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"And I’m going to keep doing it, unless you pay me to stop."
August 27, 2014 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Don’t Want Me to Recline My Airline Seat? You Can Pay Me [New York Times]
"...airline seats are an excellent case study for the Coase Theorem. This is an economic theory holding that it doesn’t matter very much who is initially given a property right; so long as you clearly define it and transaction costs are low, people will trade the right so that it ends up in the hands of whoever values it most. That is, I own the right to recline, and if my reclining bothers you, you can pay me to stop."
posted by Fizz (548 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
People who recline seats on airlines (without asking first) are bad people and should feel bad.

I am more pro-markets than most folks around here, but I don't think that one should have to pay people to be neighbourly.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:20 AM on August 27 [32 favorites]


Ugh.

It's like rats in a cage. Maybe there's some way to encourage the cage-driver to give the rats a bit more legroom?

Or just give up and figure out how to profit from this mess -- set up a seat-sharing app service like tinder or whatever so passengers can sell each other their seats once on board, but before the no gadgets thing comes on?
posted by notyou at 8:21 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Fuck being civil to each other as human beings.

Everything in life has a $ attached to it. Because how else are you gonna define human interactions?

Douchebags like this make the world worse and coarser.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:22 AM on August 27 [42 favorites]


Perhaps this Josh Barro guy is the a-hole seated in front of 7-footer Hasheem Thabeet in these pictures.

I'm 6'5" and what's happened with legroom in flights over the last decade is not just uncomfortable for me, when it comes to people in front of me reclining it's downright excruciatingly painful. When I'm sitting with my butt all the way to the back of the seat and my knee is jammed against the seat in front of me, there is no place for my leg to go if you recline. So please, if you are a haughty Josh Barro-type, at least show the courtesy to tell the tall person behind you that you are going to cause him physical pain before you just jam the seat back to "relax".

Fuck I hate air travel.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:24 AM on August 27 [19 favorites]


This is an economic theory holding that it doesn’t matter very much who is initially given a property right; so long as you clearly define it and transaction costs are low, people will trade the right so that it ends up in the hands of whoever values it most.

FWIW, the Coase theorem doesn't prove that it doesn't matter who is initially given a property right; it proves that transaction costs affect the efficient distribution of rights in surprising ways.

Coase's whole career was about looking at transaction costs; his point was that an economics that didn't take them into account was like a physics that didn't bother to model friction. The article makes that point further on, a bit, but I thought it worth bringing up here.

Moreover, the norm of not bargaining with strangers over every little thing is a kind of transaction cost (i.e., the cost is the displeasure you feel in engaging in this kind of bargaining) but it is at least possible that that norm is adaptive for other reasons. This kind of inquiry is often very complicated.
posted by gauche at 8:24 AM on August 27 [27 favorites]


Aw yeah, capitalism! Solvin' probs by turnin' a grown adult into tiny petty whine babie

MONETIZE EM, CAPITALISM
posted by Greg Nog at 8:24 AM on August 27 [17 favorites]


Pay you money to not recline the seat? Pay me money to not constantly open and close the tray, knocking it against the hard plastic tray enclosure each time.

Don't try to out evil me when it comes to leg room asshole. I'm 6'6" and I won't hesitate to resort to Cold War MAD tactics to keep my knees from being indented into the back of your seat.
posted by Slackermagee at 8:26 AM on August 27 [25 favorites]


The fact that a value can be assigned to whether the person in front of you reclines their seat is a great example of how an "efficient" market is frequently incompatible with actual human needs.
posted by Poldo at 8:26 AM on August 27 [22 favorites]


People who recline seats on airlines (without asking first) are bad people and should feel bad.

Airline executives who set their seat pitches so close making reclining without painful knee contact impossible are bad people and should be sentenced to thirty years of hard sitting in coach class.

I avoid flying whenever possible, partly because of the whole demeaning ritual that it has become, but also partly because of the decisions airlines have made to keep squeezing more seats in while removing whatever paltry amenities there used to be.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:28 AM on August 27 [36 favorites]


Recliners are terrible people who value 3 seconds of vague extra comfort over giving you hours of discomfort. I am not surprised that a Republican strategist sympathizes with them.
posted by threeants at 8:29 AM on August 27 [36 favorites]


I took six long haul flights this month and the only time this bothered me was when someone would slam their seat back quickly and all at once. If you're going to recline, do it slowly so my drink doesn't splash.
posted by troika at 8:29 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


People who complain about people reclining in their seats on airlines, with or without asking first, are bad people and should feel bad.

The seat reclines. My space on the plane is the legroom in front of me, and the space by which my seat can recline behind me.

If you are behind me, then recline your seat as well, and you will have the same amount of space as I am enjoying. Everyone should just recline their seats, and then there wouldn't be an issue.

It is extremely uncomfortable for me to sit upright for an entire ride--in my neck, my legs, and my knees.

Plane seats recline. That is what they are designed to do. Plan accordingly.

I don't know what the hell it is with people treating those who recline their seats like inconsiderate assholes. Ask nicely, maybe even offer me a drink, and I will probably move my seat up. Act like I've just turned around and dumped water in your lap, and my seat will stay back. I don't care if you bobble the back of my seat for three hours--as has happened--it is still more comfortable than riding upright.
posted by oneironaut at 8:30 AM on August 27 [147 favorites]


Well then, I'm gonna keep jamming my knees into your back until you pay me to stop. If you want me to stop belching and farting, that's extra.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:30 AM on August 27 [17 favorites]


What? I always recline. That's what the button is for. Don't hate the player, hate the game.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:31 AM on August 27 [43 favorites]


Yeah, you wanna see how long I can keep up that Charlie Watts rhythm from "Get Off My Cloud" on the back you your seat, Libertarian dick-wad? That backbeat drum fill is a fun one. Oh, and look; my knee is right up against a nice surface for the bass drum kick.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:32 AM on August 27 [14 favorites]


I forgot to add the 'passive-aggressive' tag for this post.
posted by Fizz at 8:32 AM on August 27 [42 favorites]


My space on the plane is the legroom in front of me, and the space by which my seat can recline behind me.

My space is the quarter-inch directly in front of my kneecaps though, and reclining doesn't give my kneecaps more space.
posted by Jeanne at 8:32 AM on August 27 [14 favorites]


People who complain about people reclining in their seats on airlines, with or without asking first, are bad people and should feel bad.

The seat reclines. My space on the plane is the legroom in front of me, and the space by which my seat can recline behind me.


I agree with this. I don't have to ask you to use my space.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:32 AM on August 27 [17 favorites]


(And I blame the execs trying to squeeze more people onto smaller planes more than I blame the person in front of me, but still, my kneecaps, ow.)
posted by Jeanne at 8:33 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Gosh, I can't stop sneezing.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:33 AM on August 27 [7 favorites]


As to the 7-foot-NBA player...surely that is a man who can afford business class? He certainly pays for custom suits. And he has access to a whole host of privileges that most others don't have. You could argue that by seating in economy, he is inconveniencing someone else.

Sitting upright sucks just as much as having your knees jammed, at least for some people.

That said, ask me politely, offer me a drink, and we'll work something out.
posted by oneironaut at 8:34 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I suspect at this point, there's literally nothing a person can do inside of an airplane that does not make them an asshole to someone, somehow.
posted by griphus at 8:34 AM on August 27 [93 favorites]


I'd like to announce my new app: Seatr.
posted by elwoodwiles at 8:34 AM on August 27 [13 favorites]


I like the seats on the 787 I took from Narita to SEA last time. The seats don't recline back, the butt cushion scoots forward and the back kind of slants from the top down to that. So if you want to recline, you're reducing your own legroom, not someone else's.

Took me two hours to figure out why my seat wouldn't go back, though, before I got the concept.
posted by ctmf at 8:35 AM on August 27 [45 favorites]


Like, oh, hey, you're tall? Congratulations on not having to engage in bloodsport to get your bags into and out of the overhead compartment.
posted by griphus at 8:35 AM on August 27 [17 favorites]


I suspect at this point, there's literally nothing a person can do inside of an airplane that does not make them an asshole to someone, somehow.

Challenge accepted.
posted by Fizz at 8:36 AM on August 27 [8 favorites]


The real question is why the fuck do airline seats even recline anymore? The recliner mechanism must cost money and add weight; why don't they just dispense with it? It doesn't many any sense given the stupidly tight seat pitches they're now installing on aircraft.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:36 AM on August 27 [16 favorites]


This does sound like a case for regulation. If airlines have compressed the space between seats to the point where reclining the seat causes physical discomfort in the ordinary case, they need to remove the ability to recline or increase the space again. This is actually a health and safety issue, spending hours with something pressing on your knees is not going to be a trivial thing for everyone.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:36 AM on August 27 [14 favorites]


I wonder what somebody would pay me to eschew the hippie deodorant in favor of the regular kind.
posted by box at 8:37 AM on August 27


Want me to read your op-ed advocating market-based mechanisms for even the most basic, trivial aspects of human life because that's the only kind of social interaction that your ideology accommodates? Pay me.
posted by RogerB at 8:37 AM on August 27 [37 favorites]


Yer late, elwoodwiles, and my brand ambassadors will arrive shortly to begin flooding your service with phony seat exchange offers.

Unless you'd like to pay me.

Good day, sir.
posted by notyou at 8:37 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I read that as the Coarse Theorem, which seems about right.

(I wonder how tall the author is.)
posted by IndigoJones at 8:37 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


This is an economic theory holding that it doesn’t matter very much who is initially given a property right; so long as you clearly define it and transaction costs are low, people will trade the right so that it ends up in the hands of whoever values it most. (emphasis mine)

Oh, really? So the woman who just got evicted and now sleeps on the sidewalk outside my building: she didn't value a roof over her head enough? If by "value it most" you mean "provides effective demand for" this is not very far from a tautologous statement (though Coase, unlike this vulgarizer, at least had some formally interesting things to say about how transactions are actually made without wading into political economy).

Property rights have never been decided upon by a big community meeting and rational debate: they're imposed by the strong against the weak. In the European transition from feudal to capitalist organization, the peasantry had to be separated from the land by force to create a pool of wage workers. Colonialism and slavery brought property rights to the rest of the world.

Capitalists are constantly on the look out for new social relations to restructure as commodity exchange. This may seem like a pretty petty example of that - and it is - but I think the revulsion this inspires hints at a deeper disquiet.
posted by wobdev at 8:37 AM on August 27 [56 favorites]


On long flights I always recline, everyone in front of me always reclines, and no one has ever asked me first. Not even once. This thread has me really confused.
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 8:38 AM on August 27 [43 favorites]


If you want me to stop belching and farting, that's extra.

It's not the person in front of you who will be most bothered by that.

Yeah, you wanna see how long I can keep up that Charlie Watts rhythm from "Get Off My Cloud" on the back you your seat, Libertarian dick-wad?

I'm going to guess about 5-10 minutes at the most. Again, your other neighbors might find that really annoying.

You guys are going to have to do better!
posted by Edgewise at 8:38 AM on August 27


If you are behind me, then recline your seat as well, and you will have the same amount of space as I am enjoying. Everyone should just recline their seats, and then there wouldn't be an issue.

Unless you are on 6 hour overnight flight in a seat against a bulkhead that doesn't recline. (still bitter)
posted by burnmp3s at 8:39 AM on August 27 [16 favorites]


As to the 7-foot-NBA player...surely that is a man who can afford business class?

His personal ability to pay to avoid inconvenience is indeed a huge relief to all the tall non-wealthy people who are similarly inconvenienced without a means of redress.
posted by cjelli at 8:39 AM on August 27 [12 favorites]


Want me to read your op-ed advocating market-based mechanisms for even the most basic, trivial aspects of human life because that's the only kind of social interaction that your ideology accommodates? Pay me.
posted by RogerB at 11:37 AM on August 27 [1 favorite +] [!]
"We hoped you enjoyed reading your 20 free articles this month. TO KEEP READING SIGN UP TODAY!"
posted by Fizz at 8:39 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Like, oh, hey, you're tall? Congratulations on not having to engage in bloodsport to get your bags into and out of the overhead compartment.

I just pay the extra $25 or whatever to be Group One. I'm not dealing with that BS anymore.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:40 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


...if they really cared that much, someone would have opened his wallet and paid me by now.
Or people generally don't think that (the threat of) assholish behaviour should be rewarded with money. A lot of behavioural economics seems to assume that "value" is fungible, that all our cares can be expressed in and addressed by money. I can see that it's a useful model, but it just doesn't seem to reflect how most people think most of the time.

Your reward for sticking to social convention isn't money, it's people around you also sticking to social convention: they're paying you by not throwing a glass of water in your face.
posted by metaBugs at 8:41 AM on August 27 [16 favorites]


Or, I play one of those games on the back-of-your-seat screen that involves lots of finger-jabbing, and I jab really, really hard and often. One of the very rare occasions when I approve of passive aggression, because it's just too much fun.
posted by Decani at 8:41 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I'm hairy to announce that we airlines have come up with a solution to the problem; from now on, passengers will be standing in flight.

Of course we don't expect you to bear all the weight through the entire for hour flight and six hour layover period; that's why we will have padded rest bars that go behind your rear and knees. So it's really not like crouching through the flight, or leaning on a desk for ten hours.

And the plus side is, we'll be able to fit 30% more people on a given flight! Don't thank us, we live for passenger service.
posted by happyroach at 8:41 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


ITT: Passive aggressive 15-year olds
posted by shakespeherian at 8:41 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


...and such small portions, too.
posted by entropone at 8:42 AM on August 27


I'm hairy to announce that we airlines have come up with a solution to the problem; from now on, passengers will be standing in flight.

You joke but....
posted by Fizz at 8:44 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Boy, everything really is amazing and nobody's happy at all, huh?
posted by Zack_Replica at 8:45 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]


His personal ability to pay to avoid inconvenience is indeed a huge relief to all the tall non-wealthy people who are similarly inconvenienced without a means of redress.

In my experience, it doesn't cost anything to get a seat behind a bulkhead. More legroom, no one reclining into your space. Failing that, emergency exit row.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:45 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


"my dear fellow air traveler, i decline to pay a bribe for that, but i do have a question for you. if you continue to recline on me after this question, have you considered how easy it would be for me to garrotte you with my shoelaces, and do you think the flight crew could get them loosened from around your neck in time? are you aware that death from vagus nerve inhibition can come significantly sooner than death from asphyxiation?"

*removes shoelaces, braids them together*
posted by bruce at 8:46 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


If you want me to stop belching and farting, that's extra.


I will give you ten bucks to crop dust Our First Class Passengers.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:46 AM on August 27 [12 favorites]


ugh, the worst was recently when a woman reclined her toddler's seat all the way onto me. YO LADY, YOUR CHILD IS BARELY SENTIENT YET, I REALLY DON'T THINK SHE CARES ABOUT SEAT PITCH
posted by threeants at 8:46 AM on August 27 [17 favorites]


happyroach/Fizz, that makes sense--if a plane crashes, you're totally going to die anyway, so what's it matter?
posted by resurrexit at 8:46 AM on August 27


Sys Rq may be on to something: Every row should be the emergency exit row.
posted by notyou at 8:46 AM on August 27


The real question is why the fuck do airline seats even recline anymore? The recliner mechanism must cost money and add weight; why don't they just dispense with it?

It's a pretty good scam when the airline can sell you a seat that's too small for you and get you to blame one of the other passengers.
posted by straight at 8:46 AM on August 27 [67 favorites]


Your reward for sticking to social convention isn't money, it's people around you also sticking to social convention: they're paying you by not throwing a glass of water in your face.

Amen.
posted by gauche at 8:47 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Everyone should just recline their seats, and then there wouldn't be an issue.

How tall are you? The thing is, because of the way the seats are arranged, you don't actually gain very much leg room from leaning back. The optimal amount of leg room is when everyone has their seats up.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:47 AM on August 27 [14 favorites]


No way the airlines would allow passengers to capture the revenue that could be obtained by meeting the preferences of recliners and non-recliners. If people started paying each other, instead the airlines would charge extra to recline and also charge extra to avoid being reclined into, then assign seats in such a way that satisfied both groups.
posted by procrastination at 8:47 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I fly maybe once every ten years, so every flight brings a new and very unpleasant surprise. In 2004 it was security theatre, and this time it's bizarrely cramped seats. I wonder what it'll be next time, 'cause I don't think it'll be better than now.

(otoh, the 1984-1994 transition brought with it nonsmoking flights, not just nonsmoking sections, so that was pretty good).
posted by Mogur at 8:47 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Not all airplane seats recline.

The real issue here is that airlines treat people like cattle and it brings out such a "fuck you got mine" attitude in people across the board. No one waits until their zone is called unless its enforced. No one acts polite when there's a little old lady hobbling down the aisle slowly. People don't smile at one another. They don't share armrests. They move your stuff from the overhead bin if it suits them, and steal the in-flight magazine from your seat pocket before you sit down. I can count on one hand the amount of times someone has offered to help me deal with putting my teeny-tiny suitcase in the overhead bin - instead, people usually just stand back and sigh and get annoyed with me for taking so long to do it, because I'm not even five feet tall and I can't really physically reach up there. They take up more room than they should in the space under the seat in front of them. They play games on their phones with the sound all the way up. They call their friend as soon as the wheels hit the pavement to screech, "Yeah we're taxi-ing to the gate now, I'll call you again when I'm at the gate," as if that information is necessary to transmit right at that moment. They unclick their seatbelts before the captain gives the go-ahead and stand up to make sure they are in the aisle first so no one can sneak up and get off the plane a few seconds earlier than they're entitled to based on their seat.

Reclining is such a direct action - the rest of these things are mainly about one person being rude or insensitive to multiple other people, or many people being insensitive to one person. And I think that's why people get upset about it: it's one-to-one. I've decided that my comfort is more important than yours when I recline.

tl;dr flying brings out the worst in people.
posted by sockermom at 8:47 AM on August 27 [44 favorites]


I just realize I am basically Brigadoon when it comes to air passengers.
posted by Mogur at 8:48 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I don't understand the logic behind the Knee Defender.

I mean, I get what it does. I get why a person would prefer the person in front of them not recline.

What I don't get is the train of logic. Trying to be comfortable at another person's expense is a dick move. Therefore, I will try to be comfortable at your expense, because fuck you, I brought accessories.

Planes are uncomfortable. Reclining is permitted. If exceptionally fat people must deal with their special space needs by buying a second seat, why would exceptionally tall people have a special right to deny the person in front of them the right to recline because they have long legs? Upgrade your ticket or STFU.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:48 AM on August 27 [29 favorites]


Time for the airlines, not the passengers, to monetize it. Just like they have with extra bags, economy "plus" seats, drinks, etc.

--Don't want a 300+ lb. person jammed in the seat (and in to your seat-width space) next to you? Extra!

--Don't want a little kid in back of you kicking the seat randomly the entire flight? Extra!

I dunno how they'd monetize avoiding the person next to you with a half-bottle of some extremely cloying perfume though....

(Yes, I've had these happen several times).

I don't see any way a physical device that alters the space of another passenger is going to be OK in the end....

...and where was the sky marshal when the steward/ess asked the person to remove the device an they refused?
posted by CrowGoat at 8:48 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I rarely recline my seat when flying, mostly because I don't want to make the flight miserable for the person behind me. But then I'm average height so I can manage in relative-ish comfort. I do wish we could politely agree about the armrest though (I am looking at YOU, shitty mean lady on the flight from London to Ottawa; you were a constant dick for no damn good reason).
posted by Kitteh at 8:49 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


In my experience, it doesn't cost anything to get a seat behind a bulkhead. More legroom, no one reclining into your space. Failing that, emergency exit row.

Have you flown recently? Those are all premium seats you need to pay extra for, or be a super elite frequent flyer member to get. Some airlines charge extra to reserve aisle seats.
posted by procrastination at 8:49 AM on August 27 [25 favorites]


ugh, the worst was recently when a woman reclined her toddler's seat all the way onto me.

Perhaps she was doing it to keep Precious from kicking the seat in front of them the entire. fucking. flight.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:49 AM on August 27 [9 favorites]


I agree that if you’ve paid for a seat you can recline it, and that doesn’t necessarily make you an asshole. But checking behind you to see if it will seriously inconvenience the person sitting there is considerate (and consideration for others, in any form, seems to be a vanishing thing)

Leaving your seat reclined during meal service is rather inconsiderate, though. As is pushing your sock-clad feet through the gap between my seat and the next, when your foot odour positively honks.

And if we’ve both reclined our seats and I need to get out, pardon me if I grab your headrest to help me… some of us aren’t as young and limber as we were.

(says he, having just done 9 hours from London to India)
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 8:50 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]


The real issue here is that airlines treat people like cattle and it brings out such a "fuck you got mine" attitude in people across the board

Bingo. I was supposed to be on a flight to Orlando (from LGA) last January. We had already boarded, and then something was wrong with the plane. They told us it would take three hours to fix. Three hours became six, and then nine. They told us the plane was taxi-ing to the gate, and then five minutes later it was cancelled. Full fight, mostly children. I ended up sprinting to a flight to Tampa and taking a $200 taxi.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:50 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


shakespeherian: “ITT: Passive aggressive 15-year olds”

Sheesh. Seriously. I usually try to get the seat at the back of the plane, because I don't need to recline and because I'd rather not have people behind me. I am not exactly a small guy and stand over six feet tall, but having the person in front of me recline has never once bothered me in the slightest.

This is another one of those ridiculous cases where people don't want the hassle of punching up so they punch across. Y'all do realize that other passengers generally aren't the ones who made airplanes cramped, right?

I think it's just human nature to be aggravated at the first person you see when the aggravation strikes, whether that person is in any way responsible or not. Especially in close quarters. This causes a lot of problems for humans, because it keeps us from ever actually solving problems.
posted by koeselitz at 8:51 AM on August 27 [39 favorites]


This is another one of those ridiculous cases where people don't want the hassle of punching up so they punch across. Y'all do realize that other passengers generally aren't the ones who made airplanes cramped, right?

Yes. This.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:52 AM on August 27 [11 favorites]


In my experience, it doesn't cost anything to get a seat behind a bulkhead. More legroom, no one reclining into your space. Failing that, emergency exit row.

You are flying different airlines than I am, then. I take dozens of flights a year on three to six different carriers and I cannot recall the last time I was not offered at booking the ability to preselect my seat for a "small extra charge."

Not that it matters overmuch: a relative was recently flying with a companion recently in the once-excellent Porter Air. Porter flies little Bombardier prop planes, so their flight from St. John's, Newfoundland to Toronto ON was actually three flights (stopping at Halifax NS and Montreal QC). They paid for the front row for all three flights to avoid knee smashes and in Montreal the cabin crew shuffled them back to row 22 because the seats had also been sold to other passengers.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:55 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Modern air travel is full of inconveniences and indignities, which is why even though I think flight is a beautiful achievement I loathe flying commercially.

Consider, however, that some people get motion sickness quite easily, and that it helps these people enormously to be able to lean back just a little, especially if it means a more comfortable place than the edge of the window for their heads to contact the fuselage. Then go ahead call me a libertarian dickbag and threaten to act like a spoiled child anyway.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:55 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


The real issue here is that airlines treat people like cattle and it brings out such a "fuck you got mine" attitude in people across the board


I'm pretty sure "FUCK YOU" is Spirit Airlines official motto.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:55 AM on August 27 [13 favorites]


I'm 6'3", and I just attribute the lack of legroom as a temporary hassle to endure for being above average height. I fly at least once a month (LA to the Bay Area, so not far), and I've never held it against the person in front for reclining. I'd rather have painful knees for an hour than be 5'10" or something.
posted by sideshow at 8:55 AM on August 27 [16 favorites]


Y'all do realize that other passengers generally aren't the ones who made airplanes cramped, right?

Absolutely, but this excuses callous behavior to those around you?

