What to do about knee offenders and other “me first” passengers


“Safety first” may be the American travel industry’s unofficial slogan, but for some travelers, it’s more like “Me first!”

That’s never been more apparent than now, during the dog days of summer, when passengers struggle to find a little comfort in their overcrowded hotels and uncomfortable flights. And when they don’t get it — watch out!

Stephen Richey, who works for a research firm in Indianapolis, remembers a recent flight that was diverted because someone on board suffered a severe asthma attack. After making the unexpected landing, an irate passenger made a beeline toward the flight attendants treating the sick passenger and demanded they take off immediately.

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“This is ruining my vacation,” screamed the passenger. When she refused to return to her seat, she was expelled from the flight.

“The best part was all of the cheering as she was escorted off, still cursing and resisting, despite being handcuffed after spitting in the face of one of the officers,” remembers Richey.

Experts say the selfish behavior flares up during periods of high anxiety, like summer and during the holidays. But it’s hard to escape the feeling that our “me first!” attitude is gaining traction, and even harder to know who is to blame for it. Is it a travel industry that adds to the stress with surprise fees and unanticipated hassles, or is it customers who set unrealistic expectations?

Elevated stress levels make travelers lapse into “survival” mode, leading to rude or self-centered behavior, says Erin Olivo, an assistant professor of medical psychology at Columbia University.

“In this state people are highly reactive and self-focused. They are hyper-vigilant about potential threats to their comfort or safety, and they don’t care about anyone else,” she says.

Also, being away from home, outside the influence of friends and family, can give some people permission to engage in “me first” behavior, like pushing to the front of a line or hogging the armrests on a plane, says Michael Brein, a psychologist who specializes in travel.

“It’s like people going wild on spring break,” he says. “Anything goes.”

Just consider two products that address the “me first” problem on a plane.

One is a relatively new gadget called Create-A-Space that makes a portable seat partition. The $40 product, which sets up on your narrow coach-class armrest, promises to help you “feel first class” every time you fly. The other, the Knee Defender, is a $21 wedge that stops the seat in front of you from reclining.

But who’s the villain here? Is it the airline that deprived its customers of a humane amount of room? Is it the oversize passengers who thoughtlessly reclined their seats? Or is it the travelers who are disabling a seat?

The answer should be obvious, unless maybe you work for an airline’s revenue management department.

Of this, travelers are certain: “Me first” attitudes are everywhere today. Kisha Mays was stunned when another passenger interrupted her as she was speaking with a ticket agent at the airport recently. She objected politely. “He proceeded to keep talking to the agent as if he did not hear me,” remembers Mays, a business development consultant based in Los Angeles. Only after Mays sternly insisted that he return to the line did he back off.

“There’s no such a thing as ‘excuse me’ or wait your turn anymore,” she says.

There may be a solution. Sally Rudoy, a psychotherapist based in New York, says the root cause of “me first” is the class system perpetuated by the travel industry, especially airlines. And while creating “haves” and “have-nots” rewards a select few passengers and enriches travel companies, it is, on balance, bad for the rest of us.

“Creating tiers of service for which you can charge premiums — like first class, business class, economy plus, and gold card members — stirs up anxiety about where you (as a) customer rank in the world,” Rudoy says.

There might be something to her theory. Imagine if suddenly all the seats had a little more space, the lines were a little shorter, the fees a little less onerous. Would we still see this display of raw emotion? Unlikely.

It also raises another question: What’s next? If airlines remove another inch of legroom and add another fee, then where does that leave us? That’s a summer sequel no one wants to see.

Who is responsible for the breakdown in travel manners?

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How to avoid the ‘me first’ crowd

Stay away from high-stress trips with inexperienced travelers. Travel during off-peak times and avoid busy vacation periods, when anxiety levels run high.

Avoid problem areas. “Me first” travelers are passengers “with a narcissistic personality, who feel very grandiose, entitled and don’t feel empathy for others,” says Jeff Ball, the executive director of PCH Treatment Centers in West Los Angeles. Take a few steps back and yield to them to avoid a confrontation.

Steer clear of large groups. “Tour groups, gap-year students and backpackers have this completely annoying tendency of acting like they own a place,” says Rebekah Voss, a travel blogger. Stay away from crowds.

188 thoughts on “What to do about knee offenders and other “me first” passengers

  1. the “anti-recline” devices are ok until l you get caught. if you get caught by a flight attendant then – STOP it is not worth getting kicked off the flight.

    that is what happened to me (the person in front complained and the fa told me to stop- so i did) – do not test the gods and goddesses of the air.

    if they say “this flight is being turned around because one passenger is sick.” oh well, bad luck.

    do not make a scene. can your travel plans be saved? if so then work on that.

    1. When you install an “anti-recline” device you are essentially forcing your desires on another human being. For that reason alone they are never OK. Better to negotiate a mutually agreed solution with the other person so you both get what you need.

        1. I don’t have a problem with the reclining seats, but my husband does. Wherever possible, I buy the “extra legroom” seats. Otherwise, my husband gets aisle seats and I sit in the middle, so sometimes us swapping seats works or swinging his legs out into the aisle. Failing that, I ask the recliner politely not to recline, offer to switch seats, or offer to buy an adult beverage or snack. That has only failed once; I can’t for the life of me figure out how that person could sleep with my husband’s kneecaps pressing into his back. (I am not exaggerating.)

          1. I am single. So, I opt for the window or aisle seat. Either gives a bit more leg room than the middle

      1. The other way to look at this is that the person reclining his/her seat is ALSO forcing their desires on the passenger behind them.

        1. The seats are made to recline and people should not stop others from reclining using devices. It’s OK to ask someone not to as long as they are prepared to accept No, a good attribute that many people today have lost.

          This only became an issue when airlines stripped out inches of space, while laptops became pervasive. I am six feet tall but honestly I don’t see the reclining seats as a problem unless I am trying to work. Today there isn’t enough room at some seats even before anyone reclines!

        2. No, because he/she has in fact paid for a seat with all the options that come with it; including reclining it. It never hurts to ask first, though – if it’s OK to recline it.

          1. But, regardless of the options available and the fact that the person buying a seat knows that they recline, the recliner is, indeed, forcing discomfort – most likely – on the person behind them. Whether this discomfort is “allowed” by the airlines is not the point.

        1. I have spinal problems with my lower back. I’m now considered thoughtless for using the recline function I purchased to accommodate my disability? Buying extra legroom won’t work – I need to recline. And the other person knew the seat in front of them reclined when they bought their ticket.

          1. OK, I have a disability also – I’m 6′-6″ tall. If you were in front of me reclining your seat I think it’d be a push. The idea here is to be courteous. And buying extra legroom would work, because when you recline your seat the person behind has a much lower possibility of being inconvenienced or uncomfortable. I understand you have comfort and pain problems, but there are others of us who do also.

          2. @Timothy Woody – Buying extra legroom doesn’t work with recliners. The two domestic air rage incidents took place in premium economy. The third incident took place on an international flight which has extra legroom. So the recliners had no protection even when they were seated in areas with greater leg room.

          3. If it’s really true these incidents happened in premium economy then the blame lies squarely with the airline.

          4. @BMG4ME – The blame lies squarely with the out of control me-me-me passengers. The reclined-on passengers were in spaces with extra legroom so should expect reclining. Yet it was all about their needs and not sharing any space with others. The international flight was a red eye leaving at 6:20 pm People are going to sleep on that flight to reduce jet-lag.

