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To Recline or Not To Recline?

Last February I wrote a blog post about the man who sat behind me on a seventeen-hour international flight (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Toronto, Canada) and refused to let me recline my seat. The post generated a good amount of traffic and fiercely opinionated comments, both in support of my right to recline and in support of his right to leg space.

airplane legroom

This week a United Airlines flight had to be diverted (Newark to Denver, diverted to Chicago) after a fight broke out between two passengers. A man used the Knee Defender to prevent the seat in front from reclining. The passenger in front demanded he remove the device, he refused. The flight attendant demanded he remove it (though not banned by the FAA, the device is not allowed on United Airlines flights), he refused. The female passenger threw a cup of water in his face. The plane diverted, both were kicked off, and continued on its merry (and delayed) way.

Who was right? Was I right to be angry that I couldn’t recline for seventeen hours? Or was the man behind me right to defend his leg room?

In my situation, he reclined his own seat. He also refused to acknowledge me during the entire flight. He wouldn’t meet my eye, didn’t politely explain that he had long legs, didn’t engage in any constructive way.

My father is 6’3” and says that every time he boards a plane (he rides economy class), he speaks with the person in front of him. He says, “I’m a big guy. I know you will want to recline your seat and you have every right to do so. All I ask is that you please inform me before reclining so that I can adjust my legs and my tray table.”

He says he has never had a problem. Not only that but most times, the passenger in front doesn’t end up reclining.

I tend to believe that people are generally reasonable and that when this kind of conversation happens, both sides can be gracious. But in my opinion, refusing to discuss the recline or slipping on a sneaky device without discussing it will only serve to bring out the fury in already exhausted and stressed passengers.

Perhaps a reasonable suggestion might be that on overnight flights or when you are traveling with an infant on your lap or when your legs are longer than average, passengers simply have a discussion with people in front or behind. Flying can bring out the worst in everyone, I know. I’ve been on thirty and forty hour journeys (departing for yet another one in less than 24 hours). With three young children. But I don’t think it is asking too much for the adults among us to behave like adults which might mean not throwing water in faces, not growling and shaking seats, but simply having a conversation.

What do you think? Do passengers have a right to recline? A right to refuse to be reclined into?

*image via Flickr

By |August 27th, 2014|Categories: Expat Thoughts|Tags: , |17 Comments

Dear Mr. Jerk Sitting Behind Me on the Plane

Dear Man Seated Behind Me on Ethiopian Flight 500 from Addis Ababa to Washington,

I first noticed you when you loaded your carry-on bags into the overhead compartment. You made those mumbled complaining noises and said something about, “What the hell is this?” because my carry-on was already up there. Your two bags fit just fine, with a little maneuvering but you huffed and puffed for a while and I ignored you. I was reading Anton Chekhov.

I am a woman of average height and lifted my carry-on without any trouble so it was a little surprising that such a tall, stern man as yourself needed to make so much noise about it, but to each his own.

After first dinner was served I reclined my seat in order to sleep. It was 2:00 a.m. in my body. I heard another grunt and groan and for the next hour you jammed your knees into my seat, bobbed your legs up and down, leaned over and signed heavily. I pretended the earthquake in my seat was merely airplane turbulence and ignored you. I had actually forgotten that you were the man who had so much trouble with his bags and I assumed that you were a toddler, or maybe a five-year old, compulsively kicking the seat of the person in front of you.

I didn’t say anything because I was so tired that I managed to doze off and on until a particularly hard jab jerked me awake. But such is trying to sleep on an airplane.

airplane jerk

I went to the bathroom.

While I was gone you adjusted me seat for me, thank you O kind sir, so that now it was in the upright position and your knees were jammed in hard against the back so that no matter how hard I pushed I could no longer recline even one inch.

You had an empty seat beside you. Why not sit there? Why not stretch your legs comfortably out to the side? Why act like a spoiled child? (And, question to self: why am I not more aggressive in demanding you stop or seeking flight attendant assistance?) If you are so tall that your space needs to invade mine on a seventeen-hour flight (and actually you are not that tall, I saw you stand up and shout at the airport employee after we landed), you need to stop being an ass and purchase a ticket in business class.

Now that you learned I want to recline and that you can stop such reclining with your knees, you have not budged. You have not gone to the bathroom, you have not retrieved anything from your bags, though you watched with beady suspicion while I pulled my laptop out of my carry-on. Don’t worry, I only briefly touched your bags as they had shifted during the flight. Just following the safety guidelines.

Everytime I turn around to ask if I could please recline, I mean we are talking 17 hours in these positions, you close your eyes and feign deep sleep. This is amazing, that you can sleep so long but jump to the alert if my chair starts to move as though I wish to recline.

I suppose I should thank you, normally I have the most awful time trying to work on airplanes. But now what else can I do? I have to write about you. So, thank you and no thank you.


Tired of Traveling

*image via Flickr

By |February 11th, 2014|Categories: Expat Thoughts|Tags: , |23 Comments
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