In movie theaters I slump way down in my seat when there's somebody behind me, because I'm really really tall and I ruin the movie for them if I don't do it. This is called being considerate. That's what I'd ideally hope for in those sitting in front of me on an airplane. I guess it's too much to ask though, because "it's the airlines fault."
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:56 AM on August 27 [18 favorites]


Now I really kinda wish I knew this Barro guy. I mean, I can think of all sorts of annoying things to constantly do that almost certainly aren't criminal or legally actionable. Enjoy your no income after you finish paying me, motherfucker!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:56 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I'm 6' 4. I only recline my seat if it's a long-haul flight and we're all engaging in the charade of trying to sleep on an airplane. It's uncomfortable for me to be in most airplane seats for any length of time and worse, of course, if the person in front of me reclines their seat. It has never, however, even occurred to me that I have any legitimate reason to complain if the person in front of me reclines their seat. They were sold a reclining seat. It's their right to use the functions of the seat they bought. I bought a seat knowing full well that there was a reclineable seat in front of it. I can't see what right I have to complain if the occupant of that seat chooses to recline it.
posted by yoink at 8:57 AM on August 27 [20 favorites]


If you want a picture of your future, John Barro, imagine Jim Carrey making that horrible noise from Dumb and Dumber... forever.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:57 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Trying to be comfortable at another person's expense is a dick move.

Why does your own "trying to be comfortable" trump my "desire to not be in serious pain the whole flight"?
posted by Cosine at 8:57 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


yoink: just because something is possible doesn't mean it's a nice thing to do, as a tall person I am stunned you don't get this one.
posted by Cosine at 8:58 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


The real question is why the fuck do airline seats even recline anymore?

Seriously. I'm sure the cost of diverting a flight because someone flipped out is huge, why not eliminate as much potential conflict as possible?
posted by ghharr at 8:59 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Why does your own "trying to be comfortable" trump my "desire to not be in serious pain the whole flight"?


Why is "I am tall and need more space" a problem for other people while "You are fat and will have to buy an additional seat" is a personal problem?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:00 AM on August 27 [17 favorites]


I'm glad he booted the BOTH of them off. They were both assholes.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:00 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Why does your own "trying to be comfortable" trump my "desire to not be in serious pain the whole flight"?

So is this a "serious pain when someone else reclines" pain or a "serious pain when I am sitting in the unreclined seat" pain? Because both exist.
posted by jeather at 9:00 AM on August 27 [11 favorites]


I'm hairy to announce that we airlines have come up with a solution to the problem; from now on, passengers will be standing in flight.

I would love this as an option for all flights, just give me a pole or strap to hang on. I would have murdered someone to stand the six hours it took to fly to Spain, rather deal with Knee McBasherperson the row ahead, and the grab-the-seat-back-for-dear-life-every-time-the-plane-moves-funny lady sitting behind me. Just a small spot to stand, even for a few hours.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:01 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


The only way this discussion could be more predictably contentious is if it included bicycles.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:01 AM on August 27 [30 favorites]


Don't try to out evil me when it comes to leg room asshole. I'm 6'6" and I won't hesitate to resort to Cold War MAD tactics to keep my knees from being indented into the back of your seat.

This all day long. My last flight from ATL to BOS I was seated in front of a woman who reclined directly into my knees (I'm 6'3"). My initial impulse was to try and comfortably accommodate her, but that proved impossible since there was literally nowhere for my legs to go except for diagonally into the aisle. So I tucked my knees up and pressed firmly into the seat. She pushed back. I pushed forward. I had all of the leverage. She turned around and shot me a dirty look. I smiled back. We went on like that for the entire flight, neither of us comfortable.

If you're going to be an asshole in a confined space, prepare to find out exactly how fucking stubborn I can be.
posted by echocollate at 9:02 AM on August 27 [8 favorites]


Seriously. I'm sure the cost of diverting a flight because someone flipped out is huge, why not eliminate as much potential conflict as possible?

Honestly, I'm looking forward to SleepyTime Airlines where they flood the entire interior of the plane with sleeping gas upon takeoff.
posted by griphus at 9:02 AM on August 27 [26 favorites]


I'm mostly flabbergasted at the suggestion that someone reclining their seat in front of you causes "SERIOUS PAIN." Really? Like I said above, I'm more than six feet tall, so I figured I was taller than average, but I have never experienced any reduction in comfort from simply having the person in front of me recline their seat. There are fluctuations in comfort on a plane, and planes just aren't comfortable in general, but I've never thought to myself, "oooh, I wish they hadn't reclined their seat." Those things barely recline anyway – it's like an inch or two, so I barely notice it.
posted by koeselitz at 9:03 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


Like, oh, hey, you're tall? Congratulations on not having to engage in bloodsport to get your bags into and out of the overhead compartment.

Yea, this falls a little flat as I'm offering to help everyone around me access their luggage in the overhead spaces.
posted by echocollate at 9:04 AM on August 27


This all day long. My last flight from ATL to BOS I was seated in front of a woman who reclined directly into my knees (I'm 6'3"). My initial impulse was to try and comfortably accommodate her, but that proved impossible since there was literally nowhere for my legs to go except for diagonally into the aisle. So I tucked my knees up and pressed firmly into the seat. She pushed back. I pushed forward. I had all of the leverage. She turned around and shot me a dirty look. I smiled back. We went on like that for the entire flight, neither of us comfortable.

You were the one behaving badly. If you need extra room beyond the leg room in front of you when someone is relining, you need to buy the extra leg room.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:04 AM on August 27 [30 favorites]


Property rights have never been decided upon by a big community meeting and rational debate: they're imposed by the strong against the weak. In the European transition from feudal to capitalist organization, the peasantry had to be separated from the land by force to create a pool of wage workers. Colonialism and slavery brought property rights to the rest of the world.

Tell that to the peasants who abandoned land wholesale after the Black Death in search of better wages!

They also had pretty good legroom in 1351! And the 737 was considered a new plane back then too!
posted by Thing at 9:04 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I'm mostly flabbergasted at the suggestion that someone reclining their seat in front of you causes "SERIOUS PAIN." Really?

Really! Everybody's different. Be happy this isn't an issue for you; it is for other people.
posted by cjelli at 9:05 AM on August 27 [9 favorites]


Honestly, I'm looking forward to SleepyTime Airlines where they flood the entire interior of the plane with sleeping gas upon takeoff.
posted by griphus at 12:02 PM on August 27 [3 favorites +] [!]

Just get slightly drunk before you board, but not so drunk that you cannot walk or communicate or get on the wrong flight.
posted by Fizz at 9:06 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that my personal experience exactly mirrors the personal experience of everyone else in existence, and therefore will now regale you with anecdotes from my life that will illustrate the various ways in which you have all failed as human beings.
posted by aramaic at 9:07 AM on August 27 [16 favorites]


I once flew Chicago to Munich overnight on a LOT flight positioned right in front of the restroom, where my seat could not recline even a millimeter. I can personally assure you that being forced to sit completely upright overnight for 13 hours is inhumane. Reclining is a big fucking deal as a basic coping mechanism on longer flights, not just some lazy way to kick back for lounging a-holes.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:09 AM on August 27 [14 favorites]


In movie theaters I slump way down in my seat when there's somebody behind me, because I'm really really tall and I ruin the movie for them if I don't do it. This is called being considerate.

You are in a very small minority. As a very short person, I notice few people these days doing this at movie theatres. And I've had people over 6ft walk up and stand right in front of me at a concert, too. The opposite of that coin is that I'll sometimes recline my seat on an airplane even if someone tall is behind me.

It's a war that will never end.
posted by dogwalker at 9:10 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


It's not just how tall you are: it is the difference from the back of your ass to your knee. I'm only 5'9" (so tall for a girl but not giant all things considered) but I swear I am 50% femur. I only fly JetBlue at this point because they have the biggest seat pitch and a drilling pain in my knee is unfun cross-country. Have you noticed, too, it is always the short people who are jerks about reclining, aka PEOPLE WHO ALREADY HAVE MORE ROOM. It's just greedy and rude to take it from inconvenienced others. Of course, this is why I now just pay to sit in the damn bulkhead (which comes with the bonus of the fast security line).
posted by dame at 9:12 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


It's a war that will never end.

Like kicking the flusher on a public toilet instead of using your hand.
posted by griphus at 9:12 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


This blew up into a SUPER UGLY row at our last major family gathering, where my aunt (who definitely falls in the "bit of an arse" end of the spectrum) decided my 6'5 father should have to pay extra to sit at the front if he didn't want a seat slammed on his legs, and then of course she got on to how awful it was that fat people are allowed to fly and...
posted by ominous_paws at 9:12 AM on August 27


Tho really I agree all flights should have the seats that recline by sliding you forward and not your back back. Make your own tradeoffs!
posted by dame at 9:13 AM on August 27 [13 favorites]


You were the one behaving badly. If you need extra room beyond the leg room in front of you when someone is relining, you need to buy the extra leg room.

This flight was booked four months in advance and there were no available bulkhead or exit-row seats. I usually do pony up the extra 25.00 where I can. I'm not a masochist. If, however, you really feel I should have to upgrade to first class to avoid sitting in agony for three hours, I sincerely hope you get seated in front of me on a future flight.
posted by echocollate at 9:16 AM on August 27 [13 favorites]


The author, Josh Barro, is a grade A moron who doesn't even understand what the Coase theorem is, despite being the son of famous economist Robert Barro.

The Upshot was supposed to be like The Monkey Cage-- a blog by academics to distill research into digestible chunks so that lay readers can read, enjoy, and understand it. Its sad to see that it quickly devolved into Freakonomics 101.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:16 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]


Capitalists are constantly on the look out for new social relations to restructure as commodity exchange. This may seem like a pretty petty example of that - and it is - but I think the revulsion this inspires hints at a deeper disquiet.

That revulsion seems to be, at best, generational. At this point, there's a cohort of American young adults (the author, Josh Barro, is 29) that have grown up in a radically financialized culture - one in which their education, homes, relationships, even the "personal brand" of their identity have been contextualized largely (if not completely) as tools of exchange. Increasingly, refusing that context, or even being aware that there are alternatives, seems to mark you as a codger and a crank.

Max Haiven's writing on the deep, pervasive reach of financialization into American culture and personal life is worth reading.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:19 AM on August 27 [24 favorites]


Recliners are terrible people who value 3 seconds of vague extra comfort over giving you hours of discomfort. I am not surprised that a Republican strategist sympathizes with them.

I recline fully at every opportunity.

I don't particularly care what the person behind me thinks or does. In a couple of hours, I will never hear from them again. My back on the other hand... That shit can go on for days.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:19 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


do you have the pure strength of will to fly galt airlines????
posted by boo_radley at 9:19 AM on August 27 [11 favorites]


And I've had people over 6ft walk up and stand right in front of me at a concert, too.

As someone who has done this, because the alternative is standing way in the back despite tonnes of room in the front: Hey, short people, MOVE UP.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:20 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


There's a public health aspect to this - the more cramped the seating, the more difficult it is for passengers to move enough to prevent blood clots, which are a risk of sitting or lying in a very cramped position for extended periods. To me, this is the strongest argument against "I will recline unless you pay me" - what you're really saying is "unless you are very short, I can recline so that it's difficult for you to move your legs or even get out of your seat, putting you at increased risk of DVT during anything over about a two hour flight". This idea that - even if you accept that all human interactions should be broken out and monetized - it's easy to assign all the costs, that's bullshit. There's the cost to insurance, for example, for the emergency treatment, warfarin, physical therapy, compression stockings, etc, not to mention the lost work time. If everyone is liable for every tiny thing, I would suggest that either the seat-recliner or the airline have to deal with the potential cost of a very expensive medical emergency.

I am just short enough that unless someone does the full recline, I don't really have a lot of problems with leg room.
posted by Frowner at 9:21 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Some basic principles everybody should agree on:

1) it costs you nothing to ask before reclining if somebody is bothered or hurt by it
2) If you need to recline because you'll be in pain otherwise, tell the person behind you
3) The same for if you would be in serious pain if somebody reclined their seat
4) Engaging in an action that cost somebody else serious pain is a dick move
5) The responses to 2 and 3 will tell you whether it's on, motherfucker

And of course, anybody who's attempting to monetise your discomfort deserves a shanking.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:21 AM on August 27 [34 favorites]


--Don't want a 300+ lb. person jammed in the seat (and in to your seat-width space) next to you? Extra!

One of the last times I flew I sat next to that guy on a packed flight. It wasn't ideal for me, but he looked to be seriously uncomfortable and I'm sure would have happily paid extra for a seat with even a little extra space. Larger planes tend to have "economy plus" style seats with some extra room, but smaller commuter flights are just rows of tiny seats jammed together, basically one big "fuck you" from the airline.

And even if you have paid extra for your larger seat, if you end up on a different flight because of a cancellation or change you are back in steerage, probably in a center seat. The whole situation is so appallingly shitty that it defies description.

Like kicking the flusher on a public toilet instead of using your hand.

There are people who touch those with their hands? Don't they know where my shoes have been?
posted by Dip Flash at 9:22 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]


I generally don't mind if someone reclines in front of me. I'm short. I can deal with it. But at least tell me before you do it. I may have a drink on the tray that I'd prefer not to have spilled in my lap. I may be leaning down to get something from my bag and I'd rather not be smacked in the head unexpectedly. I may be about to stand up and don't want to be shoved back down by a sudden rush of seat coming towards me.

Recline all you want. Just give me a warning first.
posted by downtohisturtles at 9:23 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I'll never fly Aer Lingus again after a flight attendant woke me up from a sound sleep to make me put my chair up after the passenger behind me asked her to because he was not comfortable. Groggy, I complied, but spent the rest of the flight unable to fall back asleep or be comfortable myself.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:23 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


And the plus side is, we'll be able to fit 30% more people on a given flight! Don't thank us, we live for passenger service.

This won't happen.

It's not that it wouldn't happen if it could -- if the airlines could do it, they'd consider it. But there are limits to what a given airplane can carry, and the more it carries, the more range it loses, which increases fuel-per-mile costs.

One of the heaviest things you can carry is water. A cubic foot of water weighs 62 pounds, a cubic meter of water is 1000kg. Humans are mostly water, so if you pack the cabin full of them, you find that you can't carry as much fuel (because you cannot takeoff over MTOW, max takeoff weigh) and you're burning more.

Worse, air regulations require that you be able to evacuate a plane on the ground in 90 seconds. If you add 30% more people, you're going to, at the very least, need to add 30% more escape exits. That's *REALLY* expensive.

Airlines have gone to 30-31" Pitch (defined as seat-back to seat-back) because going much further makes it impossible for many to sit, amazingly bad for most, and most importantly, makes them hire more cabin crew to help with evacuations and may require plane modifications.

One reason that most of WN's seats are pitched 32-33" is they don't have a first class, and they'd have real problems with escape time with the extra couple of rows of seats they'd get would push them to 187 on the plane. "Standard pax" is often figured at 250lbs (that's passenger and bags) and that's another 3000 pounds of mass if you added two rows.

Interestingly enough, on the 737-700s, Southwest did put in an extra row (going from 137 to 143) and has a 31" pitch, using thinner seats to try to maintain cabin space. There's debates on how well that works, some don't mind, some really hate it. But the rest of the fleet maintains the 32-33" pitch.

Finally, a couple of airlines -- UA and AA I know for certain -- now have an extended economy area. Same seats, but at 36" pitch, so much more legroom. The universal term in frequent flying is "E+", because UA did it first and that's what they named it. They're a cost-add for the general populace, but even lowest-tier status flyers can often choose those seats at no extra cost.
posted by eriko at 9:23 AM on August 27 [21 favorites]


I slouch in movie theaters. I stand in the back at shows. I retrieve things from high places. I hang things. I'm aware of my height and generally try to be as conscientious and accommodating as I can be. And I refuse to categorically retaliate against shorter people because some jerk on a flight refused to work with me because I couldn't get or afford a better seat.
posted by echocollate at 9:24 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I've flown probably hundreds of times and I've never seen someone ask the person behind them before reclining their seat. Is this actually a thing that happens?
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:25 AM on August 27 [24 favorites]


I'm always amazed at how possessive human beings are about something they will be in for only 2-3 hours. There are these tiny wars breaking out all over the airplane over armrests, reclining, carry-on compartments...yet at the same time in that same space people will fall completely asleep and put themselves into a position of utter vulnerability without even thinking about it. There's a tremendous amount of trust in an airplane - we trust the flight crew, we trust the plane, we trust our fellow passengers - and yet also all these micro-aggressions. Sometimes by the same people.

I kind of love it. Humans are absolutely amazing.
posted by barchan at 9:26 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]


dogwalker: “It's a war that will never end.”

griphus: “Like kicking the flusher on a public toilet instead of using your hand.”

The war of modern life will never really end. L'enfer, c'est les autres.
posted by koeselitz at 9:26 AM on August 27


Humans are absolutely amazing.

We are terrible. It's Lord of the Fucking Flies at 35,000 feet.
posted by echocollate at 9:30 AM on August 27 [14 favorites]


even lowest-tier status flyers can often choose those seats at no extra cost

This isn't the case on UA, at least not for me, and I've been a member of their program for well over a decade now. I can pay per-flight, or $500 per year for a "subscription" to Economy Plus. Is there a way to get it free?
posted by aramaic at 9:31 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


yoink: just because something is possible doesn't mean it's a nice thing to do, as a tall person I am stunned you don't get this one.

There are all kinds of things which we might prefer our fellow citizens not to do which we recognize as entirely their right to do. The fact that it's "nice" if the person in the seat in front of me chooses to sacrifice their comfort for mine doesn't mean I have a right to complain if they don't.

I usually make an effort to slouch down in concerts so I'm not obstructing the person behind me, but that doesn't mean the person behind me has any right to insist I do that (and, in fact, on the odd occasion when the person behind me has been really rude about my height--something I have absolutely no control over--I've deliberately sat up ramrod straight through the whole event). On occasion I've gone to a concert (or play etc.) when I have also had a bad back. On those occasions I simply couldn't slouch down and last through the event. It didn't remotely occur to me that I should simply give up my seat or stand at the back of the theater, however--I obviously have every right to be as tall as I am in the seat that I've bought, even though I recognize that it is nice of me to slouch down in the seat when I can.
posted by yoink at 9:32 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]


This thread has me really confused.

I'd like to see the venn diagram of this thread and one with cyclists who make up road conventions that they think everyone knows/subscribes to.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:32 AM on August 27 [9 favorites]


Amazing can mean "amazing in our complexity," echocollate.
posted by barchan at 9:32 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


If the person behind a seat decides if it should be reclined, the controls for reclining should be on the back of the seat.
posted by librosegretti at 9:34 AM on August 27 [9 favorites]


Yea, I was just adding to.
posted by echocollate at 9:34 AM on August 27


I recently flew from TOL to PDX, with a stop at ORD.

I am 5'3". I also have shoulders like a linebacker. I ALSO have RA, and find it easier on my joints if I can recline a little bit.

I was horrified to find myself seated between two men who were similarly broad shouldered when we boarded in ORD. After a few awkward moments of "Oh shit, this flight is going to SUCK!", we did manage to work it out such that if they were reclining, I would remain upright or lean forward, then after a while, we would switch. We were all three still pretty sore at the end of the flight, but in considerably less pain than if we had decided that talking to each other was not an option.

Since the airlines don't give a deep fried flying shit about passenger comfort, we'd all be well served to try to compromise and talk to each other...and band together to go beat the fuck out of the assholes who decided to cram us all together like sardines.
posted by MissySedai at 9:34 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


Given that MartinWisse solved the whole problem a while upthread, it's curious to see people still shrieking about their precious rights to be a jackass.
posted by ominous_paws at 9:37 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I am a big dude with broad shoulders.
For the comfort of other people, I generally get a window seat, lean over against the bulkhead. This gives the person in the notoriously uncomfortable middle seat more room and at least one of the arm rests. When someone reclines in front of me the headrest is invariably in my face. At that point I can no longer comfortably read or drink, so I generally fall sleep. It is not uncommon to find myself waking with my head on the headrest in front of me as the person sits their chair upright and glares at me.
Whatever. You put that fucking pillow in my face!
posted by Seamus at 9:41 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Of course we don't expect you to bear all the weight through the entire for hour flight and six hour layover period; that's why we will have padded rest bars that go behind your rear and knees. So it's really not like crouching through the flight, or leaning on a desk for ten hours.

Skyrider airline seats look even more uncomfortable than your description.
posted by gladly at 9:41 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


...it's curious to see people still shrieking about their precious rights to be a jackass.

Pretty sure that's my constitutional right as an American.
posted by griphus at 9:41 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I've often wondered why the various online ticket broker services don't show the seat pitch and width for each flight that matches your search criteria, right there next to the price and the departure time. I'll pay above the odds for a more pleasant experience, just not the ten times as much it would cost to fly first / business / sultan / god-emperor class.

Some airlines already pay lip service to this idea by making bulkhead and exit-row seats an extra-cost upgrade.
posted by sourcequench at 9:42 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


dunno. I have back pain. I'm going to recline my seat because it makes me feel better. If the person behind me wants to, they can recline their seat. What's the problem.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:42 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I'm only 5'8" with short legs, but I have a bad back and it is physically painful for me to sit very upright for extended periods, so I tend to recline my seat as soon as possible. I do turn around and notify the person behind me with an apologetic smile, in case they have their laptop up or whatever, and I go slowly. But I am going back.

When it comes to passenger discomfort, who trumps who?
posted by xedrik at 9:42 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I usually make an effort to slouch down in concerts so I'm not obstructing the person behind me, but that doesn't mean the person behind me has any right to insist I do that (and, in fact, on the odd occasion when the person behind me has been really rude about my height--something I have absolutely no control over--I've deliberately sat up ramrod straight through the whole event).

It's not, in the main, rude of someone to say, "excuse me, you're blocking my view" and it is at least sometimes rude to say, "tough, you don't have a right to make me move."

I think that shoehorning a conception of property rights into ordinary human interactions like this is deficient at best.
posted by gauche at 9:44 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure "FUCK YOU" is Spirit Airlines official motto.

Actually they let you upgrade to a first class size seat for like $80 extra -- cheaper than other airlines. Then you're free from 99% of things people in this thread are complaining about.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 9:44 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I never carry on luggage so I just have a backpack that I throw under the seat. This leaves room for my feet. Since I have short legs (compared to my torso) I never have the seat jam into my knees. I just lose usable space.

Reclining the seat does nothing for my comfort and screws someone else, so I ain't gonna do that. If you have to recline, recline. Just don't be pissed if someone's knees jiggle your seat or if their drool coats your coiffure.
posted by Seamus at 9:45 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


There's a My Little Pony/economics textbook crossover fanfic, My Little Economy: Economics is Science. (Yes, the Internet really does have everything.) Instead of Twilight Sparkle starting out as a bookworm who needs to make friends, as in canon, she's an economist who needs to learn when theories do and do not model real life -- although to be fair, the other ponies also need to learn when economics really is helpful. Anyway, the sequel has been dealing with the Coase theorem:
The mayor’s angry face loomed above Twilight’s. “And it wasn’t just Pinkie Pie. Applejack charged me for looking at her apple orchards! Fluttershy made me pay for listening to the sweet sounds of her songbirds, and Rarity said that I was imposing a cost on everypony wearing a mane in this style and shouldn’t go out unless I can make up for it with bits! Now what are you going to do about this…this pricing of things?”

Twilight beamed.

“Coasepony is best pony.”
posted by Rangi at 9:47 AM on August 27 [8 favorites]


Don't even get me started on male assumptions regarding use of shared armrests.
posted by Cocodrillo at 9:47 AM on August 27 [16 favorites]


Ironically, the only person I've ever seen have a full-on tantrum about someone reclining the seat in front of them on a plane would have been barely 5' tall. But she just FREAKED OUT when the seat in front of her encroached on her space (the effect was, of course, purely psychological--that is, she was so tiny that the reclining seat made no contact with any part of her body and didn't in any way interfere with her access to the tray table or anything like that). The flight attendant came and talked soothingly to her for half an hour (!) before finally finding someone at the end of the row who was willing to switch seats with her.

So, you know, there's always that option for you "the homeseat airspace must not be violated!" types.
posted by yoink at 9:48 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


> This isn't the case on UA, at least not for me, and I've been a member of their program for well over a decade now. I can pay per-flight, or $500 per year for a "subscription" to Economy Plus. Is there a way to get it free?

I had Premier Silver for 2013 because I did an unusual amount of flying in 2012. While I had it, I was able to choose an Economy Plus seat for free at checkin (those in higher status tiers were able to do it at booking).