          5. I agree with you, I was just saying the blame lies with the airlines for not providing enough room in premium economy and international flights for people to recline without annoying the person behind.

          6. “The blame lies squarely with the out of control me-me-me passengers”?! Said the pot to the kettle.

          7. Not necessarily – had a passenger recline in front of me, and the guy behind was reclined, but did not want ME to do so – now who’s the jerk???

          8. Does you being 6’6 cause you to live in constant pain? Every day? From the second you wake up to the second you go to bed? Reclining takes the pressure off our backs. I don’t need leg room. I need to RECLINE. So you are uncomfortable for a few hours? I’m sorry… I really am. But sitting upright would cause my level 8/9 pain that is dulled to about a 6 with pain killers to stay at an 8/9 pain even WITH pain killers for over a week.

            Why don’t YOU buy a seat with extra leg room? You need the leg room, not us. We need the recline.

          9. @Grant Ritchie – No, I try to work with the other person if possible. Try to swap seats, recline as little as possible, work out a recline schedule, etc. But if your initial response was what I see demonstrated here today, I wouldn’t bother trying to negotiate. Negotiation only works when both sides are trying to consider the other’s viewpoint.

          10. You know what? You try living with excruciating pain day in, day out. Try it. You think we LIKE having this type of pain?

          11. I did… for years, I lived with chronic lower back pain. I just didn’t whine about it as much as some folks do.

          12. Who’s whining? The seat reclines. The passenger has the right to recline. The person whining is the passenger behind who wants to prevent the reclining, but didn’t want to spend the money on a seat with more legroom.

          13. I can understand how, in your particular situation, that seat reclining would be necessary. However, I believe that this discussion is about the 99.999% of people who recline for convenience of themselves, without regard for the pain and suffering inflicted upon those behind them.
            I do not have to recline for any medical reason, and therefore I don’t. The reason I don’t is because the airlines have put the seats too close together.
            Just because they have reclining seats is not a valid excuse to recline them in a confined space. Just like fat people need a seat beside them, maybe you need a seat behind you.

            The solution would be best to have more room. Having 10% of the seats removed should only result in a 10% increase in fares, which should be sustainable if ALL airlines were required to have the space by law. Airlines already work with a great many restrictions and laws, so they can’t cut costs by reducing crew, for example, or by not having flotation devices. Removing the ability to make the seats too small is just one more thing, and it should be done.

            Your repeated remarks about how you *HAVE* to recline does not mean that everyone else has to recline and this discussion is not about making space for medically required reasons, it is about the fact that people who don’t have to recline do it and smash knees/laptops/etc. in the process.

            When I see most people recline their seats, it is more often than not a sudden, violent and forceful process. And that is what the complaints are about.
            I do not recline my seat and I do not use a knee defender. However, I have little regard for those who recline their seats out of no respect for others…and as for you, I think you should see what you can do to ensure you are able to be in a reclining seat without smashing knees behind you. Maybe, due to your condition, they would give you an extra legroom seat for example.

          14. But those of us who MUST recline still get called rude and selfish. And it’s hurtful. I’d give anything to do back to my old life where pain didn’t exist.

            I personally think they need to implement seats that recline and seats that don’t. I’ll pay for a reclining seat. The ones who don’t want recline in front can pay for that.

          15. Probably because you are potentially creating an injury to someone who currently does not have one.
            Whether the person in front of me has a condition or not has little bearing whether a seat slammed into my knees causes damage, it it because there isn’t room.

            ‘The real solution is to make enough room for it to happen, but until they do, it is going to be a problem.
            For the record, I do pay for United Plus where available so as to relieve the problem, and I don’t know why there was an incident in United Plus but sometimes UAL switches equipment and takes it away.

            Although I sympathize with you having back pain, creating knee pain in others is not a solution.

      2. When someone reclines their seat into my lap, they are imposing their desires on me. I don’t see the negotiation thing working.

        1. This is true. However, they’re allowed to under the current system. So it becomes a matter of preference. Except they win, because the “law” is on their side.

      3. They are also forcing their desires on you. I have long legs and am very uncomfortable if the person in front of me reclines completely. I will use my knees to try and halt the recline–a little is okay, just not all the way.

  2. You can have low prices, or comfort, but, as long as we live in a capitalist system, you probably can’t have both.

    Just add the cost of moving the plane from point A to point B (crew, fuel, maintenance, depreciation and interest or lease costs on the plane, management overhead) and then factor in a 12 to 15% profit and divide by the price you want to pay – now you see why the seats are so close together. BTW, those roomy seats up front actually subsidize the seats in the back.

      1. Oh yeah? What about the money we all pay every April 15th to finance the FAA, the TSA, to subsidize airports, etc. There would be no modern civil aviation system without the general public – i.e. taxpayers.

        It’d be a different story if the airlines were paying taxes on the unbundled fees they now charge. Or if US corporations (whose employees are generally the ones enjoying gold-plated everything in business/first) were paying more than a 12% effective tax rate.

        1. None of which has any bearing on the issue that if there were more room between seats, the price would necessarily increase.

  3. The knee defender isn’t a huge problem, what people need to do is be educated about their existence and when their seat doesn’t recline, push the FA button and bring it to the attention of the FA, don’t get involved or confront the passenger behind you. Let the FA inspect the seat, and confront the passenger. Then recline your seat, if the passenger behind you complains or engages you politely decline. The only way were going to solve this problem is if people have to suffer. Then devices like knee defender will go away, because they wont be of any value. Eventually the airlines will just make seats that don’t decline at all.

  4. The Knee Defender or similar devices are NEVER okay. If you are buying a coach seat without additional legroom, you are taking the risk that the passenger in front of you is going to recline and that you won’t like it. If you don’t like that, pay more for your seat.

    If you don’t want the passenger in front of you to recline (or you at least want some warning) the proper response is to ask. Not to jam their seat and hope they’ll think it’s broken instead of you sabotaging it.

    1. If they’re so thoughtless as to try recline into my pittance of space, who cares what they think? Jerks need to be hauled up short. Eventually, as PsyGuy says, airlines will just make seats that don’t recline at all. How sweet the day.

        1. The recliners are not the thoughtless ones. It is the airlines who are thoughtless by squeezing in an extra row of seats into an already tight seating arrangement.

          1. It’s the airlines fault period. I don’t recall this being a problem back “in the good ole days.” I have the right to recline and you have the right to be pissed if I do. But, don’t be pissed at me – be pissed at the airline for shrinking the seats (as we get taller and wider).

          1. If it is your space then the airline should modify the seats so they do not recline.

            I don’t like having someone recline into my lap on a plane any more than anyone else and I rarely recline my seat even a bit and never all the way. But as long as that function is available, people will do it. I do get annoyed when someone reclines their seat all the way back and then leans forward the whole flight. Bring the seat forward if you are not actually leaning back in it.

          2. WHY? Why should we have to buy a first class seat?? Why don’t you??? You’re the one who wants the leg room. Our seats already recline. That makes that section in front you mine. And you get what’s behind you. As we’ve said, some of us have medical issues and have to recline. Why should we spend more because you want us to suffer? You spend more. We don’t need the legroom.

        2. Just like people over 6 feet tall have to jam their knees into your seat when you do. Talk about a “me first” attitude; why is your comfort more important than anyone else’s?

          1. My comfort is equivalent to yours. And I can guarantee that my pain is greater than yours.
            I only recline enough to accommodate my disability. The reclining is allowed by the airline and something you should expect if you sit in seats that recline.
            The problem is that there is no other accommodation for lower back problems except reclining. Taller people have an alternate accommodation – buying more leg room.

