Reclining seats on planes

It is one of the phenomena for me on planes that the person in front of me is always, and often, the only person to put their seat back from the moment of takeoff. I am not an unreasonable person – ok, perhaps I am – but I have no problem if we are all heading off to sleep around, say, late in the evening as we leave. But at 9:00 am or anything it is more or less daytime, you should leave your seat vertical, especially if you are watching the movies and not trying to sleep. Then it is a matter of courtesy not to rob the person behind you of the limited and diminishing space the airline provides.

Megan McCardle has now lost me forever with this insufferable and ridiculous article on Fighting for Legroom at 40,000 Feet. Here’s her argument why it is none of my business if the jerk in front wants to fly from Melbourne to London with his seat rolled back.

The airline owns the plane, not you. You are renting a seat from them. They have chosen to rent seats that recline. If you can’t handle someone in front of you reclining, you have a few choices: You can politely ask them not to recline, you can purchase a more expensive seat that offers more legroom, or you can find another mode of transportation. What you are not entitled to do is modify the seat to prevent it from reclining, no matter how unfair you feel life is to us tall folks. The person in front of you purchased that seat with the expectation that it would be able to recline. If your legs are actually preventing movement of the seat (which happened to me on one particularly tight flight), that’s tough luck on them. But you should not go beyond what nature has given you in the way of reclining prevention.

You can also argue that if someone on the train wants to talk as loud as he likes for the entire forty minutes on the way home on his mobile, that there is no common etiquette that can be called upon that should stop him. Or if someone wants to sit in a coffee shop for hours on end nursing his coffee while he surfs the net that it’s quite all right and none of anyone else’s business.

The airlines managed to ban smoking on planes however inconvenient it may be to any particular passenger, and they have a limit on the size of passengers allowed in a normal economy seat, so they can do something about reclining seats. How’s this:

No seat can be put back until after the meal that is classified as the dinner meal unless it is 10:00 pm or later at the airport from which the plane has taken off.

If you’re six foot eight and can’t travel without putting your seat back, then you should pay for the privilege by paying for a more expensive seat where there is more room between rows. Otherwise, sit up straight until after dinner or after ten.

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