Keep in mind that this isn't just MileagePlus; it's the extra status on top of it. But if you've had that status for a decade and haven't been able to upgrade to E+, something's gone wrong and you should ask about it.
posted by savetheclocktower at 9:48 AM on August 27


It's not, in the main, rude of someone to say, "excuse me, you're blocking my view"

And you'll notice I didn't say that it was.
posted by yoink at 9:49 AM on August 27


I've flown probably hundreds of times and I've never seen someone ask the person behind them before reclining their seat. Is this actually a thing that happens?

I do this all the time, actually. I mean, I don't really ask them in a way that gives them a chance to say no, I guess. But I do say something like "sorry, I'm going to put my seat back now, ok?" and they mostly look so stunned that someone would bother acknowledging that it might not be comfortable for them that they neglect to demur. On the rare occasion that someone does say "actually I DO mind" I say that I'll just put it back halfway and that has always gone over fine.
posted by elizardbits at 9:49 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]


One time on a flight a middle-aged woman sat down a few rows up from me, in the aisle seat. I thought nothing of it until a middle-aged man came up.

"Excuse me I believe you're in my seat."
"I'm supposed to be in the middle seat but I have a medical condition."
"Well I have a medical condition that requires me to be in the aisle, that's why I booked it."

They squabbled for a while and the flight attendant asked around to see if anyone else was willing to give the woman their aisle seat. No one was, many gave some reason as to why they needed the aisle seat, several even said "medical condition". The rest of the flight she basically got up and down and up and down, spending as much time as possible standing in the aisle, leaning on seats and basically making everyone miserable around her. Especially the poor guy in the aisle who had to keep getting up for her. I go the distinct impressing she was trying to shame the people around her, showing that it was she with the true medical need (or something), but it was the most ridiculous display of pathos I've ever seen. Like watching a sad and wretched clown perform to a disengaged audience. This is air travel now.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:50 AM on August 27 [13 favorites]


And you'll notice I didn't say that it was.

That's not my contention. My contention is that negotiated economic rights are a poor communicative substitute for courtesy in these sorts of interactions.
posted by gauche at 9:51 AM on August 27


For some reason (even though it's not super analogous), this reminds me of that study of Israeli parents who were fined for being tardy to pick up their kids from school, but tardiness increased after the introduction of the fine. It just seems like social mores often work as well or better than commoditization of social transactions like this one.
posted by faux ami at 9:56 AM on August 27 [8 favorites]


MetaFilter: like watching a sad and wretched clown perform to a disengaged audience.
posted by mr. digits at 9:56 AM on August 27 [15 favorites]


Attention airline executives: I will pay extra to book seats on an airline that can prescribe muscle relaxants & assorted narcotics to me.
posted by aramaic at 9:57 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Plane seats recline. That is what they are designed to do. Plan accordingly.

Just because something is designed to do X doesn't mean that you should do X. That's a pretty weak argument.

I do not recline my seat, ever, *unless* the following conditions are all met.

1. The person behind me has reclined theirs,
2. The person behind me has sufficient legroom,
3. The person behind me is ASLEEP, and so will not notice, and
4. The person in front of me has reclined theirs.

You know what I hate? The people who keep their seats reclined during meals. You have to have little Tyrannosaurus arms to eat like that, and your face is in the seat next to you. Seriously, have some consideration for people around you.

If you have some sort of medical issue and have to recline your seat, fine. I would gladly pay more for a flight if they made planes that were easier on large people, tall people, or people with medical conditions (I am none of these). But if you're just trying to "relax", *don't do it*. The mild "comfort" you're getting is multiplied 10 fold into discomfort for the person behind you.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 9:57 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


I go the distinct impressing she was trying to shame the people around her, showing that it was she with the true medical need (or something), but it was the most ridiculous display of pathos I've ever seen.

I'd imagine it was also just as possible that she was in considerable pain, and felt embarrassed and awkward about having her injury or disability on display for everyone to see, mock, and judge.
posted by elizardbits at 9:58 AM on August 27 [10 favorites]


Anything's possible.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:58 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I'm tired, as a woman, of trying to make my body take up less space in public to accommodate men. I will take up as much space on an airplane that I paid for. People of all shapes and sizes experience different sorts of problems as they go about the world. As a short person in a world designed by tall men I find myself inconvenienced (and yes in pain) often. If you are tall, small spaces may be uncomfortable for you. However, that is not my problem. Just as I learn how to deal with physical space designed for people that are not my size, I expect you to do the same.
posted by dipolemoment at 9:59 AM on August 27 [27 favorites]


That's not my contention.

Then I'm rather at a loss to understand why you quoted my comment in your comment--if it had nothing to do with what you had to say.
posted by yoink at 9:59 AM on August 27


a world designed by tall men

If you were a tall man you would laugh hollowly at that claim.
posted by yoink at 10:00 AM on August 27 [18 favorites]


2bucksplus: That reminds me a little bit of something I witnessed on a train. I had somehow had the pleasure of taking a fairly long train ride where Sir Ian McKellen was travelling with some fellow actors back from what must have been a production they'd put on for a while, and they had rather sizeable luggage. Sir Ian had assistance getting his bags on to the train, and another lady went ballistic at the man helping saying celebrities get special treatment.

Sir Ian gave her the most withering and scathing lecture in that marvellous voice of his about how it was nothing to do with his celebrity but he'd had the foresight as a man of over 70 years age and with a huge case to phone ahead and arrange it in advance, and if she needed help she should have done the same.

I got to sit across the aisle from him for a good few hours too, and listen to that voice for the rest of the journey. Best train ride ever.
posted by edd at 10:00 AM on August 27 [45 favorites]


this reminds me of that study of Israeli parents who were fined for being tardy to pick up their kids from school, but tardiness increased after the introduction of the fine.

I am sad that the official title of this study was not "No, Fuck You".
posted by elizardbits at 10:00 AM on August 27 [20 favorites]


I'm tired, as a woman, of trying to make my body take up less space in public to accommodate men.

I am a woman and it is almost always women who are assholes about reclining directly into my knees.

My favourite was the one who glared at me for "kicking" her seat when I was just trying to move a little to keep the blood flowing to my feet.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:02 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


Well it certainty wasn't designed for me, I guess us outliers are gonna have to deal, eh?
posted by dipolemoment at 10:03 AM on August 27


I'm tired, as a woman, of trying to make my body take up less space in public to accommodate men. I will take up as much space on an airplane that I paid for. People of all shapes and sizes experience different sorts of problems as they go about the world. As a short person in a world designed by tall men I find myself inconvenienced (and yes in pain) often.

These two statements are contradictory. You say the world is designed by tall men, as if that explains why everything is too small for tall men so they must encroach your space. Does not compute.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:08 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


The fires of my fury on this subject are reserved forever for the woman who reclined her seat in front of me when I was flying while 7 months pregnant with severe (pregnancy related) pubis symphisis dysfunction, thus completely trapping me in my seat, and then leaned forward, put her head on her table, and fell asleep. Every time I had to get up to go to the bathroom (which was about every 20 minutes on a 3 hour flight) I had to page the flight attendant to get her to wake up, sit up, and move the seat forward -- and then she would re-recline it while I was gone.

I hate that woman. I hate her even now and it's like eight years later.

OTOH I had the pleasure once of flying behind an NFL draftee, who was perfectly enormous. Just singularly giant. I don't know if the recline mechanism on his seat was broken, or if he was simply so large that he overwhelmed it, but every time he settled into his seat, it reclined. He was extremely kind and apologetic about it, warning me every time he was going to move in case it spilled my drink. We just swapped our seats around so my child was in the seat behind him, and everything was fine.
posted by KathrynT at 10:08 AM on August 27 [14 favorites]


As someone who has done this, because the alternative is standing way in the back despite tonnes of room in the front: Hey, short people, MOVE UP.

That's the problem: moving up restricts a short person's view MORE. The closer we are to the person in front of us, the more they're blocking or view. I try to leave a reasonable amount of space, but sometimes some 6footer will unapologetically squeeze in there. Just how it goes.
posted by dogwalker at 10:08 AM on August 27 [9 favorites]


I think it's interesting that so many people can't grok why not being allowed to recline would be so bad.

If you're watching a movie and nefarious agents start to torture/interrogate some poor soul, do they typically begin by squeezing his knees and restricting his legspace? Or do they force him to sit bolt upright with no hope of rest?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:10 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Does not compute.

I'm saying that in MOST of my life I'm the one inconvenienced by being to small. Sometimes, tall people will be inconvenienced. If the only place I seem to be coming out ahead is an airplane, well...that's not much of a consolation prize.
posted by dipolemoment at 10:13 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


"I'm sorry to have to ask this, but I have long legs and when you recline it causes me considerable discomfort. Can I ask that you keep your seat upright?"

Any response to reclining other than this is assholish and purposely belligerent. I used to think the average MeFite was a decent, reasonable human but this thread is changing that image.

(If the above doesn't work ask a flight attendant to try to move you. )
posted by rocket88 at 10:14 AM on August 27 [13 favorites]


I hate people who recline their seats.

You were sold a reclining seat? Well, I was sold a seat with a little table I can eat on or use for my laptop, which is impossible to do if you fully recline your seat.

And it's a huge encroachment of the space for people sitting in non reclining seats (last row, rows in front of exit doors).
posted by coust at 10:15 AM on August 27 [7 favorites]


Then I'm rather at a loss to understand why you quoted my comment in your comment--if it had nothing to do with what you had to say.

yoink: sorry, it seemed to me like you were taking the position that these interactions could indeed be efficiently resolving by locating the rights in question. If that's not what you meant, then I do apologize for the misreading.
posted by gauche at 10:16 AM on August 27


I'm saying that in MOST of my life I'm the one inconvenienced by being to small. Sometimes, tall people will be inconvenienced. If the only place I seem to be coming out ahead is an airplane, well...that's not much of a consolation prize.

Good news! You also have cars, buses, trains, sidewalks with overhanging foliage, and houses with 8ft ceilings.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:17 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


The closer we are to the person in front of us, the more they're blocking or view. I try to leave a reasonable amount of space, but sometimes some 6footer will unapologetically squeeze in there. Just how it goes.

But this just seems to me to be in the "shit happens" category of life's problems. I mean, are you suggesting that no person over some-arbitrary-height-limit is ever allowed to see their favorite band up close? That standing anywhere at all close to the stage should be a privileged reserved solely for those under some kind of height limit?

There really doesn't seem to me to be a good and obvious solution to this other than stadium-style seating at all events. (God I love stadium-seat movie theaters for that very reason; I can sit as straight as I want without having to worry about cutting off the view of the person behind me.)

But if it's a standing-room-only concert--maybe one I've waited for desperately and paid more than I can afford for and I've sat in line all night to get as close as I can to my idols (etc. etc.) am I supposed to be resigned to the fact that my ticket can never give me the same right to stand where I want to stand in relationship to the show as your ticket does?
posted by yoink at 10:20 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


The way I make air travel possible is to drug myself with sleepy-time pills. Even on short flights, I need to recline so I can at least attempt to sleep. The alternative is having an anxiety attack. I am not an asshole just because I am reclining my seat; please don't be an asshole just because I am reclining my seat.
posted by chowflap at 10:23 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


The amount of vitriol in this thread is astonishing and it frightens and saddens me.
posted by narain at 10:23 AM on August 27 [12 favorites]


I've pretty much stopped going to concerts unless they have stadium seating for precisely that reason. There's no good way for me at 5'4" to see a band unless I'm in the front. Mostly I put up with it by trying to find a viewing angle between people where I can at least see one of the band members, but invariably the crowd will shift and I'm back to nothing.
posted by downtohisturtles at 10:23 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I mean, it's pretty academic for Josh Barro, who only ever flies business class now. He's making so much money from people paying him not to stab them, shoot them, pickpocket them when they're not looking, registering their child's name on facebook, reporting them as paedophiles, ordering pizzas for them... he's a one-man libertarian business empire! A breathing, walking disruptor!
posted by davemee at 10:24 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


cars, buses, trains

yeah, none of those are comfortable for me either. Like I said, outliers just gotta deal...
posted by dipolemoment at 10:24 AM on August 27


I was going to comment at first about how few of these situations seem to reference actually speaking courteously to others with requests/explanations.

But then I remembered a morning flight full of businessmen I once boarded, very late, with my four year old daughter. (Because she was four is why we were late.) All that were left were middle seats. ALL. As in I was going to sit separately from my tiny little girl who was already in tears. I stood in the center aisle and asked FRANTICALLY for someone to be willing to move to a different seat so we could sit together. Not a MAN moved or would meet my eye. I asked more and more loudly, and the flight attendant began to ask loudly, too. Not a peep. FINALLY, a grandmotherly woman stood up and offered her seat and let us sit together.

Come ON people!! It was A KID WHO NEEDED HER MOM. And did you really want to sit next to a crying kid (albeit in your precious window or aisle seat) for two solid hours?

So perhaps expectations of courteous communication are naive after all.
posted by jfwlucy at 10:25 AM on August 27 [9 favorites]


I'm saying that in MOST of my life I'm the one inconvenienced by being to small.

I think it's just that we all only tend to notice the things that inconvenience us. It's like when I hear people grumbling about something being too high to reach I usually begin mentally with a kind of "what the hell are they talking about--that's just right there"--and then I think "oooooooh." I'll bet when you go walking under one of those E-Z Ups at an outdoor market you never think "hoo-boy, some poor bugger's going to smash his head on that"--but I've got the lumps to prove you wrong. Or when you go to a hotel and look at yourself in the mirror I'm sure you never think--"hey, if some tall guy tries to shave he'll either have to do it by braille while he gazes at his navel or he'll have to crouch down awkwardly the whole way through!" Or while you luxuriate under the shower you won't be thinking--"Jeez, a tall person wouldn't be able to get their head under this thing without almost bending double--and there isn't actually ROOM in this cubicle to bend double." Etc. etc.

I'm not saying we tallies have it worse than you shorties--I'm just saying that the world is full of challenges you don't see when they're not your challenges.
posted by yoink at 10:27 AM on August 27 [12 favorites]


I doubt this is a popular opinion, but it doesn't really bother me when airlines cram as many people as possible into a small space and monetize extras. Plane travel consumes a huge amount of fossil fuels, and the price of those is rising. Something has got to give. If not getting a meal on the flight, forgoing a checked bag and having minimal leg space means that I can still afford to fly every year or so when I need to, then so be it. (If airlines were reaping huge profits by cramming people in and monetizing everything, then it might be different, but if I understand correctly, they're mostly just trying to stay in business. Correct me if I'm wrong.)

If you want plane travel to be like it was 40 years ago, pay for the next class up. It will be more expensive, yes-- plane travel was more expensive 40 years ago.

Oh, and I'm in the 'if the seats recline, go ahead and recline 'em' camp. I've been asked nicely to put it back up for 'reasons' and I have.
posted by geegollygosh at 10:32 AM on August 27 [10 favorites]


Yoink

My point exactly (that is sucks all the way around to live in a physical environment that is dangerous and uncomfortable if you're not "just right"), it just happens that most of the tallies in the world are men and most of the shorties are women, so I can't help but get a little bit of gender GRAAR in there too.

Airplanes suck the most though...
posted by dipolemoment at 10:35 AM on August 27



The amount of vitriol in this thread is astonishing and it frightens and saddens me.


This is actually one of the tamer personal space threads, especially compared to the "this family took cute photos in their son's room while he was at summer camp" one.
posted by elizardbits at 10:38 AM on August 27 [9 favorites]


I get the gender thing, but us non-average for our gender people (short men or tall women) have the same problems.
posted by downtohisturtles at 10:38 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I expected to see some support for the "the seat reclines so I'm doing it, screw the person behind me" viewpoint, but I am surprised to see it as the clear majority position. Kind of depressing.
posted by Eyebeams at 10:40 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I'm 6'3" and built like a linebacker/viking/large rectangle man. A: flying coach is torture, and b: good fucking luck reclining that shit in front of me, 'cause my knees are already occupying that space.
posted by stenseng at 10:42 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I'm mostly flabbergasted at the suggestion that someone reclining their seat in front of you causes "SERIOUS PAIN." Really?

Yep!

I am about 6'1" tall, and on more than one occasion a rapidly-reclining seat has caught my knobby kneecap against the adjacent seatback edge and crushed it -- as in "yelp out loud" painful.

I understand that your seat can recline, but Just Because You Can Do Something Doesn't Automatically Mean You Should. I was on a flight with my kids last week and one asked what That Button does. I explained that it allows the seat to recline, but I also pointed out how much it cut into the other person's space. And I finished by asking, "would you like it if the person in front of you did that?" He shook his head like, duh and then never asked about it again.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:42 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


A few flights ago, the guy in front of me gave me a polite, "Hey, I'm sorry but I need to recline my seat." And it was great.

I mean, obviously the loss of space was not great, but this simple gesture of someone on a flight actually acknowledging that I was a person and it would maybe bother me made it a lot more pleasant. He even gave me a friendly nod as we deplaned.

So yeah, recline your seat. I understand. But just do me the courtesy of warning me.

It has practical implications, too: A coworker had a laptop open on his flight, pushed back on the tray. Guy in front of him reclined all of a sudden and the screen cracked. Laptop = unusable for days. I never open my laptop of flights anymore for this reason.
posted by mochapickle at 10:44 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


The amount of vitriol in this thread is astonishing and it frightens and saddens me.

You should see the ones discussing when you should remove hats or shoes.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:50 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


2bucksplus's middle seat story reminds me of the time I was sitting in my window seat, and the woman in the middle seat next to me arrived and peered at her seat with a look of vague dissatisfaction.

"Excuse me," she said to me in a perfectly polite/plausibly ingenuous tone, "Would you mind switching seats with me? I just don't really like the middle seat."

"Oh," I said. "You know, I don't really like the middle seat either, so I'd rather not."

And so we didn't switch and just sat quietly marveling at the odds that had landed two people who don't like the middle seat next to each other on an airplane.

(On the reclining seat topic, this thread has actually helped me understand the recliners' position a bit: I had been thinking of reclining as a pleasant but unnecessary luxury and getting one's knees crushed for several hours straight as more obviously involving actual pain, so it was hard for me to have much sympathy for the 'reclining is my right" crowd, but it hadn't occurred to me that for some people not reclining involves concomitant pain.)
posted by yarrow at 10:52 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


tl;dr but the Knee Defender isn't a viable solution, because your own tray table must be down for it to work.

My solution: replace all seats with non-recliners.
posted by Rash at 10:52 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I travel probably once a year overseas, so take a red-eye flight. I always recline my seat, because I'm going to try and grab whatever shut-eye I can, as does everyone else on the flight. I always put my seat back slowly...and I've never ever ever had a single complaint? Maybe because it's just assumed by everyone that a red-eye overseas flight of 6-9 hours means all seats will be reclined.

And I've never been bothered or had issues when the person in front of me puts their seat back either, even if it's dinner time.

Basically, I think I've discovered the secret: airplane seats are designed for 5' 5" people.
posted by Windigo at 10:53 AM on August 27


jfwlucy: Come ON people!! It was A KID WHO NEEDED HER MOM. And did you really want to sit next to a crying kid (albeit in your precious window or aisle seat) for two solid hours?

This happened recently when my parents, my sister, and her three kids were trying to fly home, and the airline bumped their flight to something like 11:00pm. Honestly they were looking forward to announcing "Thanks for the free baby-sitting!" as they took their scattered, individual seats, far from the anxious, overtired kids. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 10:53 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


...and also, I have a bad hip from a bike accident a few years ago. Upright seating ACHES after an hour or two. It's truly miserable.
posted by Windigo at 10:55 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


This is actually one of the tamer personal space threads, especially compared to the "this family took cute photos in their son's room while he was at summer camp" one.

Any thread which involves photography in public.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:56 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]



Basically, I think I've discovered the secret: airplane seats are designed for 5' 5" people


They're not, though. I'm 5'4" and they remain agonizing. Steerage seats are designed for unconscious toddlers.
posted by elizardbits at 10:58 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


companies usually make out pretty well when they are able to get customers to blame each other for their own customer service faults. (reminds me of how at&t and the like started blaming network issues on 'bandwidth hogs' rather their 'unlimited' policies.) human beings do not come in a standard size, and airlines not only try to pretend that we do, but they get us to adopt the same standard and help fight the battle for them (and so we have growing resentment of the airborne obese, for instance).

when i think about air travel, pretty much all i see--from boarding procedures to carry-on policies, and arbitrary enforcement of any of it--are ways that airlines turn passengers' resentment onto other passengers to divert it from themselves.

what i find frustrating in all the stories about the 'knee defender' dude is that the reports do not mention his own seat-reclining behavior and whether he negotiated it with the person behind him.

i'm not getting why choosing to recline your seat is wrong, when it is part of the functionality of the seat you occupy; the reclined position of the seat is the space the airline has calculated the seat is permitted to occupy. if you're not happy with that calculation, your argument is with the airline, not with the person who is just using the functionality offered. it's strange to me that people insist on some observance of courtesy in this particular case given the understood abandonment of a whole range of other courtesies in the same context.

i get that some airlines have policies against devices like this, but i'm surprised it's not considered outright illegal in terms of allowing passengers to interfere with the mechanics of the plane. it's not like i can employ a personal electronics jammer so i can avoid the glare of ipad screens while i'm trying to sleep (but of course, if you're courteous, you've asked all your neighbors if it's okay to use your devices).
posted by fallacy of the beard at 10:58 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


You know, I fly a lot. Like, every week, often 2-3 times a week. And people are quite often really decent. I'm a short person, and I regularly get people offering to hoist my big bag into the overhead compartment or help me get it out. I do think the airlines crushing everyone into smaller and smaller spaces makes people meaner and grabbier once they get in their seats though.
posted by Cocodrillo at 10:58 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]


I just pictured an entire 787 full of toddlers and I'm not sure I will ever return from the chthonian depths of that dread abyss.
posted by elizardbits at 10:59 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


They're not, though. I'm 5'4" and they remain agonizing. Steerage seats are designed for unconscious toddlers.

If you were just ONE more inch taller! Bliss!
posted by Windigo at 11:01 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I just hope everyone is taking an aspirin before their flights because we're all at risk for throwing clots all over the place in that tiny space all pissed off up there. I like taking a benadryl also that way I sleep a good portion of the flight and my allergies get a good supportive boost before the new locale agitates them. My simple solution: very old OTC drugs. And to stay on point I rarely recline my seat. I feel bad for tall folks or just people that may need that space more than me.
posted by dog food sugar at 11:04 AM on August 27


it's strange to me that people insist on some observance of courtesy in this particular case given the understood abandonment of a whole range of other courtesies in the same context.

Really? I don't abandon any courtesies whilst flying. I say sorry and thank you. I cover my mouth if I sneeze, cough or yawn and I do my best to not fart, shit or piss myself. I avoid watching overly racy or gruesome movies and if I speak with my wife I whisper.

It's not death flight 2000. It is just public transit.
posted by srboisvert at 11:10 AM on August 27 [7 favorites]


Yep!

I am about 6'1" tall, and on more than one occasion a rapidly-reclining seat has caught my knobby kneecap against the adjacent seatback edge and crushed it -- as in "yelp out loud" painful.

I understand that your seat can recline, but Just Because You Can Do Something Doesn't Automatically Mean You Should. I was on a flight with my kids last week and one asked what That Button does. I explained that it allows the seat to recline, but I also pointed out how much it cut into the other person's space. And I finished by asking, "would you like it if the person in front of you did that?" He shook his head like, duh and then never asked about it again.


I'm 6'2". I always pay for the legroom upgrade. It's like $20 or something. If I go cheap and the guy and front of me wants to recline, it's either the airline's fault or mine, but it definitely isn't his. You have a reclining seat, you can recline, full stop.
posted by empath at 11:11 AM on August 27 [10 favorites]


i'm not getting why choosing to recline your seat is wrong, when it is part of the functionality of the seat you occupy

I don't get why catcalling is wrong, when yelling is part of the functionality of my mouth.

Just because (for whatever reasons) the functionality is there, it doesn't make it right to use it when a.) you don't need to, and b.) you are imposing on others.