          2. Buying more leg room is not always an option! And having your knees pressed up on is painful as well. Be prepared to have your seat hit the entire time by someone who is seated behind you who is over 6 feet tall! IF you don’t like then guess what, go buy a bigger seat in the section with more leg room so people won’t be touching your seat.

            See what I did there! It goes both ways… and people like you are the ME ME ME mentality is what is wrong with this picture.

            No one has common decency anymore. It is sad.

          3. So, constantly smacking the back of my seat constitutes “common decency” in your book?

            I will enjoy watching you explain that to a member of the flight crew.

          4. I think Daniepwils was saying that, when you recline the seat, it will hit the tall person’s knees, creating resistance. Not that the person is justified in smacking the seat in revenge when you recline.

            I see both sides — and people should negotiate with each other to try to make the most out of the paltry space the airline has given them.

            That said, here’s my favorite “tall person” story:

            My ex is 6’3″ with long thigh bones and travels frequently for work. Even without the seat reclining, his knees grazed the seat in front of him. He’d usually try to buy extra leg room, but that wasn’t always possible. So, if he got stuck in a regular seat, he’d wear knee pads under his pants — so if the person in front of him reclined quickly and suddenly, he wouldn’t get hurt. What he didn’t count on was the recliners getting upset that his knees were in the way and literally throwing their body weight against the seat to try to get it to recline, turning around and glaring at him and telling him to move his legs.

            The way I see it, seats recline and people in coach should expect that. But if you want to recline and the person who is behind you happens to be tall (meaning their knees physically obstruct your ability to recline), tough noogies. We’re all in this together.

          5. move his legs “where”? lol
            the FAs don’t like you sticking your legs in the aisle, and there’s no room in front of the person sitting next to you.

          6. Okay. So when your legs are being pressed on 24/7 for years on end, come back and talk to me. You are equating discomfort for a few hours to those of us who live in excruciating pain daily.

          7. Because as LadyLightTravel said, our pain is far, far greater than yours (most likely… I don’t know you). I have to recline to get pressure off my back. You’re just plain uncomfortable. I’m tired of hearing how rude I am because my medical condition forces me to recline. I just had to buy a $400 reclining office chair to accommodate my pain level.

          8. As someone who fell and developed sciatica last year, I can tell you that most people don’t have a clue how painful it is. I knew people with back problems and I never, ever, appreciated just how wretchedly, mind-numbing the pain is.

            Anyone who is knowledgeable would never refrain the discussion in terms of comfort.

          9. I was using tall as an example. Personally, I am 8 months pregnant. I had to fly home recently for a family issue, but the person in front of me kindly didnt recline. If the seat in front of me is reclined, there isn’t much room for my stomach and if my feet aren’t somewhat elevated, my ankles go from tree trunks (just from the sitting) to purple because the blood isn’t circulating. I was just pointing out that one person’s circumstances are not always more important than another. I am sympathetic, my husband has had spinal, brain and knee surgery, so I do understand the pain issues. Its more that you can’t always say whose situation is more important or whose pain is worse.

          1. So LadyLightTravel and I are rude because we have actual pain issues, but you’re NOT rude because your legs will be squished for a few hours, while we actually will experience pain far after the flight because of sitting upright? WE are rude? Pot calling kettle black.

          2. “Rude”? Who said anything about “rude”? I’ve made 13 (now 14) comments on this thread and at no time have I used the word “rude.” Great way to make an argument… put words into the other person’s mouth. Pot calling kettle full of it. 🙂

        3. Exactly. I also have neurological issues. I live in constant pain. Less pain bc of reclining will ALWAYS happen. I’m sorry you guys are tall. Boohoo. Try living with level 8 pain daily that would turn into 10 if we couldn’t recline.

          1. @Deaniepwils. I think you need to do research on the subject. Reclining at a slight angle does indeed take away some pain for people with lower back issues. It doesn’t even take the full recline! I hardly think it is me, me, me, to try to get BOTH of our needs met.

          2. You have NO IDEA what you are talking about! NONE! I just started a job and by the time I got home on my first day, I was hysterical because of the pain. I was laid off and I spent most of my time on unemployment (and I worked at home before, so it was the same) reclining or lying down. Reclining takes pressure off the back. When I sit, I feel as though I’m collapsing onto myself. I just had to buy a $400 chair that reclines to a flat position so I can change the recline as need be. I also have a sleep number bed that reclines.

      1. Whatever happened to civility? I rarely recline, but I wouldn’t feel like a “jerk” if I did. If the person behind me politely asked me not to because they were tall / using their laptop or whatever, I’d most probably comply out of courtesy. If the guy with the Knee Defender had just said: “Do you mind if I use my laptop for 30 minutes before you recline?”, I would think this could’ve been avoided.

        1. That’s the thing, you’d “most probably comply out of courtesy.” “Most probably”? But why should it be up to you to “probably comply,” or maybe not, depending on your mood? Looked at another way, what if the passenger behind you had the ability to, without your permission, tilt your seat forward by six inches “for his or her ‘comfort’, or maybe ‘just because’? Wouldn’t you maybe consider him or her to be a jerk? Maybe? What a shame that airline seats weren’t originally designed with the ‘recline’ feature controlled by the passenger into whose space the reclined seat would intrude. Then, the ‘jerks’ of the world have to ask before reclining. Of course, I’d ‘most probably’ say “Yes.”

          1. Except your premise is flawed. You’re comparing it to a scenario where permission is needed. In an airplane, the seats are built to recline, so people have the expectation that the seats WILL recline. It’s the other way around – if you DON’T want them to recline, you need to make that request.

            For instance, if you’re in a public, outdoor space and someone lights up a cigarette, you have no right to complain because they’re ALLOWED to do so. You can ask politely that that person perhaps not smoke, but then it’s up to them to comply. If you absolutely can’t stand cigarette smoke, physically move yourself somewhere where smoking isn’t allowed. Same on a plane. Reserve a seat where no one can recline into your space.

          2. Something of an apples/oranges example. In a public, outdoor space, I can, as you say, physically move myself away, but in an airplane seat? Reclining is akin to what indoor smoking used to be… ALLOWED, but irritating as hell to many of us. Eventually, society realized that simple courtesy can’t be requested of some people; it has to be imposed upon them.

          3. You can physically move yourself, by paying to reserve a seat where you won’t experience an issue! If you’re unwilling / unable to do so, your best course of action (at least for the moment) is to throw yourself on the courtesy of the person in front of you. The fact that most US airlines ban the use of the Knee Defender shows that we’re not at that point yet (where “airline” society imposes simple courtesy). If most people felt as you do, then most people would be using the Knee Defender or at least be in favor of them, and most likely airlines would then allow them. The fact is, people who view *everyone* who reclines as “jerks” are still in the minority.

          4. It’s an interesting analogy and useful to explore the moral and etiquette conundrums present.

            Outdoor smoking is obnoxious too. Smoking has NOT been banned. It’s still legal outdoors and is an annoyance. Banning reclining is similar to outright prohibition (and we all know how that went.) The reclining issue itself is not really the issue but rather a symptom of the problem with declining seat pitches in a permanently dysfunctional economy (the new normal.) In other words, since Y2K, things have been getting worse with rats squeezed on a plane.

