 25 years ago, and their rule was economy for anything less than 4 hours.
    I’m with the recliners on this. You buy the seat, which can recline, subject to crew instructions. You know the seat in front can also recline. That’s the deal. You do so gradually and carefully.
    People punching and kicking are the problem – as are the parents of kids who let them kick.
    The last row issue should be wit the airlines for squeezing in an extra (non-reclining) row.
    You want to do business? Buy Business Class – that’s why they call it ‘Business Class’.

  40. dover_beach

    The fact it may interfere with someone else’s amenity doesn’t stop it being your space to use.

    Put another way, you can no more stop someone reclining than you can insist they store your bag on their lap because it’s more amenable for you.

    You’re being silly. Firstly, the fact that staff can tell the person in front of you to sit up demonstrates the absence of any absolute right. Secondly, the fact that steward can ask the person in front of you to keep their seat upright during meal time indicates that your amenity is not irrelevant. Lastly, to turn your analogy against you, your claim that the space immediately behind the seat of the person in front of you is theirs, means they should be able to store their bag, if not on your lap, at least in the space their fully reclined seat would occupy. That this is not allowed indicates strongly that your claim that the space immediately behind your seat is yours is balderdash.

  41. dover_beach

    Correction: your claim that the space immediately behind your seat is yours,…

  42. dover_beach

    Oh dear, further correction, also includes above correction:
    Lastly, to turn your analogy against you, your claim that the space immediately behind your seat is yours, means you should be able to store your bag, if not on their lap, at least in the space your fully reclined seat could occupy. That this is not allowed indicates strongly that your claim that the space immediately behind your seat is yours, absolutely, is balderdash.

  43. FelixKruell

    Dover:

    I’ll wait for the fourth correction, then respond…

  44. Cynic of Ayr

    Simple. Don’t have reclining seats.
    It’s not a right.
    It’s something the airline has provided, that can be taken away.

  45. dover_beach

    FelixK, I think you mean ‘third’ but it’s not necessary. If they space behind our seat is ours, absolutely, why can’t we hang our carry-on in that position?

  46. Bruce in WA

    Had one man on a night flight (10 hours) put on an eye mask and slam his seat all the way back immediately the seatbelts sign went off. Seat was so close I couldn’t tilt the screen up far enough to watch a movie. When the meal came, I couldn’t get the tray down — just physically not possible. Hostie saw, tapped the man on the shoulder, he lifted his mask and she asked him to sit up for the meal. He just said “No” and pushed up the mask again. Prick. Plane was full, nowhere for me to go, so I ate holding the meal in front of me.

  47. Infidel Tiger

    I would have slammed my fist into his throat and upended my meal on him.

    Bad manners in public deserves execution.

  48. Infidel Tiger

    Don’t you love the replies from the morally debased liberal swines.

    “If you want space buy a business class ticket”

    Yes, I’m sure that’s the answer and not common decency.

  49. bobby b

    Recline as you wish.

    Cause fights. Inconvenience the crew. Make headlines.

    Can you think of any other way to pressure the airlines to stop shrinking the space?

    (If “no recline” is the rule, why do they have the recline function?)

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