For those that do need (or even just really want) to recline, asking is cost free, and acknowledges that you intend to encroach on the space of another person who you consider to be human being.

Reclining without asking is to assume that the person behind you doesn't exist, or isn't worthy of your concern.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:13 AM on August 27 [7 favorites]


Can't wait to apply the "if you physically can do something, and it's not illegal, then do it!" policy to future metafilter threads.
posted by inigo2 at 11:16 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


You did NOT just compare reclining an airplane seat to catcalling, did you?
posted by Windigo at 11:19 AM on August 27 [37 favorites]


Fellow 6'5" guy checking in! I have a bad back, and if you recline your seat, it means I have to sit splay-legged for the flight, which means I won't be able to walk for the next three days. We can argue about this all day, but recently I have acquired ultima ratio regum: my daughter is 14 months old, and rides on my lap on planes. Guess what happens when you recline your head into my personal airspace? Now it's in my daughter's field of vision! She's an inquisitive little thing, and has a steel grip once she gets her hands on something she's interested in. Recently, that list includes ears and hair. She's also perpetually sticky, and I have some bad news about where those hands of hers have been.

Perhaps we can now recommence negotiations about personal space, and your enormous goddamn sense of entitlement regarding people who have to share an enclosed space with you.
posted by Mayor West at 11:19 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


It's not 'can you physically do something'. It's not like the seats just 'happen' to be able to recline. They were *designed* to recline. You buy an airline ticket with the expectation that you can recline your seat. People who don't want other people to recline their seats in front of them should buy tickets on an airline without reclining seats. You will find that they don't exist, because people like reclining their airline seats.
posted by empath at 11:19 AM on August 27 [25 favorites]


I'm a another person tall enough that my knees press against the seat in front of me no matter how I sit. I have no problem with the person in front of me reclining, but I have a HUGE problem with the MANNER in which 99.999% of people go about it: no warning, violently slamming their entire body weight back several times in short succession, and then repeating the body slam at intervals throughout the flight. I once flew from New York to Las Vegas and got off the flight with my knees so badly bruised and swollen that I had to sit in the terminal for about an hour before the pain subsided enough for me to walk where I needed to go.

I get the "extra legroom" seats whenever they're offered and whenever I have the money, but it galls me that I have to pay extra because I happen to have been born taller than average in a world full of people who don't give a shit about physically assaulting their fellow man.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:20 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


. When you buy an airline ticket, one of the things you’re buying is the right to use your seat’s reclining function.

You could argue that two ways. One is the way mentioned in the article, that the right to recline is inherent in the ticket. If someone's reclining bugs you, then you just recline...all the way to a bulkhead.

Another way is what I'm going to call the "minibar" model. Every passenger buying a ticket is entitled to so-many cubic inches of space. If someone reclines, in effect, they increase their allotment of cubic inches. Since volume on an aircraft is finite, these extra cubic inches are taken from somewhere else. Namely, the allotment of the person behind you.

The fact that a seat can recline doesn't, however, automatically confer the right to annex the space of the person behind you. Instead, it is an amenity you can use with some level of consent. Think of it as a minibar in a hotel: the basic rent pays for the space in the room, shower, etc. There is a minibar that you can take advantage of, but for an extra fee. In the minibar case, it's payable to the hotel.

In the case of recline, I submit its use is subject to the consent and terms of the person whose space you will be taking. You don't have a right to recline; you have a privilege to do so.

Between reclining people in front of me, ever-denser seating, TSA porno-scanners, TSA groping, TSA in general (you know, for FREEDOM), getting their two hours before your flight in order to deal with all that, and the fact that I pay for all that, my threshold for using planes for personal travel is ever increasing.
posted by MrGuilt at 11:20 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


But this just seems to me to be in the "shit happens" category of life's problems. I mean, are you suggesting that no person over some-arbitrary-height-limit is ever allowed to see their favorite band up close? That standing anywhere at all close to the stage should be a privileged reserved solely for those under some kind of height limit?

I'm 5'1" and I would never ask that tall people never get to be close to the stage. I don't think my fellow shorties are asking it either. But for the extremely tall? Like, if you're over 6'2"? I don't think (I could be wrong) that it's too much of an imposition to ask that you not stand directly in front of someone who is a full foot shorter than you and was already standing there before you showed up.

I get there's no good answer, and I have no expectations of a perfect (or any) sightline at all times. It just sucks that "shit happens" = almost every general admission concert I go to, I either end up with leg cramps from standing on my tiptoes plus a sore neck from craning to see in the constantly shifting space between people's heads, or I just give up and stare at the back of the t-shirt of the seven footer who just scooted in front of me. I passed out in a crowd once because I couldn't breathe and felt completely enclosed because everyone around me was taller than me. The prevalence of people taking pictures and videos with their phones makes it even worse, with their phone screens and arms and elbows taking up even more of my view. I'm going to a show at a large venue tonight and I'm already dreading the Will I be able to see? part of it.

Usually it's all worth it because I love live music. I cope as best I can: I regularly give up and move all the way to the back where I still can't see but at least I can breathe because it's less of a crush of people. I get to shows early that have seats or a balcony if that's an option. And I have had good experiences, where a tall person looks back, sees me craning and tiptoeing, and lets me slip in front of him, not affecting his view even the slightest, but they are rare.

I have a very tall friend who goes to shows almost every night, and stands close but off to the side a bit or in front of a pole. He also gets there early-ish and stakes out his spot, so people can see how tall he is and not stand behind him, compared to other tall people I've seen worm their way through an existing crowd 2 minutes before the band comes out. My friend manages to get good views while being very thoughtful about how his height affects others' enjoyment of the event.

As for airplane flights, I generally don't recline because I'm little but some seats have very exaggerated neck support that doesn't actually support my neck - because I'm short it hits the back of my head just at my occipital ridge, forcing my head forward and chin down for the entirety of the flight. Sometimes I'll recline slightly if it helps me rest my head on the fuselage (I tend to opt for window seats).
posted by misskaz at 11:21 AM on August 27 [7 favorites]


Just because (for whatever reasons) the functionality is there, it doesn't make it right to use it when a.) you don't need to, and b.) you are imposing on others.

For me, it falls under the "My right to swing my fists around ends at someone else's nose" doctrine.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:22 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


If you were just ONE more inch taller! Bliss!

I'm 5'5" exactly, and it really does feel like being wrapped into a downy baby bird cocoon and cuddled by angels.

Actually, no, it does not feel that way at all.

And I'm small enough, too, that putting my seat back feels like a gross imposition on whoever's sitting behind me, who is usually taller than me by a good half foot. So I stay upright even on overnight flights.
posted by mochapickle at 11:22 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


Another way is what I'm going to call the "minibar" model. Every passenger buying a ticket is entitled to so-many cubic inches of space. If someone reclines, in effect, they increase their allotment of cubic inches. Since volume on an aircraft is finite, these extra cubic inches are taken from somewhere else. Namely, the allotment of the person behind you.

Well no, they're free to recline as well, making everything well with the world. The guy in the front of the plane is the one who's the space hog, but they paid a lot of money for first class, one presumes.
posted by empath at 11:23 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]



I'm 5'5" exactly, and it really does feel like being wrapped into a downy, baby bird cocoon and cuddled by angels.

Actually, no, it does not feel that way at all.


I was joking.

Flying is hellish.
posted by Windigo at 11:24 AM on August 27


You did NOT just compare reclining an airplane seat to catcalling, did you?

True, the comparison is probably totally off base.

Having experienced both, I can say that the physical pain I've experienced from being reclined on is far worse.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:24 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Isn't there usually a bulkhead between first class and steerage?
posted by mochapickle at 11:24 AM on August 27


Maybe they could install a mechanism whereby your seat won't recline until the person behind you pushes a button - you'd HAVE to talk to the person behind you before reclining. That would ensure that everybody got fair warning before being pummelled and having their drinks thrown off the tray table into their laps.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:26 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I was joking.

I know.

She says gravely, like Han descending into carbonite.
posted by mochapickle at 11:26 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


I guess the recliners would also, when sitting in the front seat of a car with people in the back seat, also move their seat all the way back, right? After all, the car seat was *designed* to move back, right?
posted by Eyebeams at 11:26 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]


Either the space your seat reclines into is part of your space, or it's part of the space of the person behind you. People are treating it as a given that it's the latter, but I don't see any factual basis for that claim. It's an opinion, and perhaps a convention that's developed over the years as airlines have squeezed more and more (increasingly tall) Americans into smaller and smaller rows.

This won't happen, but the airlines should all just make a statement that adjudicates the matter one way or another, either "you must tolerate people using their space, which includes as far as they can recline" or "you must ask for permission to recline, because that space is owned by the person behind you."

The shared space / minibar model just won't work, because people (and especially Americans) are assholes.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:28 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I see we've gotten to the bad metaphor portion of our program.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:28 AM on August 27 [21 favorites]


She's an inquisitive little thing, and has a steel grip once she gets her hands on something she's interested in. Recently, that list includes ears and hair.

Really, you would knowingly allow your daughter to physically assault passengers on a plane? I don't think your fellow passengers are the problem here.
posted by lalex at 11:29 AM on August 27 [18 favorites]


Have you noticed, too, it is always the short people who are jerks about reclining, aka PEOPLE WHO ALREADY HAVE MORE ROOM.
----
but it hadn't occurred to me that for some people not reclining involves concomitant pain

Oh hi, this is me, I'm 5'1" and 100 pounds and get such severe back pain that when I recently flew on a plane where my recliner was broken I was (literally) crying in pain before I got off the plane and spent the first 2 days of my vacation in bed hopped up on pain killers. Fun!. That one actually had a double whammy because there was really bad turbulence so the seatbelt sign was on for hours and I couldn't walk around either, which is my usual backup solution. And there is, in general, no way people sitting behind me can tell by looking, but reclining versus not is severe, lasting pain versus just extreme discomfort, so I'm gonna recline if I can. I'm gonna be polite about it (I do do the sort-of ask of "oh hey I'm gonna recline my seat now, ok?"), but hey you don't know what physical shit people are dealing with, so let's all give each other benefits of the doubt? I won't be the person competing for the bulkhead or emergency exit rows, because those give me nothing, and I don't care about sitting in the middle seat, but how on earth do you know if the person is just doing it "relax" or some other reason?
posted by brainmouse at 11:32 AM on August 27 [7 favorites]


Having experienced both, I can say that the physical pain I've experienced from being reclined on is far worse.

Except there have been times and places where I've been catcalled that I've feared I might be raped or truly hurt or murdered, but I totally see your point.
posted by Windigo at 11:33 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


some seats have very exaggerated neck support that doesn't actually support my neck - because I'm short it hits the back of my head just at my occipital ridge, forcing my head forward and chin down for the entirety of the flight

UGH YES it is the fucking worst thing, the actual worst thing, who the fuck are these seats made for, swans? It is even worse for me now that I have 4 mysteriously herniated discs in my neck. It happens in cars too, which is infuriating as a passenger and intolerable as a driver.
posted by elizardbits at 11:35 AM on August 27 [19 favorites]


really tho why doesn't the universe cater solely to my individual needs
posted by elizardbits at 11:35 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]


I find it staggering that, after report after report of massive pain caused by putting your seat back, non-functional tray tables and cracked laptop screens (google it, it's surprisingly common), people are still insisting that they can, should, will go right ahead and keep slamming that seat back.

I honestly expected more from the Meta crowd.
posted by Cosine at 11:36 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


Well, at least this thread is making people think less of each other, so we achieved that.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:44 AM on August 27 [10 favorites]


I'm in the "excruciating pain if I don't recline" camp.

For me it's not always immediate (though my tailbone will let me know pretty quickly). I will have problems with my hips when walking later, but the main issues are digestive tract and circulation. Sitting upright for too long leads to various pain and triggers for a blood pressure condition that I have (hot/sweaty/shaky/blackout-y fun when I attempt to be upright after it is triggered), and also leads to intense abdominal pain within 20 min to several hours later. Plane seats don't recline *enough* for me to entirely avoid the issues, but it will make them less severe.

I generally warn the person behind me with a "hi, I need to recline, but if you need to get up, please don't hesitate to let me know and I'll move" and I make sure to move slowly and stay upright if they have food/beverage to deal with. Reclining doesn't automatically mean someone is an asshole, and certainly doesn't mean they suddenly toss all consideration out the window.
posted by HermitDog at 11:46 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


oh god and also why do so many people think it is okay to put their feet up on the back of my window-adjacent armrest, i am already being elbowed by some asshat on the other side of me who, drunk with power over not having to compete with me for that armrest, has sprawled all over the fucking place. i don't want to have your raggedy ass yellow toenails brushing my upper arm, you grotesque filth wizard.
posted by elizardbits at 11:46 AM on August 27 [8 favorites]


or use for my laptop

No, reclining seats came first, way before laptops and your need for using that space for something it was never intended for, like pretending you're at work.

And when they do serve food on trays, notice how the cabin crew politely ask everyone to put their seats back in the upright position before feeding them. It's in the manual of how to make a painful experience less so and get you to your destination in one piece.
posted by jsavimbi at 11:46 AM on August 27 [8 favorites]


I sincerely am aghast that everyone does not agree with my personal opinion on a very small matter. I expected more from this website.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:47 AM on August 27 [34 favorites]


I agree with shakespeherian.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:50 AM on August 27 [7 favorites]


Ok, what about this. What about if each of us had a 6' x 3' or whatever capsule? Everyone could lie down, and take a nap. First class could have 6x6 or peacock feather pillows or dancing wombats...whatever it is they usually get.

So picture it, you get to the airport, go through the Groping for Your Security Today checkpoints, get to your capsule, put your carry on luggage in, fluff the pillow, set the media permissions, climb aboard, and close yourself in.

Awaken at your destination. Or ya know, *a* destination. But at least you'll have your carry on, and your knees, and only a slight hangover from the knockout gas.
posted by dejah420 at 11:50 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Sounds great, in related news flights from NY to LA now start at $2,000.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:51 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I find it staggering that, after report after report of massive pain caused by putting your seat back, non-functional tray tables and cracked laptop screens (google it, it's surprisingly common), people are still insisting that they can, should, will go right ahead and keep slamming that seat back.

I haven't seen a single person saying they'd be gleefully slamming their seat into people just because. I have seen a variety of people patiently explaining why their health issues/comfort require them to recline and pointing out that unlike, say, requiring extra legroom, the expectation of being able to recline is built into the ticket. What's more it has been noted repeatedly that people who need said legroom have upgrade options that can cater to their special need without necessitating that other people make up for them by getting less than they paid for.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:51 AM on August 27 [13 favorites]


if we're going to be strict about the space ownership here, the tray table actually belongs to the seat of the person in front of you, because it is attached to that seat. so you should really be asking permission of that person to use the tray table, not blaming them because they cracked your laptop or whatever.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 11:51 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I am shocked and dismayed at shakespeherian's view and cjorgenson's endorsement of it.
posted by Eyebeams at 11:52 AM on August 27


I find it staggering that, after report after report of massive pain caused by putting your seat back, non-functional tray tables and cracked laptop screens (google it, it's surprisingly common), people are still insisting that they can, should, will go right ahead and keep slamming that seat back.

I find it extra amusing because the seats recline like what, 1.5 inches or so ?

Maybe I fly on the wrong airplanes, because I have never known seats to recline very much at all.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:53 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


I agree with cjorgensen, but not with shakespeherian.
posted by Omon Ra at 12:00 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Seriously though, I'm asking... If exceptionally fat people must deal with their need for additional space by buying an additional seat, why isn't it a given that tall people should deal with their need for additional space by upgrading their ticket?

Why would anyone think that in the former case, it's a personal problem, but in the latter case, it falls on total strangers to accommodate the larger person by giving up the right to full use of the seat they bought?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:00 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Supposedly there are more than 1,000 comments on the NY Times website on this issue as well. Who knew this was such a hot issue? From now on I will count myself lucky if the person in front of me doesn't recline his or her seat (without being paid not to).
posted by Eyebeams at 12:02 PM on August 27


What about if each of us had a 6' x 3' or whatever capsule?

This is business class on Cathay Pacific and it is worth every penny.
posted by elizardbits at 12:02 PM on August 27


I see we've gotten to the bad metaphor portion of our program.

Well, no metaphor is going to be perfect on every point, is it? Otherwise the two things being compared would be the exact same thing. You can compare Situation A to Situation B on the basis of their similarity on points C,D, and E, even if they're different on points F and G.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:03 PM on August 27


This is business class on Cathay Pacific and it is worth every penny.

Is that the airline that has the magazine advertisement with the guy in the enormous enormous seat, demonstrating the size of it by using his laptop while it's sitting on the leather seat because he clearly wants to pull a muscle in his back before setting the airplane on fire?
posted by griphus at 12:05 PM on August 27


If exceptionally fat people must deal with their need for additional space by buying an additional seat, why isn't it a given that tall people should deal with their need for additional space by upgrading their ticket?

If the typical airline seat is not wide enough for you, you are probably at least a couple of standard deviations above the mean. The same is not at all true for seat pitch and passenger height.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:07 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


In theory, yeah. In practice, metaphors and analogies are a poor choice for a contentious thread.

This was hard for me. I love colorful, moderately snotty analogies.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:08 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


If the typical airline seat is not wide enough for you, you are probably at least a couple of standard deviations above the mean. The same is not at all true for seat pitch and passenger height.

That still does not answer: why in one case would the answer to needing extra space be "buy it yourself" and in the other one, the answer would be "limit the use of an adjacent passenger's seat"?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:11 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


They were *designed* to recline.

Yeah, twenty years ago, when we all had 20% more linear space than we do now.

Also:

If exceptionally fat people must deal with their need for additional space by buying an additional seat, why isn't it a given that tall people should deal with their need for additional space by upgrading their ticket?

Because there is sufficient unoccupied vertical airspace over each seat where my spine, neck, and head can extend without inconveniencing you, but the lateral space is already allocated to each passenger. If there was a DMZ ten inches wide between each pair of seats then no one would complain as much.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:13 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


would it be mined?
posted by elizardbits at 12:15 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


(Not for nothing, but I'm tall. Reclined seats make me have to sit bow-legged. Not my favorite. I'd also be more comfortable if the seat next to me was empty, but no one owes me that. I feel similarly about the reclining space of the passenger in front of me. That is: I'd be more comfortable if I could use it. But it's not mine. The decision to purchase or not purchase legroom to accommodate my size is mine alone and I must live with the ramifications of my choice.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:15 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


would it be mined?

I know the ones alongside my seat would be. Less savvy travelers are left to their own devices.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:17 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


It seems like a case of one size does not fit all. If there's a pregnant woman behind you, you probably shouldn't recline as much. If the person in front of you gets severe vertigo unless they are reclined (yes, a real thing), you might want to allow for that without being a goddamn twit.

Things that should not count as special exceptions: Using a laptop while pretending the seat in front of you may not recline at any moment or that the person in front of you must pay attention to what you're doing at every moment. The people with cracked laptop screens, frankly, deserve it for being careless.
posted by smidgen at 12:17 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


If exceptionally fat people must deal with their need for additional space by buying an additional seat, why isn't it a given that tall people should deal with their need for additional space by upgrading their ticket?

Well, beyond how wonderfully fat-shaming our culture is...

Tall people aren't asking for anything more than what is available to them when they sit down on the seat. So it's not really "extra".

Truly tall people 6'5" generally are paying for the upgrades (assuming that upgrades are even available: there are plenty of flights where upgrades aren't available, and airlines reserve the right to bump your flight schedules around such that an upgrade that you thought you'd paid for isn't available anymore).

Those of us a little closer to average (I'm 5'11") could, admittedly pay for upgrades all the time (and I often do) but it doesn't really make sense that I should have to, given that a.) I can fit in the seats as presented, and b.) most people who recline don't do it to avoid discomfort, they do it to enjoy extra comfort at my expense.

And again, for people that need to recline, asking costs nothing, and that's really what tall folks are asking for in this thread. Not that no one ever reclines.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:17 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


1. Airline travel is one of the few places where being short is a clear advantage
2. Why has nobody quoted "The Trees" yet
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:18 PM on August 27


--If the typical airline seat is not wide enough for you, you are probably at least a couple of standard deviations above the mean. The same is not at all true for seat pitch and passenger height.

-That still does not answer: why in one case would the answer to needing extra space be "buy it yourself" and in the other one, the answer would be "limit the use of an adjacent passenger's seat"?


I'm taller than average, but not anywhere near the same degree of wider than average I'd have to be to not fit between the armrests.

And why is the answer for the person who needs extra room to recline be "limit the use of an adjacent passenger's seat?"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:18 PM on August 27


Really though I think one of the big reasons is that the recliner can't see the reclinee, so they rationalize it into a victimless crime. Who is back there? Who can even know? It might be no one! It might be a bad person who deserves it! It is a shame that the mystery of who is sitting behind you is totally unsolvable in every possible way I guess.
posted by elizardbits at 12:25 PM on August 27 [16 favorites]


The airlines are not to blame here. They are selling consumers the exact product which passengers have voted with their dollars to buy.

For example, Spirit's revenue has grown from $781 million in 2010 to $1.8 million in the 12 months ended June 30, 2014. RyanAir (the Spirit of Europe) in the same time frame is up from EUR 5 billion to EUR 10 billion. This swamps the growth of airlines which have focused on economy class comfort and amenities, like JetBlue or Southwest.

Another data point is the multi-billion-dollar investment that the airlines have made in international business class cabins, regarding which there is an outright arms race. Where consumers will pay for the benefit, airlines are thrilled to add space and amenities. The complete failure to advance of domestic / short-range first class cabins, which are mainly given away to frequent fliers, demonstrates this further.
posted by MattD at 12:26 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


The only way this discussion could be more predictably contentious is if it included bicycles.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:01 PM on August 27 [13 favorites +] [!]


And what if I told you that odd rows are Macs and even rows are PCs?
posted by jeremias at 12:27 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


And why is the answer for the person who needs extra room to recline be "limit the use of an adjacent passenger's seat?"

This is where we disagree I guess. You feel that space is the intrinsic right of the rear passenger, even to the point of being able to dictate the position and use of an adjacent seat. I think the front passenger has the right to use the seat as it was designed and that the rear passenger's legroom can expand when possible to include that space, but they do not have a right to it and must yield it when required.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:28 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I naively thought that airplane seats reclined so that on overnight flights everyone could try to sleep, but that during the daytime they should be kept upright so as not to take space away from the person behind you. I guess I have led a sheltered life.
posted by Eyebeams at 12:32 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


For my part, I don't think it's about rights or property or ownership at all. It's about kindness, human decency, and the pursuit of maximized collective utility under circumstances that are unpleasant for all.
posted by yarrow at 12:33 PM on August 27 [8 favorites]


They are selling consumers the exact product which passengers have voted with their dollars to buy.
While I agree that we're in this situation because we don't want to pay much, clearly some people think they're buying a different product (a reclining seat) to others (at least a certain guaranteed legroom), so I don't know you can say we're getting the exact product we voted for with our dollars. The airlines could sell exactly the same seats but give guidance on, for example, asking permission before reclining.
posted by edd at 12:33 PM on August 27


And what if I told you that odd rows are Macs and even rows are PCs?

Then I'd say that your nostalgia is intruding in my 21st-Century, First-World-problem arguments.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:33 PM on August 27


No, reclining seats came first, way before laptops and your need for using that space for something it was never intended for, like pretending you're at work.

People use to be able to smoke on planes and we dealt with that. Reclining seats were introduced at a time seats were actually not mere inches from each other. This makes no sense anymore.

And when they do serve food on trays, notice how the cabin crew politely ask everyone to put their seats back in the upright position before feeding them.

This doesn't happen often, and recliners are quick to do it again, often before you're done eating.

You sound like somebody who's never been stucked in the last row of a plane for a 6 hour flight with somebody occupying all their front space (and on a lot of planes the last row has narrower seats because of the curvature of the fuselage).
posted by coust at 12:35 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Reclining isn't just a tall-people thing. Most of all, it traps your head and torso into a tiny space and is honestly freaking claustrophobic. On many planes, if someone reclines all the way onto you, the chair blocks light so you can't read, and eating with a fork and knife suddenly requires awkward T. Rex arms. Shit, if you have a long enough tongue you could practically lick a fully-reclined seatback from a normal sitting position.
posted by threeants at 12:37 PM on August 27


I find it staggering that, after report after report of massive pain caused by putting your seat back, non-functional tray tables and cracked laptop screens (google it, it's surprisingly common), people are still insisting that they can, should, will go right ahead and keep slamming that seat back.