            By the same token, the smokers argued that airlines and restaurants should make airflow work so that cigarette smoke is filtered but that’s nonsense. It doesn’t work. But the seat pitch issue is another matter. I await to see if someone gets dragged off a plane kicking and screaming over a recliner in front of them when they’re sitting in an exit-row seat or business class.

            Ironically, making this a “courtesy” issue will likely make the problem worse much like with automakers deciding to pass seatbelt laws in order to avoid putting airbags into cars (eventually, they had to put in the airbags anyway but now we get ticketed by the nanny state.) So rather than being about “courtesy”, they instead make things bad for everyone including themselves.

            I recall two old tall women screaming on Lufthansa flights. One threw a physical tantrum when I tried to recline my seat in front of her. A mean, screaming at the top of her lungs. And another… just complained because the seat was too small. The world revolved around pleasing them and… the world was just so inconsiderate.

          5. They have banned smoking in the parks/sports fields where I live. The right to inconvenience someone or endanger their health should never be a right. The laws are just taking awhile to catch up.

      2. Yes, how thoughtless to take advantage of the feature the airline provided almost every seat on the plane. Along those lines, the NERVE of some people in a window seat to get up and use the toilet! How inconvenient for the aisle passenger… they should just hold it in until landing! And why, oh why, does anybody use a reading light… how inconsiderate; they should just squint the whole time!

          1. As much as I love someone using Latin, I do have to point out that I have had the last 2 arguments directed at me before. Not quite so absurd.

          2. But it’s a good point. I thought of this myself on international long haul flights: People are trying to sleep next to me and… should I turn on the reading light? Shouldn’t I ask them first?

            Many people are very sensitive to sudden changes in light. My wife is one of them.

            I think the main issue is that the anti-recliners generally tend to be tall people or highly territorial who are sensitive to invasions of their private space. Some of their concerns are reasonable and some are, just, well, jerks. Planes are crowded places. I’d be happy to have a seat in my face compared to a hack coughing passenger next to me.

        1. I would submit that perhaps the reclining seat was designed when there was more legroom on the airplane and, simply due to the cost of redesigning, hasn’t been changed. I know none of this for a fact, but it makes a little sense to me.

          1. Brand-new seat models are released all the time. And non-reclining seats are certainly available; that perennial customer service winner, Spirit (and I’m sure most of their cut-rate brethren worldwide), uses them.

          2. No – we see those with laptops being the most outraged – after all THEY have to work so why should someone else have to recline into THEIR space? Have seen this even on international flights – sorry, but I DO sleep – if you need to work, figure out something else but keeping me up all night. I am willing to work with you, but it is a two way street, after all!

  5. Think it’s bad now? Just wait until the Trophy Generation grows up a bit more. These kids are used to getting praise for “just showing up”. They are special. They are the best. They don’t know how to lose, or how to handle disappointment. Dealing with them in the “real world” is going to be a nightmare.

    1. They have already gotten there. Not that they have “grown up” because many of them still act like pre schoolers. But I deal with them at work all the time. The attitude of “Why am I getting written up for not completing my tasks? I showed up for work today, isn’t that enough?” is unbearable. And this is from Ivy League graduates.

  6. On one flight I took, the woman reclined her seat so far that her head was practically in my lap. What I did was to take my reading material and put it above her head since there was no space to put it in front of me. She slept and I read my magazine. The flight attendant asked her to put her seat up. Made my point 😀

    1. I’ve heard stories of folks adjusting their air blower overhead so that it blows directly on these folks. I’ve also heard of the “messy sneeze” being directed to the top of their head/back of their neck. I agree that the Knee Defender is probably not the way to go, and it will almost assuredly cause an argument if discovered, but what about common courtesy? If you’ve reclined your seat so far back that the person behind you can’t move, you should really rethink your priorities. Your rights to comfort only go as far as when they hamper my equal rights to comfort.

      1. I like the air blower idea, it used to be you could do the same with the light, but now they are all fixed into a certain position.

        1. I remember reading an interview with, IIRC, Larry Hagman, years ago, when he mentioned using the air blower for a different reason … to deflect any cigarette smoke coming in his direction from other airline pax (remember those days?). So, before the days of the full-recliners, there was the smoking problem!

          1. It seems almost impossible to imagine that at one time people were allowed to smoke on airplanes. Though despite all this time, they still have ashtrays built into the lavatory and armrests, WHY???

          2. Cheaper than swapping the equipment out. I flew on a regional jet last year with the old Air Wisconsin logo (early 90’s – many changes since then!) still painted on the side of the plane. I was *so* glad when the flight landed without incident.

          3. You need to choose an airline with newer planes!

            I can’t remember when I saw an ashtray on a plane. Wait, I can: Southwest 737-200 flying from HOU to SAT in 2002. Plane was retired from Southwest’s fleet the same year.

      1. To be honest, it was awhile ago, so I don’t remember, but I am almost 6′ tall so it could’ve been the full 10 degrees LOL.

  7. The two options are a bit too simplistic as both sides contribute to the problem. The airlines are simply trying to squeeze too many people into smaller and smaller seats – as the passengers get larger; I upgrade when possible pay for the seats with more legroom – I don’t like it but I also want some comfort. However, the behavior and attitude of some passengers have really become unbelievable. I notice, though, that the pushing, “me first” attitude begins at the ticket counter and accelerates at the security line. I don’t have a really good answer but flying is becoming more and more of a chore.

  8. How much would it cost to make seats and leg room adequate? I for one would be happy to pay more for a decent seat. If the cost was somewhere between first class and coach, I think many people would consider it on flights over two hours. The current option for economy plus (it is called different things on different airlines) isn’t always an improvement. While I generally opt for this, paying $25-50 more per seat, what I receive in return varies greatly. Some airlines give you an inch or two of extra leg room…but the seat is the same. Some like US Air give you nothing but a location near the front of the plane. With US Air…if you are on a long flight it is often better to wait and see rather than pay for a front of plane seat. US Air often has unsold first class seats that they offer for aruond $150 more, 24 hours prior to the flight. I like Alaska for short trips of less than two hours. While their seats are some of the smallest with the least leg room, they have a couple of features that make it a good option for short flights. First, you leave your bags plane side and pick them up there….no need to haul and store on the plane. They board from the front and back so no one has a long walk down the aisle. They serve free local beers and wines to everyone along with a small bag of nuts. For hour long flights to Seattle and Portland…it is a great deal. However, what I would like to see someone offer is a decent seat with appropriate legroom for the average traveler at a price that would allow profit for the airline and sanity for the flying public.

    1. Some simple arithmetic — A US Air Airbus 319 has 19 rows in coach with a seat pitch of 31 inches and a seat width of 18 inches. Let’s assume a baseline fare of $400. If one were to remove two rows, and evenly distribute the extra legroom among the 17 remaining rows, ticket prices would need to increase 11.7% for US Air to get the same revenue, assuming a full cabin. Your $400 fare is now $450. Worth it? Maybe…

      Similarly, remove a seat in each row to increase the width from 18 to 21 inches, and a wider aisle? (My shoulders are quite broad, so this is my main discomfort in coach) That’s a 20% increase, $400 to $480/$450 to $540 if you implement both. Doing both is a significant increase.

      This also assumes demand for these seats is completely inelastic. Unfortunately, this is not the case, studies have shown that demand for airline tickets is extremely elastic. These airlines have figured that the $50 increase for that legroom will cause a greater decrease in demand than the extra per seat revenue would generate. Some airlines have realized that the extra legroom is valuable — so they remove a row, and add the extra legroom to only three rows: they go to 41 inches while the remaining 18 rows stay at 31 inches, and they charge a premium for these seats. So, do you pay extra for premium economy on airlines like United?

