Flying the Stupid Skies

Good Lord:

Another day, another fight about reclining seats on a U.S. airline flight.

In the third serious airline legroom incident in two weeks, an angry passenger caused yet another flight to divert Monday night.

Delta Air Lines Flight 2370 from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to West Palm Beach, Florida, was rerouted to Jacksonville, Florida. A passenger became irate about the traveler in front of her trying to recline her seat, a fellow passenger told CNN affiliate WPTV.

“This woman who was sitting next to me knitting actually just tried reclining her seat back,” passenger Aaron Klipin said. “The woman behind her started screaming and swearing and then a flight attendant came over and that just exacerbated what was going on and then she demanded that the flight land.”

This follows two other incidents, including one where a passenger placed a “knee defender” on a chair, refused to remove it when asked by the airline and another passenger threw water in his face.

Look, I understand that people reclining their seats in front of you is annoying. I’ve almost had a laptop crushed on one flight. Once, on a 16-hour flight from Australia, the woman in front of me kept flinging herself against the seat, trying to recline it back even further (this was also the flight where the couple next to me kept going to the bathroom. Together. They were reading a book on tantric sex. I don’t even want to know what was going on there.) Flights are growing ever more crowded and the seats ever smaller. On a recent US Air flight to London, my legs were pressed up against the seat so tightly, I could have given the guy in front of me a prostate exam with my knee. And I’m only 5’10”.

But as much as I hate cramped seats and people reclining into the empty space that used to be my gallbladder, I have to agree with all 6’2″ of Megan McArdle:

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.

(She goes on to note that the water throw was also an ass and the airline over-reacted by diverting the flight and inconveniencing hundreds of people. I agree on both counts.)

Josh Barro has another suggestion: if you don’t want someone reclining into you, offer them money. I’m not sure that would work, but at least Barro’s idea provoked a hilarious incoherent response from Gawker.

Look, I know our society teaches us that we are all special snowflakes and the world must revolve around our every whim. But this is getting ridiculous. If you don’t like reclining seats, don’t fly. Or fly first class. Or boycott airlines until they remove reclining seats. But for God’s sake, don’t start fights at 38,000 feet because you suddenly don’t like the discomfort that comes with a cheap flight to Buffalo.

Comments are closed.

  1. Seattle Outcast

    My last trip my feet were swollen and painful and I decided “fuck it, I’m upgrading to 1st class where I can actually put my feet up.”

    Best $250 I ever spent on a trip.

    I travel a few times a year, I HATE cattle class seating (which is getting smaller as I get larger – I’m in the industry, seats are shrinking by about an inch a decade), but I typically pay for those seats because I’m trying to save $$$. Do I hate the person in front of me reclining into my face? Yeah, but I live with it because I know it was my choice to get the bargain seats.

    The biggest problem I have on flights in unruly, noisy, seat-kicking children. I’d stuff them in the wheel compartments along with their “parents”…

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  2. InsipiD

    While air travel is extremely crowded, there really isn’t any excuse for the “Knee Saver” that was the subject of one of these stories last week. Whoever is the passive-aggressive jerk who invented that needs to be doomed to permanently sitting in front of the exit row, and whoever wrote the horrid lack-of-courtesy card that’s included with them deserves a curb stomp.

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  3. Section8

    It could be worse. Wait until they start installing these in every plane.

    Jesus, they should just take the bicycle seat off at this point.

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  4. Xetrov

    The guy who used the Knee Defender speaks –

    “I put them in maybe a third of the time. Usually, the person in front tries (to recline) their seat a couple of times, and then they forget about it,” Beach said. The device comes with a courtesy card to tell passengers that you’ve blocked them, but he doesn’t use it.

    “I’d rather just kind of let them think the seat is broken, rather than start a confrontation,” he said.

    Beach, who said he flies 75,000 to 100,000 miles a year, wasn’t so lucky this time.

    When the flight attendants came through the cabin to serve beverages, the woman said her seat was broken. That’s when Beach told one of them about the Knee Defender. The flight attendant asked him to remove the device, and Beach said he did.

    “As soon as I started to move it, she just full force, blasted the seat back, right on the laptop, almost shattered the screen. My laptop came flying onto my lap,” he said.

    Beach complained, saying that he couldn’t work like that, but the flight attendant informed him that the woman had the right to recline. Both passengers were sitting in United’s Economy Plus section, which offers 4 more inches of legroom than the rest of coach.

    His reply: “You asked me to let her recline a few inches, and she just took 100 percent of it.”

    That’s when Beach’s anger boiled over. He said he pushed the woman’s seat forward and put the Knee Defender back in. The woman stood up and threw a cup of soda — not water, as previously reported — at him.

    “It was really just surreal and shocking. Did that just happen?” Beach recalls. “I said, ‘I hope you brought your checkbook because you just threw your Sprite all over my $2,000 laptop.'”

    The flight attendant stepped in quickly and moved the woman to another seat.

    “I said a lot of things I shouldn’t have said to the flight attendant: some bad words, what’s your name and ‘I can’t believe you’re treating me like this,'” he recalled.

    The pilots then changed course for Chicago — a decision that Beach said “amazed” him.

    When the plane landed in Chicago, police escorted Beach and the woman off. Neither police, nor the airline or the Transportation Security Administration has released any information about the passenger seated in front of Beach.

    No criminal or civil charges were brought against them, but United would not let them continue on to Denver.

    Beach says he spent the night at an airport hotel and then caught a flight home the next morning. He flew Spirit Airlines. It has no reclining seats.

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