I find it staggering that anyone can pretend to be surprised that the seat in front of them which is designed to recline will, at some point in the flight, recline. And that after report after report of banged knees, non-functional tray tables, and cracked laptop screens, people will continue to think their knees and their stuff are safe in the space that the seat in front of them is designed to recline into.

Sure, I'll slam on the brakes and try not to hit you if you step out in front of my car, but don't try to shame me for driving on the freeway because you wanted to walk there.
posted by straight at 12:37 PM on August 27 [10 favorites]


Basically I see reclining all the way as something that puts someone else out significantly for a very minor gain in happiness. Which is sort of the definition of obnoxiousness. It's like if you poisoned all the birds in town so you wouldn't have to hear quiet chirping while watching TV.
posted by threeants at 12:39 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I agree, it's the chirping at 5am which deserves the poison.
posted by elizardbits at 12:41 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


And to be honest I don't really care that much about airplane reclining in the long run, but the larger attitude of "well, it's allowed, so why should I even think twice!" holds weight in our society and has a lot of major implications.
posted by threeants at 12:42 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


I have been cramped by reclined seats innumerable times. But it never occurred to me to be hostile toward the person in front of me who was, after all, only using the seat they paid for in a manner in which it was designed to be used. Mostly, I just lament that I don't have the budget for a better seat. Or I think fondly about the days when I had a girlfriend who worked at United and would fly us around first class. First class is really pretty awesome.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:42 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I agree, it's the chirping at 5am which deserves the poison.

the reason I didn't use those birds as an example is because I already destroyed them
posted by threeants at 12:42 PM on August 27


Counterpoint: The vicious, senseless abomination of reclining seats on airlines: why reclining seats should be banned. [old Slate article]
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:44 PM on August 27


the larger attitude of "well, it's allowed, so why should I even think twice!" holds weight in our society and has a lot of major implications.

It's not that it's allowed, it's that the seats were designed to do that. One should not be forced to factor in obscure etiquette when performing a function a ubiquitous product was designed to perform.

Which is to say, not everyone's going to be aware that reclining is for jerks, and not everyone who reclines is doing so because they are jerks. There will always be unknowing people who'll go, "Oh, hey, it reclines!' while spilling your drink, destroying your laptop, and fracturing your patella.

It's a design flaw. The solution is not etiquette, it's redesign. Meanwhile, complain to the appropriate party, i.e. the airline.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:51 PM on August 27 [16 favorites]


Basically I see reclining all the way as something that puts someone else out significantly for a very minor gain in happiness.

Well, crap. Apparently the Hedonism Commission also ruled that punching me in the face would give you far more pleasure than it would cause me discomfort. So, go ahead. Take your best shot. And then I'll sit here with my seat up the whole flight.
posted by straight at 12:52 PM on August 27


Basically I see reclining all the way as something that puts someone else out significantly for a very minor gain in happiness.

I'm 6'1" and I can and will recline on any flight longer than an hour or so. Even if the person in front of me reclines, as long as I can lean back I can position my knees so they aren't banging the seat in front of me and in a position where they are comfortable for the duration. I do not recline quickly, I put the seat back when served food (on overseas flights, of course), and if someone asked me politely I'd compromise as much as possible.

This is not a minor gain in happiness. The difference for me on a 9 or 10 hour flight from Europe far outweighs any guilt I may have for the minor inconvenience for the person behind me. I really don't care if I'm seen as greedy or inconsiderate. The person in front of me didn't ask permission before they reclined as well. These are the rules of the road, or the skies as they may be.
posted by splen at 12:52 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


One of the heaviest things you can carry is water.

False. Osmium is 20 times as heavy as water. I wish I'd known that before I commissioned my custom Osmium rollaboard suitcase.

Humans are mostly water, so if you pack the cabin full of them, you find that you can't carry as much fuel

Humans are 65% water *by weight*, which is like saying an inflated balloon is 99% rubber by weight and then assuming a balloon weighs as much as a 1 foot sphere of solid rubber.
Humans are fairly hollow and the weight of an equivalent volume of water is not relevant.
posted by w0mbat at 12:55 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]



Fuck being civil to each other as human beings.

Everything in life has a $ attached to it. Because how else are you gonna define human interactions?

Douchebags like this make the world worse and coarser.



Am I wrong to read this article as mainly tongue-in-cheek? Some of the comments such as the one I quoted above seem to take the author's application of economic theory to this problem a little seriously. I thought the article definitely had a bit of a light tone, and was more of just a mental exercise.
posted by johnnydummkopf at 12:55 PM on August 27


The difference for me on a 9 or 10 hour flight from Europe far outweighs any guilt I may have for the minor inconvenience for the person behind me.

The number of people in this thread who define their own discomfort as significant while assuming another person is experiencing only "minor inconvenience," even after presumably reading the comments of people who have explained why that "minor inconvenience" is in fact a major discomfort, or causes pain, is discouraging.
posted by not that girl at 12:59 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


w0mbat: it also smells bad, so please don't bring it on a flight with me.
posted by edd at 1:00 PM on August 27


The number of people in this thread who define their own discomfort as significant while assuming another person is experiencing only "minor inconvenience," even after presumably reading the comments of people who have explained why that "minor inconvenience" is in fact a major discomfort, or causes pain, is discouraging.

You do realise you're doing exactly that, right?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:00 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


And in today's news--"Flighted diverted as passengers fight over reclining seat"
posted by rmhsinc at 1:00 PM on August 27


That would be the event that prompted Mr Barro's comments linked in the FPP, rmhsinc
posted by notyou at 1:04 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


The number of people in this thread who define their own discomfort as significant while assuming another person is experiencing only "minor inconvenience,"

I only chose the word 'minor' since that was how my happiness was being defined. Kinda sucks when someone else is putting qualifiers around what you're going through, doesn't it?

So before it's assumed that I'm only reclining my seat because I'm being ignorant or rude. maybe consider that I have a good reason for doing it, and as I said, if someone asks me to put my seat back up I'd consider their good reason for doing it as well.
posted by splen at 1:06 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


One of the best ways I've found to increase my sense of space on a flight is to leave all the shit: laptop, tablet, other electronic devices, cables for such, neck pillows, snacks, stacks of work papers, stacks of newspapers and magazines, sweatshirt in case it gets cold; packed safely away in my carryon. I try to bring nothing to my actual seat area but headphones and a paperback, no matter how long the flight. There is always the option to retrieve such things later if needed.

I know everyone can't do this, but it helps immensely and it is within your control.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:10 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


First World Problems, am I right?!
posted by agregoli at 1:11 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


My Apologies--I got so caught up in reading the comments I never got back to reading the article--I checked for the link but missed the article
posted by rmhsinc at 1:11 PM on August 27


Whose pain trumps whose? If I can't recline I will be in tears from pain. But my reclining may cause the person behind me an equal amount of pain.

Is there an answer to this? I don't want to hurt someone else but I don't want to have my trip ruined either.
posted by futz at 1:13 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I flew a red-eye where the person in front of me reclined his seat and then decided to sleep leaning forward, resting his arms on his tray and his head on his arms, which is what I also wished to do, but could not, since he had reclined his goddammed seat.

I have never wished death more violently upon a person.
posted by Lucinda at 1:13 PM on August 27 [6 favorites]


Assigning seats by height (sort of joking) could be an answer. All you tall folks could have your own no reclining section...
posted by futz at 1:15 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing that the FAA or the airlines will quickly ban the Knee Defender, and the sacred Right to Recline During a One Hour Flight Because I Paid For It Dammit will be preserved.
posted by Eyebeams at 1:16 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Me: The number of people in this thread who define their own discomfort as significant while assuming another person is experiencing only "minor inconvenience," even after presumably reading the comments of people who have explained why that "minor inconvenience" is in fact a major discomfort, or causes pain, is discouraging.

SysReq: You do realise you're doing exactly that, right?
posted by Sys Rq at 4:00 PM on August 27 [+] [!]

Me again: I sincerely don't know what you mean. Can you explain?
posted by not that girl at 1:17 PM on August 27


Because people on both sides of the argument have explained that there can be significant pain involved for them personally, whether from being reclined upon, or from being prevented from reclining.
posted by elizardbits at 1:19 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


So let's say you need to recline because back problems and you, as many people consider appropriate, ask the person behind you if you can recline. And they say "no."

What is the non-asshole move in that situation? Be uncomfortable for the rest of the flight so they can be comfortable? Recline so you can be comfortable and they won't be after they specifically asked you not to recline? Recline halfway?
posted by griphus at 1:19 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Or maybe, just like a heavier person has to purchase 2 seats next to each other, so should a really tall person. Buy the seat in front of you. Problem solved! (solved by $$$)
posted by futz at 1:20 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


(That's the general 'you'; I wasn't addressing it to anyone particular, just the people who consider asking to recline to be the appropriate action before reclining.)
posted by griphus at 1:20 PM on August 27


I know everyone can't do this, but it helps immensely and it is within your control.

Of course they can, but they choose not to because they already have a predefined notion of their optimal experience and whatever threatens their selfish fantasy will be addressed with anything between a poisonous Yelp review or the throwing of feces, depending on how fragile their world has become.

Meanwhile in Nicaragua, some seventy year-old is standing in the aisle of a chicken bus hoping they make it home from the market in time to make dinner during sunlight hours.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:21 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I only chose the word 'minor' since that was how my happiness was being defined. Kinda sucks when someone else is putting qualifiers around what you're going through, doesn't it?

I'm sorry, splen. I didn't mean to call you out personally, and should have said so. I really meant to comment more generally on the thread as a whole, in which it has seemed like people are quick to justify their preference, whether for reclining or not-being-reclined-upon, while assuming that the person on the other side would be only a bit inconvenienced. And I certainly didn't mean to suggest your pain was insignificant; I meant to comment more generally on people's failure to extend empathy to others.
posted by not that girl at 1:22 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Somewhere on earth a child just died this moment from diarrhea, so no one in this thread is ever allowed to care if they are in physical pain that was directly or indirectly caused by another person, forever until the end of time.
posted by elizardbits at 1:23 PM on August 27 [12 favorites]


elizardbits, If that was some kind of jab at me for pointing out that this is an extremely privileged argument, sorry to have interrupted.
posted by agregoli at 1:25 PM on August 27


anyway my earlier comment about this thread going better than the summer camp bedroom one was clearly the stupidest thing ever postulated by a human being to date and i apologize for my foolish optimism
posted by elizardbits at 1:26 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


If that was some kind of jab at me for pointing out that this is an extremely priviledged argument, sorry to have interrupted.

what the what? i don't even know what you are talking about?
posted by elizardbits at 1:28 PM on August 27


So let's say you need to recline because back problems and you, as many people consider appropriate, ask the person behind you if you can recline. And they say "no."

Call the flight attendant and ask for one of you to be re-seated.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:31 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I would say "thank you" like they just said yes and then recline but I have a Black Belt in passive-aggressiveness
posted by Greg Nog at 1:39 PM on August 27 [8 favorites]


I haven't flown a lot in the last few years, but I don't remember the last time they didn't have one of those "we overbooked this flight, who wants a free ticket for getting off the airplane" announcements.
posted by griphus at 1:42 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


"In accordance with our policy of overbooking flights, this flight has been overbooked."
posted by box at 1:45 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Yeah it's pretty unrealistic to find an unoccupied seat these days.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:45 PM on August 27


I'm 6'2"; my dad is 6'7". I thank God every time I fly that I'm not as tall as he is — it seems pretty much a crapshoot over whether I have enough room or not. The last several Southwest flights have had ample room, even without being in the exit row (which, gotta say, I do hate when short people take those seats even when there are tall people on the plane). Sometimes recliners hurt my legs, other times they're fine — I prefer it when they ask. Sometimes people are dicks about it, slamming their seats back while I'm eating or something, and sometimes I'm a dick back about it (I can usually get my legs right up on theirs from below the seat). I will say that it's frustrating that some Southwest seats seem to randomly not recline (usually ones around the exit rows, with a few others randomly sprinkled in).


yeah, none of those are comfortable for me either. Like I said, outliers just gotta deal...

I'll also point out that the argument that because one is short, they shouldn't have to be considerate toward others on a plane seems a perilous one to make — if we're going to go with "just gotta deal," it's probably worth realizing that then short people are gonna just have to deal with it more often and tall people would have little incentive to change that.
posted by klangklangston at 1:46 PM on August 27


-And why is the answer for the person who needs extra room to recline be "limit the use of an adjacent passenger's seat?"

--This is where we disagree I guess. You feel that space is the intrinsic right of the rear passenger, even to the point of being able to dictate the position and use of an adjacent seat. I think the front passenger has the right to use the seat as it was designed and that the rear passenger's legroom can expand when possible to include that space, but they do not have a right to it and must yield it when required.


So, one person gets to use the seat as designed, but the other one doesn't? Why is the front passenger's right to use the seat as designed more important than the rear passenger's right to use the seat as designed? Why is the rear passenger obligated to yield his use of the seat as it was designed when the front passenger isn't?

BOTH passengers have a right to use other seats. This is a situation where cooperation and compromise is called for.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:47 PM on August 27


The knowledge that flights are full of glaring non-recliners silently sending their hate towards the recliners as they do the knee dance of anger and despair means that now I have another reason to be anxious about flying. I had absolutely no idea that there was this seething morass of emotion and agony on every plane.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:52 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


This is a situation where cooperation and compromise is called for.

By way of a Freaky Friday body-switch experience, most preferably.
posted by griphus at 1:52 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


Here is the solution: everyone, whether or not they would normally do so, must recline their seats. All are reclined and reclined upon. The people in the final row, with seats that do not recline, get to fly for free. They are called the flight christs and they suffer for our sins.
posted by elizardbits at 1:53 PM on August 27 [27 favorites]


Or maybe, just like a heavier person has to purchase 2 seats next to each other, so should a really tall person. Buy the seat in front of you. Problem solved! (solved by $$$)

This sounds like the perfect solution. The guy with the unfathomable sense of entitlement to a situation that the design of the airplane itself implies he should never have had (the seats were intentionally built to recline, which implies that people are expected to recline in them) gets to put his money where his mouth is instead of bullying someone else into his worldview.
posted by deathmaven at 1:56 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


short people are gonna just have to deal with it more often and tall people would have little incentive to change that.
yeah, that is the point I'm making...it's the world I live in, I have to deal with it more often...so when being short is actually to my advantage I'm hard pressed to give it up.
posted by dipolemoment at 1:57 PM on August 27


people will continue to think their knees and their stuff are safe in the space that the seat in front of them is designed to recline into.

I'm 6'7", please do tell me where you would like me to place my knees so that they won't interupt the backwards thrust of your seat?
posted by Cosine at 1:57 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


No, here is the solution: everyone, whether or not they would normally do so, must sit upright. Like they would if they were, say, eating out at a restaurant. Or sitting at a library or a museum.

Also, everyone must break their eggs on the big ends. Well, that probably goes without saying.
posted by Eyebeams at 1:58 PM on August 27


I'm 6'7", please do tell me where you would like me to place my knees so that they won't interupt the backwards thrust of your seat?

Purchase the seat in front of you.
posted by deathmaven at 1:58 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I'll say this: I am absolutely positive that the reason airlines don't weigh in with an official position on this is that the status quo--people arguing with and resenting each other--is a way better deal for them than if people were to argue with and resent airlines over cramped and limited space.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:03 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


The people with cracked laptop screens, frankly, deserve it for being careless.

Rubbish, you have to drop the seat back without warning to crack a laptop. There is absolutely NO reason to do that when you are reclining your seat. Take a few seconds to ease the seat back, so that the passenger can adjust anything on the tray that might be damaged. It's not like you don't have those two extra seconds to spare, you're not going anywhere, that's why you're reclining your seat in the first place!

Recline at will, but don't be a dick, and don't try to shift blame to other people when they suffer misfortune caused by you being careless and a dick.
posted by anonymisc at 2:05 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I'm 6'7", please do tell me where you would like me to place my knees so that they won't interupt the backwards thrust of your seat?

Purchase the seat in front of you.


This is, like, the reductio ad absurdum of neoliberal thought, where it actually makes more sense for someone to pay twice as much due to his or her body shape than for someone else to cede a minor improvement in comfort.
posted by threeants at 2:08 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Here is the solution: everyone, whether or not they would normally do so, must recline their seats. All are reclined and reclined upon.

Reclining my seat doesn't move my knees back out of the reclined seat in front of me.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:09 PM on August 27


Here's the thing: Yes, the seats were designed to recline, but they were designed that way back when there was more room between rows. That design is now obsolete.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:11 PM on August 27 [6 favorites]


Again, not the recliners fault.
posted by empath at 2:13 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Can we get a show of hands re: how many people are commenting on this thread from a plane?
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:13 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


There have been plenty of new aircraft released with exactly that design from day 1 with that seat spacing, when it could have been altered easily enough. I think it's hard to justify the claim it is obsolete.
posted by edd at 2:14 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Whose pain trumps whose? If I can't recline I will be in tears from pain. But my reclining may cause the person behind me an equal amount of pain.

This is why the linked article brings Coase's theorem into this argument. The idea is that each party places a monetary value on avoiding the pain associated with smashed knees/not reclining, and then via bargaining they find an efficient solution - one party gets their preference wrt to reclining, the other party gets an amount of money that will make them as happy as they would be if they got their preference, and utility is maximized. If party A is willing to pay $20 to get their preference and party B is willing to pay $30, then if party B gets their preference and pays party A $25, they each gain $5 of utility on the transaction.

The fact that this solution is appealing to precisely nobody (not even the author of the article - he's really just using the idea of the theorem to stake out a position on the recline/no recline debate) speaks volumes about why economics is kinda dopey.
posted by yarrow at 2:15 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Jesus Christ, I have never before been so grateful for the ability to fly military cargo in the jumpseats in my life. Is flying civilian always this seething hell dimension of hate? People recline so they can sleep on the plane. They're not doing it just to make your day sad. If you recline, then you, too, can sleep on the plane.

Sadly I think the FAA probably prohibits cargo jumpseats for passengers, otherwise tall people could just trade comfort for leg space.
posted by corb at 2:16 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


This is, like, the reductio ad absurdum of neoliberal thought, where it actually makes more sense for someone to pay twice as much due to his or her body shape than for someone else to cede a minor improvement in comfort.

So do you also agree that wider passengers should not pay twice as much and buy two seats?
posted by jeather at 2:19 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Is flying civilian always this seething hell dimension of hate?

YES.
posted by insectosaurus at 2:22 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


Why can't everybody just deal with their flight stress the way the gods intended and just get so drunk in the airport bar that they don't give a fuck what position the seats are in? Works for me.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:27 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


I'm almost serious in saying that the seat recliner lever should be Nuclear Silo style, and require the activation of a button by the person behind, simultaneously.

I am 5'8. It is not really a big deal if the person in front of me reclines their seat, at least not in terms of leg room.

However - regardless of your personal situation, you should always check with the person behind. The space is so close quarters that it's very easy to get food or drink on someone, ding them with the tray, whap a baby that's being bottle fed, hit someone's knees, etc, etc.

The opportunity to afford someone a little courtesy and save them an annoyance on a long haul flight is one that's well worth taking.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 2:28 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


> seething hell dimension of hate
welcome to GRARWorld
posted by morganw at 2:28 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


"yeah, that is the point I'm making...it's the world I live in, I have to deal with it more often...so when being short is actually to my advantage I'm hard pressed to give it up."

Right, and the point I'm making is that this is a short-sighted (no pun intended) plan, in that it encourages a system that fucks you over more often.

"Purchase the seat in front of you."

And if they can't afford to do that?

"So do you also agree that wider passengers should not pay twice as much and buy two seats?"

How frequently does this happen? I would wager an order of magnitude less often than people with long legs are inconvenienced by reclining seats. And can you understand how forking out an extra couple hundred bucks is less reasonable for something that can generally be solved with a bit of consideration from the recliners than something that generally does require more lateral space?
posted by klangklangston at 2:29 PM on August 27


Humans are 65% water *by weight*,

What a waste! They have water at the other end of the flight, right? We need to start giving people discounts to fly whilst severely dehyrated to save on jet fuel.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 2:30 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


This thread is bizarre. If I reclined my seat and the person behind me was put in pain by it or had some other real issue, I would expect them to tell me so politely, at which point we would of course work out some mutually accommodating solution to the best of our ability.

I must admit I am baffled that the preferred solution here instead seems to be INITIATE SILENT TOTAL WAR.

Seriously, what the hell?
posted by kyrademon at 2:37 PM on August 27 [31 favorites]


Regarding the Recliners' supposed need to recline – because sitting upright causes them such discomfort – the very first person on this thread to make that claim (who got ~100 favorites for saying so) then goes on to say that if the person behind them asks nicely, he (the Recliner) will probably sit upright. (?!)

So he absolutely has to recline. Except he doesn't.

Which makes sense (for most people) because most seats don't recline and yet Recliners somehow manage to eat at restaurants, sit at dining room tables, study at library tables, hear lectures at museums, etc. etc., without reclining into the personal space of the person behind them. Only on an airplane (again, for most people) does reclining become so important, it seems.
posted by Eyebeams at 2:39 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


If you're going to put your laptop on the tray table, is it impossible for you to ask the person in the seat in front of you, "Hey, my laptop's on the table, can you give me some warning if you're going to recline?" If the problem is people flinging themselves backwards, just communicate and ask them to tell you first. Most people aren't asshats. Most.
posted by OolooKitty at 2:42 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Right, and the point I'm making is that this is a short-sighted (no pun intended) plan, in that it encourages a system that fucks you over more often.
Yep, the system does fuck me over more often, I've pretty much give up on some master plan to change it. I try to live my life and savor the small victories. You are of course logically correct, but I wholeheartedly doubt that if I stopped reclining my seat, it would do anything to the system one way or another.
posted by dipolemoment at 2:43 PM on August 27


Eyebeams, do you not understand that someone who says they'd like to recline, but will sit up if the person behind them doesn't like it may just be willing to "take one for the team"? My wife has severe lumbar spine problems, and prefers reclining seats, however, I have to basically talk her into getting up the nerve to recline her seat so that she doesn't end up curled up in a ball of pain when we arrive at our destination. The same goes for your restaurant and library examples. If a reclining option is available, it's helpful. If it's not, it hurts. Why is this so difficult to understand?
posted by tonycpsu at 2:44 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


> "... most seats don't recline and yet Recliners somehow manage to eat at restaurants ..."

Yes, I often eat at restaurants for thirteen hours at a stretch without getting up while trying to nap.
posted by kyrademon at 2:44 PM on August 27 [25 favorites]


How soon will the licence to fart be monetized?
I'm counting the minutes.
posted by Consult The Oracle at 2:44 PM on August 27


So he absolutely has to recline. Except he doesn't.

call Scotland Yard the case has been cracked
posted by griphus at 2:48 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


tonycpsu – I was careful to say "most people", and, really, anti-Recliners are not objecting to people with severe back problems reclining, or to what happens on 9 hour flights from Europe (as one person upthread claimed). These are red herrings. It's clear (to me at least) that most people in this thread taking the Recliner side do not have a degenerative disc issue or the like. Back problems are common, but not that common. Far more often it's a "I paid for it, the chair reclines, suck it" attitude, IMO.
posted by Eyebeams at 2:50 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Is flying civilian always this seething hell dimension of hate?

See sockermom's comment way upthread for a sense of the grim particulars, but, yes, commercial air travel is anywhere from slightly to exceedingly unpleasant for most people, at least in the US. A really unfortunate combination of things (including but not limited to airlines being cheap at the expense of customer satsifaction, ludicrously increased security theater/pretty much anything to do with the TSA, less vacation time making your fellow travelers more rushed and stressed, the decline of bus and train travel as viable alternatives to plane travel, and the unbelievably alienating spaces that airports and airplanes have become) has come together over the last decade or two and turned what used to be an exciting and vaguely glamorous way to travel into, yeah, a seething hell dimension of hate. I don't have to fly that often and I actively seek out other forms of travel just to not have to deal with flying. Amtrak has its own issues, but god damn if it's not a pleasant relief to have a seat with some space and the ability to wander around for a bit if I'd like.
posted by Copronymus at 2:50 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


On one hand, I hate the people in front of me who recline their seat.