      Related question: Is a premium seat with the extra ten inches of legroom worth more as a middle seat of three than an aisle seat without the legroom?

          1. Yes, and Spirit has the lowest ticket prices as well. Apparently lots of people will tolerate the pain of no leg room to save a few dollars. Or a lot of short people fly Spirit.

      1. Thanks for the analysis. If my flight is close to three hours or longer and I have an option for a more comfortable seat (21 inches) and more legroom for $140…yes. If instead the flight is two hours or less…no. I can suffer for an hour or two. My answer to the question varies…traveling solo..the aisle seat. Traveling with my husband…take the better seat even if I am middle and he has the aisle.

        1. and you nailed it… your varying answers show this is not a sustainable business model.
          (and like Mark says, the majority will go based on price alone, anyway)

        2. But your plane does not make only short flights or only long flights, so the seat pitch cannot be changed for your preference depending on the flight time. Hence the sardine section and a few rows of sardine plus. And, didn’t American offer more room throughout coach at a modestly higher price and then get rid of it as the policy hurt their competitive position?

      2. I ran the numbers and the increase for 4.5 inches in pitch only cost about 7 percent more. Keep in mind that the removal of the seats doesn’t equate to a full loss of the ticket price since the passengers not flying equate to a savings in fuel and operations. Ironically, it costs more to fly today not only because fuel prices are higher but also because the heavier people take up more fuel to move ’em.

        1. An empty Airbus A319 weighs 89,900 pounds. It carried a maximum of 116 passengers. Looking at data at average weight gain in Americans, the average American (men, women, and children) weighed about 70 kg in 1950 and about 75kg in 1980. If we extrapolate that to 80 kg today — that’s still only about 1000 more kg in human mass — 2000 points out of 90,000.

          Since most of the energy cost of flying is getting the physical aircraft from place to place — at least, that’s the case until people average 900 pounds each in weight — the much greater loads per flight today mean the per person costs are significantly lower, even with the “weight gain.”

          Fat shaming isn’t the answer here.

          1. No fat shaming. This will get moderated, but here’s a link: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303296604577450581396602106

            At least 14 percent of the cost of a ticket is the taxes and fees alone (which the airlines take a lot of blame for, I can sympathize. They are bashed for Elliott (understandly) for not wanting to advertise a total fare and the public criticizes them for costs out of their control.

            And even if the weight of a passenger seems insignificant, they do factor into the load of an aircraft. I remember a Mexican airways captain announcing that because of the load of the aircraft from all the heavy bags, it was going to take longer to fly to the destination.

            So the idea that passengers simply add money to an airlines bottom line and removing them to make room for more legroom means a total loss for them in terms of ticket revenue is highly oversimplistic. So let’s work with between 20% loss (if the ticket itself reflects that the passenger is like a potato sack with pure profit by the potatoes marching into their seats) and 7% which I calculated if we hedge in that there will be some savings in fuel, taxes, and administration. How about 10%?

            It’s clear that the airlines stuff the passengers into the tiny seats and then overcharge for upgrades. I often see entire rows of “plus” seats empty also. Like H1B’s, they appear to be great for the bottom line but in the long run, I don’t think healthy airline profits are due to the tiny seats. I think they’re more due to ticket prices having gone up due to consolidation, stagflation, and packing the flights better overall.

    2. AA tried making seats and leg room adequate throughout coach a little over a decade ago. They called it the “More Room In Coach” program. They tried to get people to pay a little extra for it and failed.

      Passengers SAY in surveys that things like legroom and customer service are more important than price, but when it comes time to actually book tickets, their actions say otherwise.

      1. I think it may have been other reasons why people didn’t want to fly AA at that time.

        I didn’t simply because their schedules didn’t align with my travel needs and I wasn’t at one of their hubs meaning nearly everywhere I wanted to go was at least one connection and usually at off hours.

        1. Its unlikely. AA, like any legacy carrier has a massive infrastructure. While the schedule may not align with a particular traveler’s needs it was not any more or less likely to align with the general public than any other legacy traveler.

          But that’s wholly irrelevant. AA was hoping that MRTC would permit it to raise prices above its competitors since it was offering a superior product. Customers did not reward AA for providing a better product, so AA returned to the business model that worked for customers, i.e. commoditization of the coach produce, i.e. sell at the lowest price possible.

          Unfortunately, but true.

      2. I wonder how much the airlines are earning in fees for economy plus style seating? This would be an indication of whether consumers are willing to pay more for more tolerable flight conditions.

          1. Since every flight I have been on in recent memory was completely full or oversold, it is impossible other passengers to tell who paid for those extra room seats and who got one by default because there were no other empty seats. Since no airline doing the extra room seats is talking of removing them, they must generate enough income to justify the missing row of seats that could be added.

    3. NO they wouldn’t – American already tried that – and folks didn’t want to pay more for those seats – so they went back to the old ways — and now you pay even more for the same seats (just unbundled). Can’t fly for free and expect all the perks, too!

  9. While I’ve only been diverted once in over a thousand flights (for reasons of weather) I can understand being anxious. If you’re trying to make a connection, rescheduling can be difficult. US-based airlines are notorious for being unsympathetic to travelers who have been inconvenienced by the airline delays so I could see someone fearing being stranded for a long time at a connecting airport.

    We’ve read cases of people going on cruises who missed their cruise because of a delay. Not everyone can afford to take time off to increase safety margins for connections.

    Worse, if you do miss a connection and need meals/hotel, who pays for this?

  10. Years ago on one flight on the seats were so close together that I couldn’t actually sit with my feet on the floor, I had my knees raised way up the back of the seat in front that the passenger in front couldn’t recline her seat. I was so uncomfortable that I stood up as soon as the seat belt sign went off until itt came back on 5 hours later. I haven’t flown on that airline since.

  11. Sprit Air has a 28″ seat pitch on it’s 737-700 aircraft. The seats don’t recline. Most of the other airlines have a 31″ seat pitch in standard coach and the seats recline. Perhaps it is time for airlines to limit the amount of recline in standard coach. By cutting the recline angle to 60% of what it presently is, there would be less passenger discomfort and fewer incidents of rage. Just a thought.

  12. Both sides are to blame.

    Many of these in-air confrontations are the result of alcohol consumption. Airlines are not going to cut you off, especially in coach where you are paying up to $10 a drink which is almost all profit, unless you become physically abusive. In going with the “spring break” attitude of many adults flying to vacations and their “me first” attitude that comes with it, I expect to see more of these types of issues.

    The spin many airlines put on the squeezing in of another row of seats is almost comical if it wasn’t for the ultimate discomfort it is causing the passengers. Southwest was one of my favorites when they recently reconfigured all of their planes with up to two more rows of seats (they didn’t go further because it would have meant an extra flight attendant on each flight). They stated that since they were using different and thinner materials on the seats the fact that they were placed up to 4 inches closer together didn’t reduce the knee room. Yeah, sure. Now I get to breath in the hair of the person in front of me when they recline and I have a better view of what they are reading than what I have in front of me.

