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 the back of 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.