On the other hand, I enjoy reclining in my seat.

In conclusion, fuck you.
posted by mazola at 2:53 PM on August 27 [12 favorites]


kyrademon Now it's 13 hour flights! I underestimated when I said 9. Jesus.

EDIT: Why do anti-Recliners want me to sit upright when I fly to Australia and back? What's wrong with them?
posted by Eyebeams at 2:54 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Hate the game, not the player. Or in this case, look at the airlines and not the passengers. The airlines are the ones who have, over the past few decades, quietly added in a row or two of seats on planes. Planes generally used to have more legroom and a reclining person wasn't such a big deal. Now it's sardine city--thanks, airlines--so a reclining person gets the stinkeye.

Also depends on where on the plane, and I suppose the model of plane. One flight I was all the way in the back row, aisle seat, next to the bathroom. The dude in front of me put his seat down immediately after takeoff, and kept it there. This particular seat was placed so badly that with his seat back, it was impossible to let down my tray table. No other seat on the plane had this problem (I checked). I asked a flight attendant about this and she looked both surprised and sympathetic and just kind of shrugged away.

Look for the source of the problem, not the symptoms. Airlines would love it if we all just blame each other for seatback problems, but they are causing the problem in the first place.
posted by zardoz at 2:55 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I do not know how often people are made to buy extra seats, but I also do not know how often people are in agonizing pain from reclining/not reclining. But either "buy two seats" is a solution for people who are bigger than the airplanes are ready for or it is not.
posted by jeather at 2:58 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


So he absolutely has to recline. Except he doesn't.

You’re taking an overly literal interpretation here without applying the same to the other side. Sure, I’ll survive if I don’t recline, but yes, I will be pain (depending on how long the flight is). By the same token, people will survive if the seats in front of them recline, but they’ll be in pain.

yet Recliners somehow manage to eat at restaurants, sit at dining room tables, study at library tables, hear lectures at museums,

Eating at restaurants, sitting at dining room tables, etc. usually are much shorter than the flights I’m on. So obviously they’re much more tolerable. Going with a more comparable example: I have an office job where I’m sitting at a desk for 7 hours, and y'know what? I often have to get up and walk around so that I’m not sitting down for hours at a time. And another one of my coworkers has to have a special ergonomic seat because of a bad back. So yeah, we don't get reclining seats, but there are other accommodations at play.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 2:59 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


People: I got a whole row to myself last week. I would suggest you all limit your flying to the 9am Tuesday flight from Pittsburgh to LGA on Delta, but then that'd also be oversold.

I had no idea this was such a problem on either side.
posted by Area Man at 3:02 PM on August 27


I would also like stricter hand luggage restrictions to be enforced, after I lost my legroom to my own small bag being under the seat in front of me because other people had basically suitcases in the overhead lockers taking up all the room. My mini-rant is now over.
posted by edd at 3:04 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Humans are fairly hollow

A point irrefutably proven by this thread.

People are horrible. From the tall to the small, the recliners to the whiners, people are no damn good. They are why I hate leaving my house. It's not even a nice house!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 3:05 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


The mistake here is believing there is anywhere worth flying to because by definition, anywhere there's an airport there's going to be people too.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:06 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Knee Defender provides a First Response declaration as this Crisis grows, although it may not win the war.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 3:07 PM on August 27


Why don't they just switch seats? Do that a few times and the plane bubblesorts itself.
posted by BigVACub at 3:09 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


This is a complex problem but I am reasonably certain the solution is guns.
posted by mazola at 3:18 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


> "Now it's 13 hour flights! I underestimated when I said 9. Jesus."

Wow ya got me. Obviously I could not have used nine hours sitting bolt upright in a restaurant chair as my example because everyone knows people do that all the time in perfect comfort.
posted by kyrademon at 3:24 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Far more often it's a "I paid for it, the chair reclines, suck it" attitude, IMO.

The people saying this forget that the recline-ee also paid for their paltry 31" of kneeroom.
posted by Evilspork at 3:27 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


This argument reminds me of another setting where we're all pissed off at each other, in cars! There's a great book about traffic (incredible as it sounds) that argued that driving makes us more aggressive toward other drivers because we only see the back of the car in front of us or vaguely see the driver through the car window and because the drivers can't really hear or communicate with one another. This anonymity makes it easier to get peeved and make conjectures about the other jerky driver and generally act in shitty ways. Whereas, if were able to see the other driver face to face, that could humanize the other driver. Think how nice it is even if you've been cut off while driving if the driver waves a hand in a mea culpa. I think the same dynamic plays out on the plane. There's the dehumanization of the TSA ritual and then a dynamic where you don't really see the humanity of the person in front of you, or in back of you. Maybe if the two parties made eye contact, a lot of the tension would be defused and some kind, non-pecuniary social transactions could calmly take place? (I can dream, right?)

(The traffic book also blew my mind by arguing that, though it's considered obnoxious by many, where cones are set up blocking one lane of a roadway it's actually more efficient overall for traffic movement if cars merge late rather than politely merge earlier on--there you go, you now have permission to just selfishly go for it next time you're in that situation!)
posted by faux ami at 3:33 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


People are horrible. From the tall to the small, the recliners to the whiners, people are no damn good.

Seems like we should have a bit of music if we're going to keep going. Both the NYT and NPR were over 1000 comments (and perusing them reminded me that MetaFilter does have its advantages, even in this sort of argument).
posted by mr. digits at 3:35 PM on August 27


Having only been on one flight I had not idea this was such a hot button issue. It sounds like one of those problems where one person's legitimate discomfort is going to have to be surrendered because of another person's legitimate greater discomfort, except we really don't know whose discomfort is greater because that's dependent of the person. While the real enemy is clearly the airline companies, agreeing on that doesn't really do any concrete good or solve the issue to the people in a plane right now having passive aggressive battles over this right now.
posted by john-a-dreams at 3:38 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I’m going to keep doing it being an entitled asshole, unless you pay me to stop.
The guy's tone is soooooo obnoxious that I might pay to sit in front of him, with him in the back row, and me having a seat that reclines even more than usual. I will rent a crying baby to sit next to him. I will endure the middle seat so that I can have a lactose-intolerant friend sit on the other side of him after eating rather a lot of cheese. And who will wear Tevas on a long hike, and take them off in flight.

Flying is the new 10th circle of hell, with the airlines as the new Satan. The worst of supposed free market economy, and none of the benefit.
posted by theora55 at 3:39 PM on August 27


You know how lots of planes basically have networked games consoles in the back of the seats? Surely we can figure something out with those, right? You could have a Bejewelled-off to see if the seat reclining button unlocks or not.
posted by edd at 3:43 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


For the record three-quarters of the flights I take are 90 minutes or less and 90% are 3 hours or under. I seriously doubt that any anti-Recliner is complaining about 6 hour flights, let alone 9 or 13 hour (!) marathons.

Also for the record, in my experience, and contrary to the prevalence of vociferous Reclinerism in this thread, most people (2/3 at least) do NOT recline their seats on flights of 3-4 hours or less.
posted by Eyebeams at 3:50 PM on August 27


This thread is bizarre. If I reclined my seat and the person behind me was put in pain by it or had some other real issue, I would expect them to tell me so politely, at which point we would of course work out some mutually accommodating solution to the best of our ability.

Then you,sir or madam, are an incredibly rare bird. The most positive response I've ever gotten when I tried that was a sneer and an increase in the frequency of backward body-slams..
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:55 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


If you're going to put your laptop on the tray table, is it impossible for you to ask the person in the seat in front of you, "Hey, my laptop's on the table, can you give me some warning if you're going to recline?" If the problem is people flinging themselves backwards, just communicate and ask them to tell you first. Most people aren't asshats. Most.

Have you ever actually tried that? I have, plenty of times, and it doesn't work. Ever. In this particular situation, most people ARE asshats.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:58 PM on August 27


Gawker has a response to the NYT article

Don't Want Me to Spit on You When You Recline Your Airline Seat? Pay Me
posted by yohko at 4:13 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


We are collectively trapped. It is simple decency not to crudely and selfishly recline your seat into the face of your unfortunate neighbor to the rear. Yes, you could recline your seat, legally; but that would make you a selfish, antisocial monster. I trust that you are not that. I trust that you are a good person.
Thus Gawker speaks the truth.
posted by Justinian at 4:32 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I...don't think it actually is legal to spit on people.
posted by corb at 4:32 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Speaking as a very tall, very fat man. I'm glad I don't have enough money to fly anywhere.
posted by Megafly at 4:39 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


"This thread is bizarre. If I reclined my seat and the person behind me was put in pain by it or had some other real issue, I would expect them to tell me so politely, at which point we would of course work out some mutually accommodating solution to the best of our ability."

God bless you then. I'll say that for the majority of times, that's how it works, but a significant portion of the time, the person in front of you is an inconsiderate asshole and takes what little power they have in reclining over your comfort as their god-given right. At which point, yes, it is war.

(I will say that it's been a couple years now since I last had a real back and forth over anything on a plane, and even minor inconveniences like some dude falling asleep on me and drooling down my arm are pretty easy to slough off. It's been a while since I've had to deal with a terrible child or selfish recliner; the only recent pissing match I've had has been with a flight attendant who didn't think a 100-degree fever was sufficient to get extra water until I lied about having to take pills. I hope I infected her; I probably got everyone on the plane sick.)
posted by klangklangston at 4:45 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Late to the thread, but the solution was actually mentioned, obliquely, a few hundred comments ago. That's right. It's carbonite.
posted by The Bellman at 4:49 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


"I find it staggering that, after report after report of massive pain caused by putting your seat back, non-functional tray tables and cracked laptop screens (google it, it's surprisingly common), people are still insisting that they can, should, will go right ahead and keep slamming that seat back."

And I find it staggering that, after report after report of massive pain caused by being forced to sit bolt upright for 6+ hours -- pain that CONTINUES FOR DAYS AFTER -- some people are still insisting that we shouldn't be able to use the seat the way it was designed FOR THE REASON IT WAS DESIGNED THAT WAY. Airplane seats recline because sitting for long periods of time causes back pain and spinal problems for a significant portion of the population.

"Which makes sense (for most people) because most seats don't recline and yet Recliners somehow manage to eat at restaurants, sit at dining room tables, study at library tables, hear lectures at museums, etc. etc., without reclining into the personal space of the person behind them. Only on an airplane (again, for most people) does reclining become so important, it seems."

Although lately I've been doing better, for most of the past couple of years I haven't actually been able to do any of those things either! I couldn't even sit through a movie in the theater without being in excruciating pain by the end of it, and that's while sitting a seat that already reclines somewhat. Basically, any activity that required being fully upright for more than an hour or two was agonizing.

The small amount of reclining available on airline seats STILL isn't enough to keep me from needing 24+ hours to recover from cross-country air travel. If I had to sit bolt upright for the entire 6+ hours on top of having to walk/stand/sit upright in most airports (bless you, CLT, and your rocking chairs!), my back would be so fucked up by the end that I might not even be able to walk off the plane. Based on my experiences from other times I was forced to sit/stand upright for several hours without relief, I would then be bedridden for the following week.

Are you really saying that I should be crippled for a week (both ways!) just so that you can avoid a few hours of pain in your knees? When you have the option of upgrading to a seat with more legroom for $50-100, whereas if reclining seats were abolished then I would never be able to fly at all (and thus never see my family again)? Really?

And my disability is invisible. So you might look at me and think, "what a selfish bitch, reclining her seat for her momentary comfort at the cost of my knees." You don't consider the possibility that even with the seat reclined as far back as it goes and with a liver-damaging level of painkillers, alcohol, and sedatives in my system that my back is STILL in far more pain than your knees will ever be in. I'm barely surviving the trip as it is and yet you resent me for relying on the only accommodation that makes air travel physically possible for me?

So, maybe stop making assumptions about us Recliners. If you wouldn't complain about the inconvenient-for-you accommodations for the small percentage of the population who are in wheelchairs then you shouldn't complain about this accommodation for the much larger percentage of the population with chronic back pain and other spinal health issues.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:53 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


I never recline my seat on long-haul flights, which are the only flights that I've done in the last decade or two, mostly because I know how deeply it infuriates me when the person in front of me does, and I try as much as I am able to be a kind and considerate (if cranky) person, including to strangers. I do this even with my occasionally-excruciating bulging lumbar 5 disc, which is my own cross to bear and simply doesn't give me the right to inflict knock-on discomfort on you, back there behind me.

If you are the person in front of me and you are reclining your seat (or, even worse, which has more than once happened to me, you recline the seat beside you, in front of me, which is empty ), the bald spot on the back of your head upon arrival is the result of the seething rays of wonderchickensian fury that have been bathing it for the last 9 hours. If you have a medical condition that makes changing the angle of your seat back an utter necessity, tell me something like 'hey, sorry, I have a bad back and I gots to recline this shit', and I will empathize and (grudgingly) refrain from the ocular scorch action.

But if it's just a matter of fuck-you-I-got-mine, well, I feel compelled to say: fuck you too, jack.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:02 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


For the record three-quarters of the flights I take are 90 minutes or less and 90% are 3 hours or under. I seriously doubt that any anti-Recliner is complaining about 6 hour flights, let alone 9 or 13 hour (!) marathons.

Also for the record, in my experience, and contrary to the prevalence of vociferous Reclinerism in this thread, most people (2/3 at least) do NOT recline their seats on flights of 3-4 hours or less.
posted by Eyebeams


These are your assumptions and observations. Do you really look around a plane and calculate the occurrences of "reclinerism" and take note of it?

And your next assumption that an anti recliner isn't going to complain about a 6+ Flight in pain is ridiculous given the self reported statements in this post. Thanks for your anecdotes.
posted by futz at 5:06 PM on August 27


This thread is amazing.

Also, I'm surprised to hear so many people say their back pain is relieved by reclining. I have two herniated lumbar discs and sitting and standing with correct, upright posture is mandatory for me to remain pain-free. Reclining to anything less than like 80 degrees (laying down basically) produces a lot of pain for me. Huh.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 5:09 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


mrbigmuscles you do realize that everyones pain manifests differently?
posted by futz at 5:12 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Futz - Welcs! Yes those were my observations. That's why I began "in my experience".
posted by Eyebeams at 5:14 PM on August 27


Also, I'm surprised to hear so many people say their back pain is relieved by reclining. I have two herniated lumbar discs and sitting and standing with correct, upright posture is mandatory for me. Reclining to anything less than like 80 degrees produces a lot of pain for me. Huh.

Mine is thoracic and cervical. Plus some fucked-up mystery thing still to-be-diagnosed where my muscles start to spasm and knot up if they have to support my full weight. So I pretty much have to always be leaning/slouching against something if I don't want to be in pain. :(
posted by Jacqueline at 5:17 PM on August 27


[Hi folks, PSA, please use "edit" for typos only. If you need to add to or rephrase something substantially, just add a second comment. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:22 PM on August 27


You didn't begin with "in my experience". You began with "for the record".
posted by futz at 5:23 PM on August 27


If you want to recline your seat, you have the option of making my legs several inches shorter. Otherwise, we can both just get used to my kneecaps being jabbed into the back of your seat, even when you are bolt upright. Sorry.
posted by wotsac at 5:25 PM on August 27


mrbigmuscles you do realize that everyones pain manifests differently?

Yes, I know that; in fact I know a great deal about back pain specifically as I basically made a living turning it into money (PI lawyer). And despite having reviewed medical records in hundreds of cases I've never run across "patient's pain is relieved by reclining 10-15 degrees." So the sheer number of reports in this thread along those lines, was surprising.

Mine is thoracic and cervical. Plus some fucked-up mystery thing still TBD where my muscles start to spasm and knot up if they have to support my full weight. So I pretty much have to always be leaning/slouching against something if I don't want to be in pain. :(

Sorry to hear it. Every now and then I have pain even though structurally my back is sound (no leg/nerve pain like before). Hope you get it figured out, back pain is the worst.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 5:25 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


And despite having reviewed medical records in hundreds of cases I've never run across "patient's pain is relieved by reclining 10-15 degrees." So the sheer number of reports in this thread along those lines, was surprising.

I can't speak for anyone else, but in my case, reclining 10-15 degrees doesn't fully *relieve* my pain, it just reduces it. It also avoids those weird muscle spams and knots I get whenever my back has to support its own weight.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:30 PM on August 27


Basically, it's not a case of "if I recline now, I will stop being in pain now" (I'm gonna be in pretty bad pain while on an airplane no matter what) but a case of "if I recline now, I won't be in *crippling* pain hours and days later."
posted by Jacqueline at 5:33 PM on August 27


15 degrees is enough to counterbalance the weight of large breasts, which is a thing that if you are a lady who has them, is nearly guaranteed to cause you back pain, to the point that the first thing doctors will offer is breast reduction surgery.
posted by corb at 5:33 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I'm average height. I've been the recliner. I've been the passive-aggressive seat-kicker (although I get bored of the seat-kicking pretty quickly). I've been the person who drives down the merging lane and pushes in at the last second. I've been the person who refuses to let someone push in.

A few years ago I thought about what it would be like to live in a world populated only by people like me.

These days I try not to be passive-agressive. I have found that talking to people and asking questions usually works out better for everyone concerned. *

Also, I think if someone is in physical pain on a flight (whatever the reason) it's reasonable to call an attendant and ask if there's any way to resolve the problem. In my experience, they can usually find someone to trade seats. For example, I was once asked by an attendant if I could switch seats to allow a mother and baby access to the seat behind the bulkhead that has the fold-down baby holder thing.

Having said all that, continental US is my least favourite place to fly and I can't guarantee that I can maintain my equanimity in the face of that horror. Sometimes situations are bad and no one is coming out unscathed.

As has been pointed out upthread - the situation we find ourselves in is a direct result of market forces. I'm guilty of buying the cheapest ticket when booking a flight. We kid ourselves that we can put up with the discomfort to save some money. Maybe I should start one of those "find cheap flights" websites that actually shows you what you'll be getting. Two pictures: one with the seat in front up and and one with it reclined. Maybe that other airline with just a little extra leg-room is worth the extra few dollars. **

So we blame market forces and capitalism. Capitalism has driven quite a lot of progress in the world and has raised the living standards of many people but it has serious problems too. It would be great to find something better.

* I am aware that I'm showing white male privilege here. There are many people who, unfortunately, don't have an expectation of being able to talk reasonably with someone with whom they find themselves in passive-agressive conflict.

** I don't really think this would work.
posted by citizenoftheworld at 5:39 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I have had pretty bad back issues in the past and can definitely sympathize with people who have them currently. :-(

Futz thank you for your very helpful correction
posted by Eyebeams at 5:39 PM on August 27


15 degrees is enough to counterbalance the weight of large breasts...

36DDD here, so that may indeed be at least part of my problem!

...the first thing doctors will offer is breast reduction surgery.

TIL. No doctor has ever suggested that to me. I'll have to investigate that option once I have health insurance again. Breasts this big are such a nuisance. :(

(However, unless large breasts also cause occasional numbness/deadness/lack of control over your hands and forearms, I think there's something else wrong too.)
posted by Jacqueline at 5:41 PM on August 27


Here's my question, and I am serious: when the seat reclines, does it actually create less legroom in back? I don't think it does. The seat itself is stable and does not move--it simply creates a little less "face" room--I don't see how it would impact anyone's knees! IN a car, yes, the seats actually slide back. But airplane seats don't move back into the legroom.
posted by EvelynU at 6:00 PM on August 27


I sometimes recline a little bit but I reserve an enormous amount of hatred and disdain for people who slam their seats back immediately after the hot beverage service, causing burns and a maddening lack of tea for those behind them.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:05 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


According to the Mayo Clinic

The top 3 reasons people see a doc are skin disorders, joint problems, and back pain. Someone upthread said that it wasn't that common and that people used it as an excuse and a fuck you to recline. No. Really, no.
posted by futz at 6:05 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


We are terrible. It's Lord of the Fucking Flies at 35,000 feet.

Yeah, it's funny how the thin veneer of civilization quickly degrades into barbarianism, especially when flawed design principles allows/forces people to inflict pain upon each other.

-- some people are still insisting that we shouldn't be able to use the seat the way it was designed FOR THE REASON IT WAS DESIGNED THAT WAY.

Yes, and the reason we are having this conversation here is because like many sad and unfortunate things in our society THE OVERALL DESIGN IS TOTALLY FVCKED UP.

My inherited genetic condition puts me in the tall/anti-seat-leaning-back camp. When someone in an airplane seat leans all the way back, they are literally pressing down hard on my knees and inflicting physical pain directly on my body. Leaning ALL the WAY back puts me directly into a primal pain state that I would really prefer not to have to negotiate.

But, good news everyone, there is some room (well, limited room) for compromise here. I really don't mind if you need to crank your seat back, but there are levels, people, so please, just don't crank it ALL the WAY. Thanks.

I don't fly too often, and when I have I haven't really had any serious problems, just some basic discomfort and awkward negotiations, but mostly okay so far.

(So if the Metafilter response was a democratic vote, the impression so far seems like the just-lean-back-&-fvck-vu camp has the majority tally so far).
posted by ovvl at 6:16 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Ha! Now Chris Hayes is covering this red hot topic. And Twitter tells me he is a Recliner. :-(
posted by Eyebeams at 6:17 PM on August 27


This issue came up on All In tonight, and the day was consumed by locusts so I'm getting to this post only just now. I didn't read all 300+ comments first. Furthermore, I'm going to argue from authority.

With all those caveats and addenda in mind: I used to commute weekly by air, and have taken numerous longer journeys of six to eight hours including across the sea. In coach, only a bad person would ever recline their seat with someone sitting behind them on any flight that was not overnight or on which one is expected to try to get some sleep.

Having said that, if you're 6′2″ or taller, just do yourself a favor and pay the extortion for the exit row seat. Not only is there a little extra room, the seats in front of the exit row do not recline.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:20 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


okay but what if i am flying during passover, it says right there in the hagaddah i must recline

sorry i don't make the rules
posted by elizardbits at 6:27 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Oi. Can we all remember that the inability of two people to behave like adults on an airplane caused every other person on that flight to have to spend an extra few hours in the hell that is airline travel. I'm pretty sure that's a karmic debt these two will never pay off.

As for the rest of this thread: news flash: some people are selfish jerks. But you can't control them, you can only control how you react to them. (And maybe not divert a whole friggin flight in the process?)

Also, my SFO to DXB flight damn well better have some dancing wombats.
posted by susiswimmer at 6:27 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


corb:
"If you recline, then you, too, can sleep on the plane."
This keeps coming up in this thread and it's just not true. Reclining does not magically shorten my femurs. If the seat in front of me is reclined then my femurs are crammed between the back of my seat and the back of the seat in front (this usually already the case when the seat is still in the upright). Reclining my seat only changes the angle of my back but doesn't pull in my legs somehow.

Oh, and I'm weary of booking the emergency exit/bulk head seats with leg room too. Here is why: I'm tall but not crazy tall (6'2) and while I do have wide shoulders my hips are probably average for my height. I have a slight belly but it's, um, protruding... what I mean is that I don't have fat on my hips or anything.
So here I am on a Virgin Atlantic flight feeling utterly miserable because what little leg room I have, even with the front seat upright, does not allow for my legs to actually fit in front of me. It was physically impossible. I had to put one over in front of my wife's seat (who, luckily, is not very tall) and take up a good portion of her leg room and the other one out in the aisle where I get my knee or my foot smacked hard every time the cart comes through.
When I initially settled into my seat I knew this was going to be awful and, because the flight wasn't fully booked, I asked a Stewardess if I could move to one of the free bulkhead seats. She looked me up and down and said I was welcome to try but would probably not like it. She was right. Those seats had armrests that couldn't be folded up and, I kid you not, my hip bones actually wouldn't fit between them. Again, I'm no Goliath, these seats were just ridiculously small. That experience taught me to not try and book those seats because what if I end up on a fully booked flight and my seat is literally too small for me?