    The different travel classes have been a part of travel ever since people have payed to be taken anywhere. This is not changing. And there is no reason for it to change. If you are willing to pay more to get from point A to B in return for a little more comfort on the journey, then great. First Class has always been over the top in what you are given by the travel provider. But so is the price you pay for it. If you as a traveler wants to pay rock bottom prices you should not expect more than rock bottom comfort as long as there are options to pay more to get more. Basic economy is perfectly fine for most travelers. The rest of us appreciate the opportunity to pay the $25 extra to get the 3 – 5 inches more of leg room.

    1. I don’t want to pay rock bottom prices nor do I want the over the top cost of first class. Why can’t there be something in the middle?

      1. This is the whole problem, IMO. Personally, I’m voting with my feet – which will be in my car, as I’m now driving any trip of 14 hours or less.

  13. “Who is responsible for the breakdown in travel manners?” It is certainly reasonable to BLAME the airlines for the discomfort they created. But they are not responsible for turning us into toddlers who have temper tantrums when we don’t get our way. Adults are responsible for their own behavior. If airlines have the power to turn us into animals, God knows what else they could do. Let’s all grow up (and stay grown up).

    1. THANK YOU. what happened to adults taking responsibility for their own behavior and not blaming it on someone else? airlines did not turn people rude.

    2. +1. Bad behavior occurs absolutely everywhere! I was going to write a long-winded anecdote about bad behavior at church and how nothing about the physical layout has changed, but figured I’ll just leave it at that. I noticed the decline in public manners about 20 years ago – so the problem isn’t airlines or seating or any of that. It’s the passengers.

  14. The non-first class airline seat you purchase comes with, for lack of a better term, an easement that entitles the seat in front of you to recline a certain amount; your seat also comes with an easement that allows you to recline. It’s really no different than buying or renting a piece of property that has an agreement attached to it saying certain people have a right to use certain pieces of this property in certain situations (running and maintaining utilities, access roads, beach entry, etc.)
    These easements don’t have to be used, but they are part of what’s been purchased and trying to prevent someone from using them is wrong.
    P.S. Just a suggestion to all of the people complaining that they’re so tall the person in front shouldn’t be allowed to recline – you’re a step away from those people who can’t fit into a coach seat due to girth and are therefore forced to either purchase a larger seat or move to a premium class. Keep complaining and the airlines will soon realize that “due to the safety and comfort of all involved, those of a certain height may not be allowed access to coach seats and would be required to purchase first-class seats” is the way to go. Quit while you’re ahead.

    1. In response to your postscript, it’s not merely a matter of height. My husband is 6’1″, but is built in such a way that all of the height shows up between his waist and his knees. I buy him the extra legroom seats when that’s an option, but that’s rarely the case on the regional jets connecting to the hubs and the bigger planes.

      (Off-topic, but pertinent: why the heck do *I* have to pay for an extra legroom seat also when I book tickets for the two of us? I don’t mind sitting in regular coach, but if I’m booking both of us at the same time, I’m stuck buying it for both of us. Let some other knee-crunched person have that spot!)

    2. I don’t mind the person in front of me reclining a few inches, but when they recline ALL the way and re nearly in my lap, it is invading on my personal space and makes it uncomfortable. The seats should have less of a recline then they do – that would stop the problem.

  15. If the person in front of me reclines their seat so far back that it causes me discomfort, I find that most will put their seat back up if I politely ask them to. I never ask for the seat to be put all the way back up, just part way, and explain that it will not only give me more room, but it will also prevent me from banging their seat if I have to reach my bag or get up for any reason. Most people will do that; they key is asking politely. Occasionally I come across a douche who refuses, but luckily that’s rare.

    Airlines and passengers are both responsible for the bad behavior on flights. Airlines show us over and over that they care more for the customers who pay more, especially when they brag about how they are spending lots of money to make their first/business class sections larger and more comfortable with more amenities. Then they charge those in coach extra for almost everything. It’s starting to feel like the coach passengers are subsidizing all the great improvements in upper classes. But overly-entitled passengers get that way on their own, as RG says below.

    1. Upper class passengers subsidize coach. All those great improvements come with a higher price tag. But if you’re a business traveler, the comfort may be worth it to arrive at your destination ready to work instead of fuzzy headed, tired, and sore.

      1. Taxpayers subsidize the entire civil aviation industry to the tune of billions of dollars per year. If what you say is true, the airlines better get ready some refunds for those of us in coach who are paying for the TSA, FAA, etc. every April 15th.

        What’s worse is, corporations are paying the lowest effective tax rate in history – and their employees are for the large part those enjoying the splendid treatment in business/first. It’s lots cheaper for them to pay extra here and their for individual plane tickets than to kick in their share of what it costs to run the infrastructure.

        1. What Carver was referring to is that those actually paying to fly in 1st or business pay a higher percentage of the airline’s cost to operate a plane than those in the cheapest coach seats. Not in reference to the government subsidies for maintaining the infrastructure.

          Having those paying the sometimes unbelievable price of 1st class means more people can afford to fly when they need to because the coach seats are less costly. However, this assumption would seem to be negated by those airlines such as Southwest that have only one class of seat and manage to make a significant profit while still charging affordable ticket prices.

          1. But they get to cherry pick their routes/seasons to maximize profitability – the legacy carriers still travel to podunk towns – and that cost is rolled into the overall pricing structure.

        2. I think we are conflating multiple concepts and muddying the waters.

          Business fares subsidizing coach fares are a direct response to It’s starting to feel like the coach passengers are subsidizing all the great improvements in upper classes

          Taxpayer subsidies are a completely different issue as it the corporate tax rate.

          For example, the company I work part time for is a startup without income and nothing to tax. I fly first class, mostly because I’m a big guy. I also pay my own fare.

    2. When the cheap seat clients require it cheaper and cheaper, we get what we have now. The front pays more, and continues to pay more and more as additions are made – and TAHT subsidizes the cheap seats.

  16. The seat reclining gadget seems to me to be an easy problem for the airlines to solve.

    There are a number of passenger controlled functions designed to the plane’s cabin. One of
    these is the ability to recline the back of one’s seat. Attempting to interfere with the ability of another passenger’s seat to recline should be prohibited by the airline and enforced by
    the flight crew.

    No one would be able to place a piece of adhesive tape over a neighbor’s air adjustment spigot just because it created a disturbing breeze. No one is permitted to disable the smoke detector in a toilet, and there are warning signs to that effect on all planes.

  17. I have to disagree that removing “statuses” from travelling would remove bad attitudes. My experience is that there is always THAT guy/girl you run into every so often. The one that thinks they’re more important than anyone and anything else.

  18. As a volunteer at our local airport, I see a lot of stressed passengers before they even get to the gate. Do I have the right boarding pass, where is the gate, will my liquids pass through security, can I bring food, will my jewelry set off the alarm, I have a knee replacement, etc?? Then they hit the security checkpoint, shoes off, belt off, laptop out, liquids out, empty pockets, jacket off – all creates a very high stress level for travelers. Once they are boarding, will there be space for my carryon luggage, who am I going to sit next to in this tiny space, what is the climate on the plane, is it too hot or cold and on and on. My point is folks who fly are already in a heightened state of anxiety before they even take their seats. Couple all of that with the downsizing of the seats and personal space on the plane, it is just a perfect storm, which is unfortunate. We are pushed to our limit of civility.

    While I do blame the airlines for putting us in this situation, we do live in a capitalist society. Bottom line the airlines want to make a profit and honestly don’t really care about the comfort of their passengers. The normal thing to do if we don’t like a product is to not use it, which sends a message to the business that we are not happy. But we are so dependent on air travel it doesn’t seem like a viable option. I don’t have an answer, but maybe there is one out there somewhere. Someone mentioned paying a little more for the fares and in turn perhaps the airlines might add more space. Maybe that is the solution if the airlines would buy into it.