Anyhow, personally I never recline my seat unless I'm in front of an empty seat. I may have the right to do so and it's of course the airlines' fault for designing economy seating to be extra shitty but I'm trying to be a considerate person and I'm not going to try and improve my personal level of comfort by actively reducing someone else's. Golden rule etc.
If someone has a medical condition, that's entirely different. I've encountered that a few times actually. No problem, go ahead and recline. Simple polite communication is all it takes to sort out that situation from the start. It's going to be miserable for me but in that case it's certainly not the other person's fault.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 6:32 PM on August 27 [6 favorites]


susiswimmer: This one, maybe?
posted by Eyebeams at 6:37 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


That just made my day! He wouldn't even have to dance.
*Frustrating thread has pictures of big happy wombats. Love and sunshine are restored to the world.*
posted by susiswimmer at 6:42 PM on August 27


GIANT WOMBAT OF LUV SOLVES AIRLINE RECLINER ISSUE

Will jet to Gaza next
posted by Eyebeams at 6:48 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I own the right to recline

I'm not sure why the author thinks he has this explicit right. Does it say so on the ticket? In the click-through contract when he bought it?
posted by stp123 at 6:56 PM on August 27


A giant wombat on a plane would likely cause me to recline my seat and leisurely ponder my existence.
posted by futz at 7:14 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I would likely NOT recline my seat, and contemplate the existence of the wombat. But I fully support you in your different lifestyle choices.
posted by susiswimmer at 7:23 PM on August 27


I believe Reclining Wombat was Disaster Area's third studio album.
posted by valkane at 7:24 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Seriously, wombats and lorazepam for everyone would improve air travel immensely.
posted by mochapickle at 7:25 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I usually just order a G&T and take Instagram photos out the window.
posted by box at 7:32 PM on August 27



The only time I've witnessed full blown air rage was over reclining. This young woman a few rows up started speaking angrily to the guy in front of her, he was snarky back. The flight attendant hurried over to deal with it. The woman got louder and then all of a sudden placed both her feet flat on the back of the seat and shoved it. The seat snapped forward and the guy slammed up against the seat in front of him. I didn't know airline seats could go that far forward.

All the other passengers were in shock a for a moment there was just this weird silence. Other attendants came over and they moved the woman somewhere. Don't know what happened after that. They did get the guy some ice in a bag which he held on his head a while.

As for me I'd classify myself as a reluctant half recliner. I do talk to the person behind me and unless they're obviously big and long legged I say I'm going to move it half way. Makes me feel better because I know how much it can suck to be insta reclined on and losing the space but I also want to recline so I figure at least it's compromise. I've never had an issue and it seems like most appreciate that I talk to them.
posted by Jalliah at 7:38 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I would likely NOT recline my seat, and contemplate the existence of the wombat. But I fully support you in your different lifestyle choices.

Heh. I said my existence. That, and the improbability of a dancing wombat on a plane.

Have the above sentences ever been typed before?
posted by futz at 8:01 PM on August 27


Nope.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:08 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


one more dead town's last parade: " If the typical airline seat is not wide enough for you, you are probably at least a couple of standard deviations above the mean. The same is not at all true for seat pitch and passenger height."

The average American guy is 5'9. The 95th percentile -- 2 standard deviations, is 6'2. There are people posting here that are multiple standard deviations away from the norm. Care to refine your argument?
posted by pwnguin at 8:47 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


I seriously cannot wait to hear Gene Weingarten's next Washington Post chat on this topic. He is a fervent "do not recline your seat because it hurts people more than it gives you comfort" arguer.

In other news, all humans are heinous bastards and we all deserve to be nuked and die or at least be eliminated for an interstellar highway.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:52 PM on August 27


> Don't even get me started on male assumptions regarding use of shared armrests.

In the context of a group of three seats, there no such thing. The aisle and windows seats come with exclusive use of one armrest each, simply by virtue of said armrests being in a position only reachable from the seats in question.

The poor bastard in the middle seat gets both armrests, as a consolation prize for being the poor bastard in the middle seat.

This is a pure natural law on a par with the speed of light in a vacuum or the electrical permittivity of free space.

Variations exist only as a result of negotiations possible if and only if the two people adjacent to the armrest in question observe Wheaton's Law.

And -- serious, non-facetious, non-rhetorical question here -- what in the name of the Nine Divines does gender have to do with any of this?
posted by sourcequench at 8:56 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


I do feel like I need to say that I don't fly as much as I used to. I still love being on the airplane, but the airport is such a hassle that if I'm going to do it, my client is going to have to pay extra for it. Since very few are willing to do this, I wind up working remotely for the most part.

To expand a little on my previous remarks, to recline, especially on a short flight, is the mark of an "amateur," i.e. one who travels by air infrequently. All the pros — the people who fly at least twice a week every week — are judging you just as hard as if you had tried to roll aboard the biggest suitcase in your luggage set and protested, "But it's on wheels!" when forced to check it. Put another way, reclining on a crowded flight is at least as rude as leaning on the pole in a crowded subway car.

That said, it's up to the pros to make the FAs lives easier and support each other in making their connections and what-not. So causing a scene over somebody's reclining isn't worth it.

oneironaut: “As to the 7-foot-NBA player...surely that is a man who can afford business class?”
I sat amongst a D-League team one time on a flight to Chicago. Which is to say that there is such a thing as a 7′ tall professional basketball player who is not a millionaire. (I was taller than their forward so I wouldn't trade seats with him.)

Cocodrillo: “You know, I fly a lot. Like, every week, often 2-3 times a week. And people are quite often really decent. ”
Yes, that's my experience as well. Most people are decent, pros especially. Typically it's the amateurs that gum up the works. It's up to the pros to keep the flight moving during the roll-aboard-rodeo and when accommodations need to be made. I'm sorry for your bad experience, jfwlucy. If you had been on my flight, my business partner and I would have happily traded with you and your daughter.

Jalliah: “The only time I've witnessed full blown air rage was over reclining.”
Me too. It was too much for one woman that the seats in front of the exit row don't recline. She threw a fit, screaming at the FA. First she demanded a flight voucher. When that didn't work she tried for a new seat. As the flight was full, this too could not be accommodated. Eventually she settled for a handful of Biscoff.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:03 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


Forgiveness, Tit for Tat, and the Coase Theorem
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:06 PM on August 27


The poor bastard in the middle seat gets both armrests, as a consolation prize for being the poor bastard in the middle seat.

I fly a lot on short notice, which means a lot of middle seats. I have had seatmates grasp the middle armrest so firmly that I was obliged to cross my arms over my not-unsubstantial chest for the entire length of the flight. I have spent many hours flying over Kansas, daydreaming about being buried like an Egyptian queen.

Actual question: Would it help the whole seatback situation if the flight attendants asked people who recline to do so gently? I've never heard them mention it, but it would help reduce a lot of the tension people feel.
posted by mochapickle at 9:06 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Would it help the whole seatback situation if the flight attendants asked people who recline to do so gently?

How many people are actually slamming the seats back on purpose? I don't enjoy the sudden jolt any more than the person behind me does yet I've still been guilty of it a few times because sometimes that's just what airline seats DO when you push that button.

Airline seats' reclining functions get broken in all sorts of way -- sometimes the seat can no longer recline, sometimes the seat can only recline, and sometimes the seat reclines at warp speed.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:11 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


On my next flight I'll be distributing two mini bottles of Jack, two Valium, and a copy of my spinal MRIs and physical therapy case notes to all nearby passengers.

This is ridiculous. The chair reclines. I need it to recline or I will spend the flight standing over you to relieve my spine. I don't owe anyone any explanations for using equipment as it was designed to be used. Those that need special accommodations on flights, such as the elderly and the extra large make arrangements with the airlines ahead of time. It appears to be a failure of the extra tall to classify themselves as extra large and seek appropriate accommodations.
I am your dream seat mate. I do recline, but I don't consume loud snacks, smell, belch, use loud gadgets or even use either armrest, I am always dressed and groomed impeccably, but my physical comfort demands I use the equipment as designed: to recline as needed.
When at the ballet and opera I was taught as a small child to try not to even breathe as to keep disruption to a minimum. I am no slouch when it comes to accommodating others. Begrudging reclining would create unnecessary ill will and days of pain and several corrective appointments for me. I'll never apologize for using the equipment as built, and equipment that saves me pain, money, and dysfunction.
posted by littlewater at 9:11 PM on August 27 [6 favorites]


> it galls me that I have to pay extra because I happen to have been born taller

Why not take it out of your inflated salary? ;)
posted by Monochrome at 9:12 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I'm 6'7", please do tell me where you would like me to place my knees so that they won't interupt the backwards thrust of your seat?

Why are you asking the guy in front of you? He's not the one who sold you a seat that was too small.

If you were 7' 4" and the only way you could fit in your seat was to push the other guy's seat forward so that he had less room, would you feel entitled to do that?

The seat space you buy doesn't include the space where the other guy's seat reclines into. If you don't fit in that space, your beef is with the airline, not the guy sitting in the seat the way it was intended.
posted by straight at 9:13 PM on August 27 [10 favorites]


but it galls me that I have to pay extra because I happen to have been born taller than average

But this is exactly what happens when the airline deems someone "overweight". They don't fit into the space alloted so they must pay for more. Airline policy. What do you think about that? I suspect that the reason for that requirement is 1) not to waste an empty seat first and foremost and 2) the comfort of other passengers who paid for their own space.

Size apparently matters to the airlines. Is it right in one case and not another? I am not arguing either way. Should a small person get a tiny seat?

Come fly the friendly skies indeed
posted by futz at 9:30 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Amtrak has its own issues, but god damn if it's not a pleasant relief to have a seat with some space and the ability to wander around for a bit if I'd like.

Yeah, I yearn for high speed rail, but I'm glad to have Amtrak in any case. Sure, it's only a 45 minute flight to Chicago from here, but by the time I factor in the cost ($100 each way, vs. $70 round trip), the trip to the airport (an hour vs. 10 minutes to the train station), getting to the airport at least an hour ahead of time to get through security vs. showing up half an hour or less to check my bag (AT NO EXTRA COST!)...yeah, I'll take the four hour train ride, no porn scanner, no invasive pat down, no extra charge for my bag, decent food and booze available, and the ability to sleep on the train because there's actually room.

If I could spend a week on the train to Portland, I totally would. It would be so much more comfortable. Alas, I have to work for a living.
posted by MissySedai at 9:40 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


To expand a little on my previous remarks, to recline, especially on a short flight, is the mark of an "amateur," i.e. one who travels by air infrequently. All the pros — the people who fly at least twice a week every week — are judging you just as hard as if you had tried to roll aboard the biggest suitcase in your luggage set and protested, "But it's on wheels!" when forced to check it. Put another way, reclining on a crowded flight is at least as rude as leaning on the pole in a crowded subway car.

This is the sound of me rolling my eyes. Congrats on flying a lot I guess, but I'm going to recline.
posted by empath at 9:41 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


And -- serious, non-facetious, non-rhetorical question here -- what in the name of the Nine Divines does gender have to do with any of this?

lavaballing. not to make this thread even worse or anything.
posted by twist my arm at 9:42 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


lavaballing.

for the uninitiated...
posted by Jacqueline at 9:45 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


The seat space you buy doesn't include the space where the other guy's seat reclines into. If you don't fit in that space, your beef is with the airline, not the guy sitting in the seat the way it was intended.

Right, but since the airlines are likely not ever going to do anything about this (and since perhaps we shouldn't expect tall people pay what is effectively a tax to upgrade to an exit row), couldn't you see your way round to accommodating the prodigious length of the gentleman behind you? Would there be anything that would allow you to compromise?
posted by faux ami at 9:51 PM on August 27


On my next flight I'll be distributing two mini bottles of Jack, two Valium, and a copy of my spinal MRIs and physical therapy case notes to all nearby passengers.

Heh, I hear you.

I can't tell you how many times I've been snapped at for boarding when the call goes out for passengers who need a little extra time to board. I smile cheerily and say "I'm actually arthritic!", and get "Well, you don't LOOK arthritic!" How does one with RA usually look? Am I supposed to get a special vest or something, like a service dog?

I will turn around and let the person behind me know that I'm going to recline a bit, enough to relieve the pressure on my back, but make no mistake, I'm not asking.
posted by MissySedai at 10:01 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


The average American guy is 5'9. The 95th percentile -- 2 standard deviations, is 6'2. There are people posting here that are multiple standard deviations away from the norm. Care to refine your argument?

You're under by an inch in both cases, but...

I'm shorter than 6'2", and I routinely encounter seats that are too close to my knees when in an upright and locked position. With current seat pitches, airplane seats are much more accommodating to above-average passenger width than they are to above-average passenger height. I think you'll find that my argument doesn't really need refining.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:05 PM on August 27


I will turn around and let the person behind me know that I'm going to recline a bit, enough to relieve the pressure on my back, but make no mistake, I'm not asking.

For me, that works. People shouldn't have to explain or offer a health reason. There's no permission angle as far as I'm concerned. A simple "Hey, I'm sorry but I gotta do this" goes a long way IMO, especially since everyone's just been dealing with a crowded airport only to funnel into an even more crowded and claustrophobic space. It's just being human.

But this guy who wrote the article found the jerkiest way possible to go about it. And get media attention. So, uh, congrats to him, I guess.
posted by mochapickle at 10:15 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Sigh. Reading this while psyching myself up for my semi-annual 23 hour flight next month. I don't recline much, if at all. I'm slightly over average height, short-waisted with long legs so my knees are rubbing against the seat in front while my head is forced down by the head rest. The first thing I do is take the pillow and jam it behind my lower back. Nope, there's no way to get comfortable on this flight. Now I take dramamine/gravol and hope to sleep through as much as possible.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:35 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


...and I'm reading this in preparation for my yearly six-hour flights in October. 6'8", long-legged, living disproof of more height = more $$$, torso such that the headrest thoughtfully pushes out into the space between my shoulders , etc. I used to swallow handfuls of Robitussin caplets in the terminal bathroom and deliberately sleep-deprive myself before flying. Hopefully I'll have access to saner solutions this year.

Last year the person in front of me yelled at me once they stopped trying to force their seat through my kneecaps and then tried to enlist a flight attendant to force me to move seats. I'd never had it come up at all before that, fortunately.
posted by Earthtopus at 11:23 PM on August 27


..and I'm reading this in preparation for my yearly six-hour flights in October. 6'8", long-legged, living disproof of more height = more $$$, torso such that the headrest thoughtfully pushes out into the space between my shoulders , etc.

What you mean to imply about your height and "disproof" and $? I don't get it. You are cool with no space?


Btw, the headrest is a bitch for me too. It hits a spot in the back of my head that forces my chin towards my chest. So comfy.
posted by futz at 11:46 PM on August 27


For those ladies talking about men and armrests, Mallory Ortberg of the Toast has applied her sociopathic wit to combat strategies: How To Maintain Control Of The Shared Armrest: A Guide For Women Flying Alone.
First of all, no one gets the personal space they deserve on a plane. Accept that right off the bat; do not sink into pity for your seatmate if he is 6’7 and convince yourself that he merits the armrest between the two of you. You are on a plane; you are bound now only by Skylaw. The rules of God and man no longer apply. Wring mercy clean from your heart. I promise that he has none in his heart for you.
posted by foxfirefey at 11:47 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


Seat 21A A window seat reminder of humanity
posted by jaksemas at 12:32 AM on August 28 [4 favorites]


It appears to be a failure of the extra tall to classify themselves as extra large and seek appropriate accommodations.

I just looked up a sample flight from Chicago to NYC, six months in advance.

Normal fare is $214. Business class is $456, 213% more. First class is $797, 372% more. (excluding taxes and fees, of course)

Why is it a failure of the extra tall (like me) to pay twice as much for a guarantee of comfort, but not a failure of the disabled (also like me) to pay twice as much for a guarantee of comfort?
posted by Evilspork at 1:47 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Plane travel consumes a huge amount of fossil fuels, and the price of those is rising. Something has got to give.

Which is why I've resolved to use train travel in preference to plane travel. Makes it a bitch to get to the US, but hey everybody likes stories about taking the trans siberia express.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:37 AM on August 28


What you mean to imply about your height and "disproof" and $? I don't get it. You are cool with no space?

There is research showing that taller men tend to earn more money.
posted by srboisvert at 5:01 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


What an enlightening thread. I had no idea so many adults get off on kicking the seat in front of them if that person is reclining. It reminds me of something I read online once, a Republican boasting about cutting off a driver with an Obama bumper sticker.
posted by girlmightlive at 5:06 AM on August 28 [5 favorites]


Yow, I was told this was contentious.

It REALLY depends which airline you're with, and the design of the seats.

For example, the planes I've been on, the top of the seat only goes back a little, and the point from which it reclines is only just below the knee, so, as you can guess, the impingement on any knee space from that angle is minimal. Also, possibly better airlines. Do complain to the air hostess and airline if it's hurting your knees, ESPECIALLY if you're a standard height.

I'm wondering if I have a skull malformation or something (big head, big hair), because most upright airline seats kind of leave my head tilting forward. Which is uncomfortable.
Reclining back just a little, fixes that, and I can relax my weight into the chair (I lived with a good physiotherapist - sitting 90% upright is bad for your back btw, despite common wisdom - straight spine, yes, anyway).

I have a friend with sitting upright issues (digestive problems, actually), who's basically explained it's the reason they can't travel overseas. So, that sucks. But he's out of the running anyway.


I think the problem is still the number of people who's knees get bumped, due to long femur length (which is why there are tall people who aren't affected, and shortER people who are), are still in a tiny minority on the planes I've been on.
On the otherhand, most people don't appear to be able to sleep on planes without reclining their seats at least a little bit (which suggests the discomfort it induces!), and a plane full of already cranky, sleep deprived people sounds an extra layer of hell.

Most of the international flights are ok for knee room for most heights. Not saying you get any ROOM, but like I said above, reclining minimally impacts the knee space.
Scoot felt like the seats were TOO upright in the default position, but maybe I was achy and didn't know it.


Oooh! How about we actually discuss which AIRLINES suck for this? We all agree it is actually their fault, and that they're foisting off onto us as consumers to resolve, right?

So, people who have actually had their knees crushed, and not because they weren't sitting back in the seats:
What are the worst airlines?
Does it match up with these seat pitch charts?

Also, weird question, but what's your femur length? (A question you get everyday, I'm sure! Femur length is usually about 26% of someones height, but then you've got hips, and a bit of knee on there too, so I guess I'm wondering at butt to knee length).


I'm wondering if the wider issue is the tray table - I mean, that's actually what the fight in the linked article was about. It wasn't about knees at all.
They were already in the "paid for 4 extra inches of legroom" section of the plane, but the guy wanted to use his laptop, even when cabin crew came to talk to him. Laptops need a table in a way books don't.
posted by Elysum at 5:46 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


This is a classic tale of America. Two schmoes are fighting each other over who craps on who instead of uniting against the ones who declared that someone has to crap on someone else.
posted by Legomancer at 6:18 AM on August 28 [8 favorites]


Normal fare is $214. Business class is $456, 213% more. First class is $797, 372% more. (excluding taxes and fees, of course)

Why is it a failure of the extra tall (like me) to pay twice as much for a guarantee of comfort, but not a failure of the disabled (also like me) to pay twice as much for a guarantee of comfort?


United lets you select seats with extra leg room for like $20 more. Also, pro-tip: the seats by the exits don't recline, which I found out the hard way on a flight to Spain on 2 hours of sleep.
posted by empath at 6:26 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


But this is exactly what happens when the airline deems someone "overweight". They don't fit into the space alloted so they must pay for more. Airline policy.

It is also airline policy to use that purchased empty seat on overbooked flights and refund the overweight passenger that fare. Someone is going to sit in it, and we're exactly back where we started.

Mallory Ortberg of the Toast has applied her sociopathic wit to combat strategies

I particularly enjoyed #9, "If you are in an aisle seat, intercept his meal as the flight attendant hands it to you. Eat it in front of him, screaming continuously."
posted by gladly at 6:28 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Front page of Reddit has a picture of a snake and a mouse snuggling happily. Can't we all just get along?


And we know who the snake is in this analogy.
posted by Eyebeams at 7:00 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


The mouse probably has cancer. That's why the snake won't eat it.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:01 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


To me the seats on Southwest really don't recline. They sort of lightly stretch a tad to about a 1/2 inch of a recline.
posted by stormpooper at 7:14 AM on August 28


Ridiculous Travel Accessories That Will Drive Other Passengers Nuts
posted by oakroom at 7:26 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


It's not like the seats just 'happen' to be able to recline. They were *designed* to recline.

If they were designed to recline with me sitting behind them, that design is a failure. I mean, I'm sure you guys have already solved this problem several times over in the preceding hundreds of comments, but back when I used to be willing to get aboard a commercial airliner, my knees would most often be in loose contact with the back of the seat in front before it was reclined at all. I'm not exceptionally tall.

If the seat in front unexpectedly began to move, my instinctive reaction was to push my knees forward slightly and smoothly to take up any slack in the seat-back cushioning, then tense up and hold my ground without moving at all. This in the vain hope that the person (or beast, or automaton, or whatever it happened to be, you typically can't see them) trying to do the reclining would think the resistance was some mechanical limit built into the seat rather than my legs, and thus give up before reclining so far as to cause me any serious injury. I think this tactic was unconsciously inspired by something I read some decades ago that advised when the villains try to tie you up, you should tense up and flex your muscles as much as possible with the aim of the bonds being slightly looser once you relax. I'm not recommending this, airplanes with too-small seats just made me crazy and that's one of the many reasons I avoid them now.

On the one occasion I got called out on this, I just gave a shrug and said something to the effect that I couldn't really do anything about the length of my legs. On the one occasion where the passenger in front had the courtesy to warn me before reclining the seat, I made a serious effort to get out of the way and allow it. So there's one more anecdote for whatever airline executives are scouring this thread for data.
posted by sfenders at 7:26 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


The ruling economic principal of the day is now Cost per Actual Seat Mile (CASM). To boil it down to its most basic premise: the more people you can carry while using the least amount of fuel, the better. This spurred the development of ultra-efficient airliners like the Airbus A330, Boeing 777 and Boeing 787, but it also meant that airlines were now sacrificing seat pitch in order to cram more seats in. The Airbus A380 mega-liner was touted as having enough room to carry such things as duty-free shops - but really, do you think an airline is more likely to carry around something as heavy as a mini-shopping mall, and hope people will literally buy into it, or do you think they're rather just cram more seats in? The ultimate logical conclusion is now running into knuckleheads like Micheal O'Leary who runs Irish LCC RyanAir and his love affair with wanting passengers to friggin' stand during the flight.
-Why Air Travel Sucks Now
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:39 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Laptops need a table in a way books don't.

Is that why you call them "laptops"?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:58 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


Is that why you call them "laptops"?

And why do you drive on a parkway, and park on a driveway????
posted by inigo2 at 8:06 AM on August 28 [4 favorites]


And what's the deal with airline food?
posted by Eyebeams at 8:09 AM on August 28 [4 favorites]


If the seat in front unexpectedly began to move, my instinctive reaction was to push my knees forward slightly and smoothly to take up any slack in the seat-back cushioning, then tense up and hold my ground without moving at all.

My first instinct would be to move my legs. I'm fairly used to sitting with my legs turned to the left or right. I don't even put my legs up against the seat back before they lean back, because one, that hurts, and two it's fucking rude.
posted by empath at 8:10 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


I don't even put my legs up against the seat back before they lean back, because one, that hurts, and two it's fucking rude.

Bully for you, not everyone has a choice.
posted by Cosine at 8:23 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


You do. I'm 6'2". Just move your fucking legs. You don't need to sit straight with your knees sticking up.
posted by empath at 8:24 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


I don't even put my legs up against the seat back before they lean back, because one, that hurts, and two it's fucking rude.