    Meanwhile I think as civilized people we all need to try, as much as possible to remain civil and respectful. Take a deep breath, don’t engage with negativity, and put yourself in the happiest place possible when you fly.

    1. Someone mentioned paying a little more for the fares and in turn
      perhaps the airlines might add more space. Maybe that is the solution
      if the airlines would buy into it.

      It’s not the airlines buying into it. They will buy into whatever customers are willing to pay for it. That’s why premium grocery stores like Whole Foods exists. Unfortunately, as long as passengers purchase on price alone, that signals what passengers truly want, despite their protestations. When passengers stop shopping on price alone, then airlines can increase comfort.

      Unfortunately, the recent (last 15 years) experiments with increased comfort have generally failed.

      1. If it was just a matter of a few extra dollars, I think most would pay for it. But what I’ve seen is getting the extra room (which isn’t all that much) is a lot more expensive, and even makes it more difficult trying to arrange seats with your family who may not need the extra room.

        1. I would pay it in a heartbeat. The problem is that history has shown us that its not true. AA’s More Room Through Coach was prices just a few dollars more and people still flocked to other carriers.

    2. When the GeTSApo puts passengers in a criminal “Surrender” position, after forcing them to disrobe their shoes after waiting a long time for no good reason……yeah, I agree, the passengers already have been stressed out.

  19. You can’t recline, you can’t give me a parking ticket, I can cut to the front of the line, you must serve me first. WHY? Because I’m Special.

  20. Unless the seat behind me is empty, I will not recline. If the person in front reclines, I generally will put up with it until a meal is served. Then I will ask that they ease up a bit. My one bit of rebellion against the person in front who refuses this simple request is to use their seat back to pull myself up. They will usually react to that, especially if they were asleep. I tell them that their seat is so far back I have to use their seat-back to get up. Sometimes that solves the problem, but I never let the discussion go further. The solution to all this anger and resentment: airlines should not have seats that recline. Period. Everyone is equal. A few already do this (Alligiant Air is one). There are plenty of other issues to resolve (too-large/too manny carry-ons, etc.).

    1. I’m waiting for you to get flamed for grabbing on to the seat back to get up when the seat in front of you is reclined. I’m not enough of a contortionist to be able to get out of my seat otherwise in that situation.

      1. He shouldn’t get flamed, I do the exact same thing. I am not talking about a recline of an inch or two, but if the seat is all the way back, I can’t get up without grabbing on to the seat.

  21. John Keahey, I do the exact same thing! I am probably an idiot because I don’t recline as a courtesy to the passenger behind me. I don’t mind if someone reclines a little in front of me but when their head is nearly in my lap, it pisses me off that they are that inconsiderate. I also use their seat to help me get up and down. And you are right – the seats should not recline more than an inch or two. That is where I see this as the airlines issue, because the flight attendants will stay out of any spats caused by the airline putting in sits that recline into a passengers lap..

    But travelers have a lot less class than in the past and too many people have a “me first” attitude so that doesn’t help. I wish the answer in the survey was “Both” because that is what I would have chosen.

  22. As I read the comments, I realized there might be a fairly simple solution to the reclining seat issue. The whole deal is, recliners feel they should be able to recline in a seat that is designed to do so, but this comes at the expense of those sitting behind them. What if… the seat were designed so that the reclining function moved the seat bottom forward, rather than moving the seat back backward? I’ve seen regular reclining chairs that work this way. Then the recliners are decreasing their own leg room, and those sitting behind them are unaffected. I wonder if any engineers have ever considered this type of design.

    1. I have heard that AA is considering those seats for their next refit. Side benefit (for the airline anyway) is they also are supposed to allow the seats to be even closer together which means more rows of seats on the plane. Yippee!

    2. @Travelnut – these seats already exist in some airlines. I’ve used them and they work fine. They don’t recline very far but enough to mitigate back problems. So far they are only on a plane-by-plane installation so it’s hard to predict if you’ll get them. The seats are lighter so the airline will get better gas mileage. And @MarkKelling, yes, airlines are planning on using the extra space to put the seats closer together. But at least you the person behind you can’t scream that you are taking “their” space when you recline.

  23. The companies create the situation, how you react is up to you. Acting civilly, courteously, reasonably – this is dependent on the individual and bad behavior is not just limited to travel situations. Road rage. Rudeness in supermarket lines. Cell phones in theaters and other public venues. The list goes on.

  24. The Knee Defender device infringes upon the rights of the person, whose seat it is
    surreptitiously installed upon. There is absolutely no rationale for this device and the person employing it should be told to remove it and if they do not comply, the airline should disembark that person and press charges, in accordance with FAA rules (up to $25K fine). So long as the seat I am occupying is “rented” to me, it is my sole right to adjust my seat, as I feel comfortable. I am not obligated in any way nor at any time, to obtain the consent of the person behind me, should I choose to recline. All airlines offer “upgrades” on seat selection. You get what you pay for and if you want more, then pay more. The device should be immediately banned by the FAA and/or every airline. The ignorance of people using a knee defender is beyond the pale. Another slippery slope, in the style and arrogance of the self-righteous. Airlines are wrong, to not press charges against passengers, especially if a flight is diverted and subsequent late arrival and/or missed connections. Any and all passengers, affected by a passenger caused diversion, should seek damages, against the airline and the miscreant passenger. Expecting the person in front of you to not recline, is wishful thinking, even if you politely ask them. If a reclining seat in front of you will cause you grief, then upgrade, to a seat that has more legroom/space or to an exit row. You have options; dictating to the person in front of you, is not one of them. Choose wisely; spend accordingly.

    1. Yikes.

      If I could get away with using a knee defender, I would totally do it. Sorry. They’re impinging on my right to adequate space between me and them, and I wouldn’t feel a bit guilty about making it difficult. In the real world, I could move away. In a plane I have no options.

        1. Or, alternatively, the recliner could ask before he or she reclines… but we both know that doesn’t happen. They have the “right” to recline.

      1. Again, some of us live with excruciating pain every day. I am not exaggerating when I say my pain is at a level 8 daily. I take a lot of pain killers to dull it. I have lupus with neurological damage. I CANNOT sit upright. I started a new job this week and after one day had to run to my rheumy for shots, then the er yesterday for different meds. All bc I spent four days sitting upright. I can recline with far less pain. So you are uncomfortable for a few hours. Some of us live this way. My seat reclines. I will swap with you. But I’m reclining my seat. I paid for a seat that reclines.

        1. I have Lupus and a similar problem with my neck and go to Pain Management. If I recline, I recline maybe 2 inches, not all the way back and I take a neck pillow for my neck. I still wouldn’t recline all the way back so that it infringes on the person in back of me.I’d take two more pain killers.

          1. Let me put my pain this way. There are times that I can take four pain killers and still have my pain break through within an hour. I am not well controlled as I’ve had a full on flare for over 2 years. I have NO good days. NONE. I just started a new job and have been dying because I’m sitting up right. I had to buy a reclining office chair for $400 (it’s even reclines to lie flat) because of how much pain I’m in. I need the full recline. I can’t help it. There’s simply no other option for me.

            My pain after sitting in my office chair (the current one, not the one I ordered, which is coming tomorrow) is so bad that I’m nauseous. And it’s cumulative. Standing up for 10 minutes doesn’t fix the problem.

            When I wake up in the morning, I feel like i was run over by a bus and beaten with a baseball bat and climbed mount everest without any training. I’m sorry… I can’t… I simply CANNOT not recline. And the seats recline so little, it’s not like a “half recline” is going to cut it. I need the pressure fully off my back.

            Why do all the tall people (not you Annie) insist that those of us who need to recline buy a more expensive ticket. Why can’t they do the same?

            For you tall people, let me put it this way: the pain and discomfort you experience on a flight with a reclined seat is how I feel 100% of the time…. except worse. Try to remember your worst exercise muscle pain and multiply it times 100. Then break your back and try to sit upright. It’s really hard for me to be sympathetic.

            I am not exaggerating the amount of pain I’m in. It took over 4 years to get diagnosed so I ended up in a full flare from that time on, with the last 2 to 2 1/2 years being level 8/9 pain daily. It comes down to about a 6 with pain killers. Because they didn’t know what I had, they gave me mild pain killers. I had dilaudid break through my pain within an hour once.

            So no… I can’t feel sorry for someone whose legs are cramped for a few hours. I live in enough pain as it is. I paid for a seat and that seat comes with a reclining feature. I will switch seats with you if you like. But I am entitled to recline my seat.

            And Annie, I have just about ever accoutrement possible to make myself comfortable. I have heating pads, I have neck pillows, if you can name it, I have it. And it’s not my neck that’s the issue. It’s my entire back from my neck down to my low lumbar area. Feels like hot oil is being poured through my back. Neck pillow by itself won’t cut it. I need pressure 100% off my back. I don’t have a choice. I have to recline.

      1. The FAA’s policy on knee defender is to have each airline establish their own policy, to ban or allow knee defender. When in doubt, check with the applicable airline, but don’t assume that all have banned the device.

        1. True – but almost ALL domestic airlines have banned it, and quite a few of the international ones as well. Just a matter of time before they all do the same.

  25. One thing I NEVER see discussed when talking about seat recline, but that is a very real issue is the danger to electronics from a sudden recline of the seat in front of you. I know people who’ve had their laptops damaged when they were open on the tray table and were crushed by a reclining seat that broke the screen. I almost had that exact thing happen to me on a flight when someone suddenly reclined a long way, fast and hard. If my laptop had been a fraction of an inch taller it would have broken.

    That’s not about discomfort or courtesy – that is flat out preventing damage to laptops that can cost as much as $2000. Airlines are heavily promoting that they offer wifi but frankly, I don’t feel safe taking my laptop out to use it anymore in coach. Maybe that is one reason why they aren’t getting the revenue they expect from the service.

    1. I’m sorry… the recliners “paid for their seats” and have “a right to recline.” If your laptop gets damaged or you get smacked in the knees (or head), that’s on you. Sarcasm off. 🙂

    2. The reason airlines are not getting the revenue from the WiFi they have installed is:

      1. It costs too much. Paying $5 or $10 may not sound like much but that is for a single flight. If you make connections you pay again. (Southwest does give you an all day log in, but I know of no others doing that.) This is the same pricing scheme that made the onboard seatback phones unsuccessful.

      2. The service sucks. Either the speed is painfully slow or the service is spotty to the point that it makes it unusable. And I’m not talking about for streaming video from Netflix, but just for simply downloading and replying to basic emails.

  26. Thanks to the airlines, I limit my flights to no more than 5hrs and ideally no more than 3. I avoid peak seasons at all cost. I can’t stand arrogant/ narcissistic people. Every time I see one I just want to punch his/her face.

  27. Late to the party, but I have to share this.

    On a flight yesterday, a woman sitting one row up from me across the aisle began ringing the call button like crazy right after takeoff. The flight attendant arrived and asked what the problem was. The woman started screaming at her that her seat wouldn’t recline and since she paid for a seat she was allowed to recline when she felt like it so the person behind her must be jamming the recline and should be thrown off the plane immediately! Well, the seat was in the row right in front of the exit row – none of those seats recline, never have and never will. The flight attendant attempted to explain that to her several times, but the woman was not having any of it.

    She stood up in the seat and started yelling at the person behind her about blocking the seat recline with one of those “seat offender” devices she heard about on the news. No one would change seats with her. So the lady spent the rest of the two hour flight slamming herself back into the seat in an attempt to make the seat recline. Police were waiting when we landed.

  28. The size (width) of an airline seat has remained the same since the first 737 was built (that is like 30 or 40 years ago). It is nearly impossible for the airline to increase without increasing the size of the airplane. If they increase the size (width) of an airline seat, you couldn’t walk down the aisle with your carry-on luggage rolling behind you.

    The other option is to remove a ‘column’ of seats (3-x-3 to 3×2 or 2 x 2) and then increase the size (width) of an airline seat but the public have voted with their wallets and purses and they want cheap seats and are not willing to pay more for a wider seat.

    The “haters” will say if the top executives don’t get their big salaries then the airlines will make money and they could remove the a column of seats and install new seats. The financial reality is even if the top wage earners at the airlines were paid nothing, there wages for the normal workers are substantial. It is like taxes…even if you tax the rich at 100%; there will still be deficits…it is about the numbers…there are more middle class taxpayers than 1% taxpayers.

  29. Make all seats “nonreclinable”, but keep a few that are and make them extra if you want to recline and give a discount on the seats behind these “reclinable” seats. There problem solved!

  30. The very fact that “travel companies” *won* this poll is indicative of the me-first culture in society. No company can make individuals choose to give up their manners when dealing with other customers and customer service reps. This isn’t even a choice, and it is pretty sad.

  31. One thought I had about how ‘vacationers’ are more stressed is that part of it may be due to employers cutting vacation time (my father got an now unheard of 5 weeks vacation a year back in the 80s), the stress that over-worked (and underpaid) employees go through before vacation (trying to ‘get ahead’ of work) and after vacation (catching up), especially if they are doing the job 2-3 employees used to do before layoffs and/or constantly get threatened with their own layoff if upon returning from vacation, find that no one missed them and their position was fully covered in their absence (i.e. the employer ‘doesn’t need them’).

  32. Why on earth is everybody sniping at each other? Airlines shouldn’t install seats that don’t accomodate actual humas, and actual humans come in a variety of shapes and sizes. If your knees don’t fit in the amount of room available with the seatback in front of you reclined, that’s not your fault. It’s also not the fault of the person seated in front of you. It’s the fault of the airlines, who decided that people are all 5’5″, weigh 110 lbs., and don’t have any arms.

  33. 1/ People are saying, I bought a seat that reclines…not sure out of 1st class/business (where the advert says fold flat seat) I’ve ever seen it stated either way, so it’s an interesting call if you “bought” a reclining seat or not.

    2/ If you’re reclining on a short trip, then people are going to get the arse, especially if they are trying to drink a tea/coffee.

    3/ Airlines have plenty of rules, perhaps they needs to take the bull by the horns on this, and state what they supply, and what they think is reasonable.

    4/ Back row seats on a plane almost never recline, so that throws out the all seats recline, I’ve got a right to it argument.

    5/ If they remove reclining, then what about 8 hour cross the pond flights?

    6/ There is a reason why the seats at the front are more expensive.

  34. The airlines should realize that they may be creating potential “situations” for passengers like me…..highly claustrophobic! They absolutely did not think the smaller seat situation through. I like to fly, but who knows what might happen. I cannot sit in middle seats, if that gives you a idea.

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