To what extent good manners dictate contorting your seating position when the person in front does want to recline is a legitimate subject for debate, but failing to sit awkwardly before that point just in case they do doesn't strike me as particularly rude.
posted by sfenders at 8:42 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


I don't even put my legs up against the seat back before they lean back

But that's my space! If I shouldn't do that, they shouldn't leave all that space there!
posted by inigo2 at 9:50 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


My legs were designed to go up against the seat back.
posted by mochapickle at 9:53 AM on August 28 [4 favorites]


"just buy two seats"

Not really a solution.

Okay for the obese passenger, who merely lifts the armrests between the two seats to create a double-wide. But the too-tall passenger cannot move the seats to increase the pitch between rows.
posted by Rash at 10:07 AM on August 28


I'm tall. On domestic flights, my knees go right up against the seat, and that's where they stay (international is usualy better). If a recliner looks back and asks to recline, I tell them there isn't much room but they can give it a try. Most of the time they just slam their body into their seats for a few minutes and then turn around to give me a glare. I smile and say "Long legs, sorry."

They can always pay extra to get a seat that better addresses their back issues or whatever their problem is. My seat was designed in a way that permits me to put my legs there, so a recliner's beef is with the airline, not me.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 10:27 AM on August 28 [6 favorites]


I'm 5'0" and 100 lbs and I have no idea what any of you people are getting upset about.
posted by desjardins at 11:15 AM on August 28 [4 favorites]


The seat space you buy doesn't include the space where the other guy's seat reclines into.

The seat space the guy in front of me buys doesn't include the space my knees occupy when I'm sitting in the seat I bought.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:19 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


My first instinct would be to move my legs. I'm fairly used to sitting with my legs turned to the left or right.

I don't know what kind of planes you're used to flying in, but when I fly, the space to the right and left of my legs is taken up by some combination of bulkhead, other passenger's legs, or the aisle where they'll get pummeled just as often as they do by the seat. So, for me, the choice is either to sit in the east the way it was designed for me to sit in, or pull my knees up to my chest and put my feet on the seat with my butt. Not only is the second not sustainable for the length of a long flight, I'm pretty sure it's not allowed.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:23 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


They can always pay extra to get a seat that better addresses their back issues or whatever their problem is.

No such thing exists. I've sat in first class before and an upright first class seat is still very painful. Reclining is the only accommodation for my disability that actually helps.

So no, I don't have the option to pay extra to get a seat that better addresses my back issues than the standard seat design, whereas tall people DO have the option to pay extra for more legroom.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:28 AM on August 28 [4 favorites]


I don't even put my legs up against the seat back before they lean back, because one, that hurts, and two it's fucking rude.

I just realized you probably meant sticking some part of your legs up into the seat back, unprovoked by any reclining, in such a way as the person in front could not only feel it but actually be hurt. As opposed to it hurting one party or both when they do lean back and hit knees. Sure, "even" doing that if it's physically plausible to avoid it would obviously be fucking rude. Nobody who isn't an unruly child does that, do they?

Apparently it's true that on at least some airlines you can have the option to pay extra for more legroom. Like £1000 more in one case. Wasn't even an option most of the time when I was flying, and probably still isn't for many. But that's the first I've heard of any aspect of air travel improving in the past ten years, so hooray for that.
posted by sfenders at 12:27 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Agreed. I think the only airline "seat" that would help my pain levels would be one that turns into a bed. I know those exist on international flights, and I certainly would purchase one if it were an option.
But since the first class seats are no more helpful, I remain in coach.
A less painful option for tall people exists: bulkhead, exit row, first class. If the size of a coach seat is not acceptable but you choose to purchase it regardless, I will not congratulate you on your thrift that results in your anger and disruption of other passengers.
You can complain that your underwear are much too tight, but your pain is not my problem when you saved $3 because you purchased the child size. I don't care to hear such complaining.
An appropriate product exists. Purchase an appropriate seat. If you prefer thrift don't complain to others about your choices.
posted by littlewater at 12:28 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Complaining about extra costs for larger seats/more legroom is weird. We pay for more comfort all the time. I could take the bus to work, but I drive. I could drive a crappy econobox, but I don't. There are lots and lots of other things that would make my life more comfortable, but I can't afford them. There are several billion people who cannot afford to fly at all, ever. Flying is still a luxury good, If it's required for your job, then they're paying for the vast majority of it - can't you kick in $20 for economy plus or whatever?
posted by desjardins at 12:49 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Apparently it's true that on at least some airlines you can have the option to pay extra for more legroom. Like £1000 more in one case.

I recently flew to Belize/Mexico and back and upgraded every seat -- here's my receipt:

MAIN CABIN EXTRA/DCA-DFW 46.45 USD 0.00 46.45 USD
MAIN CABIN EXTRA/DFW-BZE 49.92 USD 0.00 49.92 USD
MAIN CABIN EXTRA/CUN-MIA 16.64 USD 0.00 16.64 USD
MAIN CABIN EXTRA/MIA-DCA 46.45 USD 0.00 46.45 USD

So, between $20-$50 for more leg room on each leg of the flight. This is in the main cabin.
posted by empath at 12:58 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Maybe in addition to being able to buy specific economy plus, bulkhead, and exit row seats there could be a no-recline zone and super-recline zone seating. Recliners can sit in front of or behind other recliners and nonrecliners likewise.

The aisle seats could be a nonrecline column, it would make things easier for people who need to get up from their seats during the flight.

Seating could also be arranged so that all seatback-kicking children are seated one behind the other, or interspersed with shorter people who choose to rest their feet on the back of the seat in front of them.

I do like how Amtrack solves all these issues though.
posted by yohko at 1:04 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


I do like how Amtrack solves all these issues though.

How? I haven't been on Amtrack for a few years and I can't remember much about the seats.
posted by Area Man at 1:08 PM on August 28


More space between seats, bigger aisles, and you can walk around/change seats at will (usually).
posted by desjardins at 1:12 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


yohko: “I do like how Amtrack solves all these issues though.”

It seems like trains are pretty different from airplanes.
posted by koeselitz at 1:34 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Hell, I saw people sleeping on the floor on the last amtrack trip i went on.
posted by empath at 1:35 PM on August 28


An appropriate product exists. Purchase an appropriate seat. If you prefer thrift don't complain to others about your choices.

Recliners are trying to pass this off as though it's only a problem for tall people and not something they have to think about because there's a button on their chair.

In my experience as a tall person, the problem is inverted because I'm basically the perfect size to snugly fit into a standard seat when the person in front of me is upright. No amount of button-pushing and body slamming is going to fit the back of their seat into the space occupied my knees, but boy do they try.

I'd offer, like Barro, to let you pay me to allow you to recline, but that's not an option. I often swap seats with people. If it's not a busy flight I move or sling my legs into the aisle. But sometimes they're just stuck sitting in a normal seat for a couple hours. They could have always chosen a seat in front of the extra legroom rows (for free) or to pay for an appropriate seat in business or first class with plenty of room to recline.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 1:37 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


the christopher hundreds: “In my experience as a tall person, the problem is inverted because I'm basically the perfect size to snugly fit into a standard seat when the person in front of me is upright. No amount of button-pushing and body slamming is going to fit the back of their seat into the space occupied my knees, but boy do they try.”

As I said above, I'm not a "recliner" – I prefer the seats at the back that don't recline. But I am a tall person, I'd like to think – I am over six feet tall, anyway. And I have never, in my entire life, had an airplane seat bump into my knees. It has never once happened to me. I understand that bodies are different, and even though I am more than six feet tall people might have longer thighs than me. But I suspect strongly that this is the case because I tend to keep my butt up against the seat, instead of letting it slip a little bit forward forward, thereby pushing my knees into the seat in front of me.
posted by koeselitz at 1:48 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


(Granted, this may be down to the fact that a lot of "tall" people complaining here have been more than six and a half feet tall – which changes the equation appreciably, I would think. Yes, if you're that tall, it is possible that your knees will hit the seat in front of you. Sorry, I do see that bodies are somewhat different here.)
posted by koeselitz at 1:51 PM on August 28


Amtrak (yes, I got the spelling wrong in my earlier comment) has huge seats. Wide, with lots of legroom. (At least when I've taken Amtrack, which has been quite infreqently, maybe some of the trains are different)

Here's a picture. Yes, the seat ahead of you can recline into your area but there is still plenty of space. There is also a both a legrest and footrest, which is important because the footrest is so far away someone less than 5'6" or so won't be able to reach it unless they slouch down quite a bit. There is no problem with small children swinging their legs and kicking the back of the seat in front of them because it's too far away.

For those who are in enough pain that they loose a day or more to bedrest after flying, if Amtrak goes where you want to go it might be worth the extra travel time. The seats (on trains I have been on) recline further than airline seats. There were also some areas downstairs that were large enough someone could spread out a yoga mat and do stretches or lie down for a bit if that helps them. You can get a compartment with a bed but it's expensive.

There is the dealbreaker disadvantage for many travel routes that trains don't fly though. Also, there's a lot of pitching back and forth that some might not care for. And some friends of mine were routed onto a bus for a section of their "train" trip.
posted by yohko at 1:59 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


"Here's a list of all of the rules I have for you and your seat so that you can make sure I'm comfortable in mine without me having to buy an upgrade.'"
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:06 PM on August 28 [6 favorites]


But sometimes they're just stuck sitting in a normal seat for a couple hours.

A normal seat is one that reclines.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 2:13 PM on August 28 [7 favorites]


I think the only airline "seat" that would help my pain levels would be one that turns into a bed. I know those exist on international flights, and I certainly would purchase one if it were an option...

Yes! It is an option on my flight! Flat beds (Suites) are available on the A380 that Singapore Airlines flies between JFK and Singapore. Round trip $13,000.

Or you could suffer with the recliners in Economy for $1500. It's only 21 hours.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:34 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


I am a tall person, I'd like to think – I am over six feet tall, anyway. And I have never, in my entire life, had an airplane seat bump into my knees.

This is also my experience, and I'm with Elysum requesting that people name names. Which are the airlines with these kneecap-breaking seats? Granted, when I sit with my feet flat on the floor, my kneecaps may be in contact with the seat ahead, but I can easily and comfortable stretch my legs out under the seat ahead (unless there's no space for my carry-on in the overhead compartment, which has miraculously never occurred). The past many years I've been flying Southwest or United (and when extremely lucky, ANA).
posted by Rash at 3:35 PM on August 28


This is also my experience, and I'm with Elysum requesting that people name names.

Seriously, are you also in favour of wanting to know everyone's thigh measurements and stuff? Okay, I've got a tape measure.

Air Canada. 32" seat pitch. Minus my almost exactly 26 inches rear-end-to-kneecap length. Minus five inches for the thickness of the chunky seats they undoubtedly still use on at least their older planes. Leaves 1" clearance. Minus one inch for slouching, because those seats are uncomfortable even if you do. Minus three inches for reclining seat. Yep, the math checks out.

More legroom for reasonable prices seems to be a recent U.S. thing. In Europe many airlines have similar choices at five or ten times the price. In Canada, doesn't look like it's widespread yet, you still have to win the lottery to get the emergency exit seats.
posted by sfenders at 4:09 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Plane diverted over reclined seat for 2nd time in a week
posted by Area Man at 5:33 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


If you don't understand airline economics or how seat spacing works on most domestic airlines, stop flying. Seriously. Take a bus or train to your destination if my reclining seat -- the way it was designed to work -- interferes with your flying experience. If you don't like it, don't fly that airline with the tiny spacing between seats any longer.

We all have choices. Pretending we don't and bitching about a feature that has been a part of every airline seat for the past 3 or 4 decades is silly.

I recline on every domestic flight no matter the length and will continue to do so. Slowly, and not all the way, but I will recline!
posted by docjohn at 7:00 PM on August 28 [4 favorites]


Here's a picture. Yes, the seat ahead of you can recline into your area but there is still plenty of space. There is also a both a legrest and footrest, which is important because the footrest is so far away someone less than 5'6" or so won't be able to reach it unless they slouch down quite a bit.

And, it needs to be pointed out, that's a standard COACH seat. Get a load of Business Class on the Oregon Cascades route.

I take the train to Chicago pretty often, and I love it. Last summer, I took both Monsters and their girlfriends along for a week. We all slept quite blissfully on the way in, and had zero trouble recovering our luggage (that we had checked!). People who overheard the girls marveling over how comfortable it was talked to them and told them about other routes with pretty scenery.

Train people are...different. Amiable. I recall a morning when I had arrived and we were just starting to exit, when my phone rang. My bestie, having a cow because the board showed we had arrived, and where was I? "Hold your horses, I need to climb up on the seat and hoist my bag down! We only just now pulled in!" And without a word, a tall fella who had been seated behind me reached up and pulled my bag down for me. And SMILED! And said "Must be hell being little." Little Amish kids curious about my hair and matching gadgets (even my laptop is purple), loudly and urgently whispering to their parents about "die Englische", giggling when I address them in Plattdeutsch and ask if they'd like to come sit with me for a while and have a cookie. (Their parents always seem so grateful. Traveling with wee ones is hard.) My seatmates have been, with few exceptions, delightful.

I'm certain it's because we're not all smashed together like sardines.
posted by MissySedai at 7:09 PM on August 28 [4 favorites]


This is also my experience, and I'm with Elysum requesting that people name names.

Seriously, are you also in favour of wanting to know everyone's thigh measurements and stuff?


Sorry, didn't meant to be invasive -
Something I CAN'T find online, is any recommendations for tall people travelling, along the lines of, "If your butt to knee length is more than x inches, you WILL want an extra legroom seat".
I figured, if I can't find it, the femur-advantaged (well, in length anyway!) probably can't find it either?

BTW Vox - Extra legroom tips is a bit passive agressive, but does provide links to the 'Economy Comfort' aka extra legroom offerings of major US domestic airlines.



Thing is, if you're tall enough, even without someone reclining in front of you, you aren't going to fit. One of the main topics here is discussing the couple of inches difference at knee height between a reclined, and non-reclined seat, and therefore, only those people who are long enough that a reclined seat would bump them, but NOT so tall that they weren't being bumped anyway.

Discussing in this thread, at least - I still don't think knees are the central issue.
Most people aren't being touched, but still have strong opinions, it's the free space in front of them, their personal space that the seats are going into, and wigging people out. I'm not touching you, claustrophobia, etc.
But, again, before someone says "Think of the claustrophobes!", in contrast, several people I knew with that issue, IMMEDIATELY recline on long flights, so that they can focus on the space above their head, rather that the people in front or behind. As the people in front and behind are also doing, as well as the frequent fliers.
(Note: On most planes I'm on, people are required to un-recline their seats during meals. Again, lets call out the airlines that aren't even trying?)

I'm still thinking mostly of the hell of being on a long flight without reclining, but what's the bet airlines start offering reclining, and non-reclining sections on short flights?
posted by Elysum at 8:40 PM on August 28


bitching about a feature that has been a part of every airline seat for the past 3 or 4 decades is silly

Almost as silly as ignoring everything else that's changed about airline seats.
posted by inigo2 at 8:43 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Maybe people would pay extra to sit by a nice person?
posted by mazola at 9:02 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


I took four flights in the last two days: Also, I helped people with luggage in the overhead bin on five separate occasions.

This concludes the Chrysostom Flight Politeness Report.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:17 PM on August 28 [6 favorites]


"The seat space you buy doesn't include the space where the other guy's seat reclines into. If you don't fit in that space, your beef is with the airline, not the guy sitting in the seat the way it was intended."

That's inane. You might as well beg the question by saying that you bought a seat that can recline, not the space to do so. Know how I can tell? My legs are already there. I'm sitting in the seat the way it was intended too. Your beef is with the airline, not me jamming my knees into your back as hard as I can. (Or, if you don't like it, you can pay me.)

Which is one of the biggest problems I have with the framing of this issue — by turning it into an economic discussion, it tacitly turns this into an all-against-all social situation, a prisoner's dilemma. Both parties have the ability to make the sum of the experience more negative for both of them, with nearly equal power. By shifting this to be the responsibility of the reclined-upon, something where basic civil interaction is something the recliner is entitled to be paid for, that shifts the power to the recliner and gives the recliner less interest in compromising. There are a good number of people who don't want to recline, but would at least present as such if they thought they could get paid for it.

You can complain that your underwear are much too tight, but your pain is not my problem when you saved $3 because you purchased the child size. I don't care to hear such complaining.
An appropriate product exists. Purchase an appropriate seat. If you prefer thrift don't complain to others about your choices.
"

Again, hey, it's not my problem that you didn't buy first class, or take the train. You understand how dumb and selfish an argument that is, right? If my pain isn't your problem, your pain isn't my problem. We both have the power to make both of our experience worse. If you act smugly entitled, the best case outcome for you is that you look like a total asshole, and the worst case is that I spend my entire flight thinking of ways to fuck with you because, hey, you could have taken a Grayhound if you didn't want to be seated in front of me. Your economic arguments hold no suasion for me if mine don't for you.

(This essay excerpted from my book, Hobbes is why I Shoplift.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:29 PM on August 28 [3 favorites]


"I take the train to Chicago pretty often, and I love it. "

I used to take the train all the time from Ann Arbor to Chicago, and it was great. But the train from LA to SF is insanely expensive compared to flying, and to get up the coast would always take more time than I've got. I'm really looking forward to high speed rail.
posted by klangklangston at 9:35 PM on August 28


I prefer trains, but certain lines are NOT on time. The longer you need to be on the train, the more likely it is to be late or super late.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:37 PM on August 28


u no who else trains on time?
posted by klangklangston at 11:10 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


"But sometimes they're just stuck sitting in a normal seat for a couple hours."

"A normal seat is one that reclines."

"If you don't understand airline economics or how seat spacing works on most domestic airlines, stop flying. Seriously. Take a bus or train to your destination if my reclining seat -- the way it was designed to work -- interferes with your flying experience."

The normal seat I paid for lets my knees fit in the space of the pitch area. If you don't understand how seat spacing works, stop flying. Seriously. Take a bus or train to your destination if my knees -- the way they were designed to work -- interfere with your reclining experience.

See? We can go back and forth aaaall daaaaaaaaay.
posted by Evilspork at 3:52 AM on August 29


The normal seat I paid for lets my knees fit in the space of the pitch area.

Apparently it doesn't.

See? We can go back and forth aaaall daaaaaaaaay.

Except that a normal seat is one that reclines, and to argue otherwise is to ignore the facts.

I haven't taken a flight over three hours in over a decade, but I have a couple flights across an ocean coming up, and I almost certainly will be reclining my seat at some point. Telling me I have to sit bolt upright for nine hours puts you, not me, squarely in the wrong.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:23 AM on August 29 [3 favorites]


bitching about a feature that has been a part of every airline seat for the past 3 or 4 decades is silly


What a perfect illustration of what you aren't getting, you are correct that the seats on the plane still recline, however EVERYTHING else about the plane and the seats HAS changed, so the decent thing to do is not to say "seats have always reclined therefore there can be no issue" but rather to say "jeez, seats are much smaller, people are much bigger, spacing is much less, hmmm should I continue to use this feature that takes space from the person behind me?"
posted by Cosine at 7:54 AM on August 29 [2 favorites]


"Except that a normal seat is one that reclines, and to argue otherwise is to ignore the facts."

Bullshit. A normal (airline) seat has the ability, but not necessarily the space, to recline. And a normal seat has room for one's legs while seated.

"I haven't taken a flight over three hours in over a decade, but I have a couple flights across an ocean coming up, and I almost certainly will be reclining my seat at some point. Telling me I have to sit bolt upright for nine hours puts you, not me, squarely in the wrong."

No, assuming that you are entitled to recline your seat without any communication and without the person behind you resenting it puts you squarely in the wrong.

You're arguing by assertion, not reason, and have just joined the ranks of the people in this thread who are glad to identify as presumptive assholes on planes.
posted by klangklangston at 8:08 AM on August 29 [3 favorites]


I purchased a cigarette, which is designed to blow smoke out into the air around me. If you, sir, would like me to stop blowing smoke in your face in this crowded cafe you'll have to pay me!
posted by faux ami at 8:19 AM on August 29 [2 favorites]


faux ami, that is exactly why smoking in cafes, bars, restaurants etc is outlawed in many places.
posted by desjardins at 8:45 AM on August 29


Except that a normal seat is one that reclines, and to argue otherwise is to ignore the facts.

A normal* arm is one that swings, but my right to swing my arm ends before it hits your face.** A normal airplane chair is one that reclines, but my right to recline that chair ends before it hits your knees.

Why is this hard?

*Apologies for the ableist language here.
**Emphatically not, though the maxim has it so, "where your nose begins" because a strike to just in front of the face is just as much an act of aggression as a strike to the face.

posted by gauche at 8:53 AM on August 29 [3 favorites]


I know, desjardins. But maybe with this example it's easier to see the silliness of the author's idea of effectively taxing people behind recliners? Social norms or regs work in resolving these issues.
posted by faux ami at 9:00 AM on August 29


From 2011: F-16s Escort United Flight After Reclined Seat Leads To Slapfest
posted by desjardins at 9:05 AM on August 29


I'm interested in the people who feel the space they're sitting in is theirs alone and inviolable and that they'll angrily defend it. Do they attack flight attendants reaching across them to serve food? Refuse to let people by to go to the bathroom? I'm thinking the answer is "of course not" and that they actually know this space isn't unequivocally theirs.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:08 AM on August 29 [2 favorites]


No, assuming that you are entitled to recline your seat without any communication and without the person behind you resenting it puts you squarely in the wrong.

This is an argument from assertion and not reason.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:08 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


faux ami, I disagree - smoking is incontrovertibly harmful. In most cases, being reclined upon is a discomfort and inconvenience, not actually harmful.

I think a better example is this - if there are smoking and non-smoking establishments, and I choose to go to a smoking one, I've lost my right to complain when I smell cigarettes or inhale smoke. In the same way, if I choose not to pay for business class, I've lost my right to complain when someone reclines upon me.
posted by desjardins at 9:10 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


I'm still not getting the calculus that goes "the airline gave me a seat that's too small, but it's the guy in front of me who's an asshole for wanting not to have horrible back pain for the first day of/after travel."
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:17 AM on August 29 [3 favorites]


A normal* arm is one that swings, but my right to swing my arm ends before it hits your face.** A normal airplane chair is one that reclines, but my right to recline that chair ends before it hits your knees.

I'd like to see an analysis of the amount of times that anti-recliners have used violent rhetoric in this thread vs the recliners.
posted by empath at 9:18 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Well, if you consider reclining onto someone's knees to be a violent act, then they started it. Down with the recliners!

In all seriousness though, I think this thread just proves that everyone considers their own comfort to be more important than the other person's and there's no way to solve that short of separate planes.
posted by downtohisturtles at 9:23 AM on August 29


I don't think this thread proves anything of the sort. There are plenty of people who don't recline if someone is behind then, or at least ask first.

What this thread proves is that lots of people enjoy shouting at each other.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:32 AM on August 29 [2 favorites]


Secondhand smoke is harmful with copious exposure over time, right? (Though I'd agree that public smoking certainly was regulated b/c of it.) To me, it it is/was primarily an annoyance (like the reclining seat), which in my experience smokers typically scoffed at. Wouldn't we all chortle if told that non-smoking cafe patrons had to pay a tax to avoid smokers? Smokers and non-smokers share French cafes--though smokers have every right to smoke and do as they please, norms keep (some) smokers from exhaling in others' faces.

Could you agree with me at least that, whether obnoxious or selfish or whatever, those behind the recliners are genuinely annoyed and that resolving this by requiring them to pay a "tax" is less of a solution than either regulating this (airlines making some better rules) or creating a social norm involving behavior that is courteous to the sensitivities of both sides of this (like just make eye contact and put the seat down slowly for some of the flight and let the person behind use their laptop a little bit)?
posted by faux ami at 9:32 AM on August 29


In most cases, being reclined upon is a discomfort and inconvenience, not actually harmful.

Sure, and in most cases, reclining provides only a slight improvement in comfort and convenience, not the relief from serious harm that it does for some people with back problems.

Not anti-reclining, just anti- reclining without looking to see what's behind you.
posted by sfenders at 9:57 AM on August 29 [2 favorites]


I'm kinda curious -- are the abnormally tall at least consistent? Do they forgo reclining even though odds are you could do so comfortably, and safely?

After the fiery rhetoric this thread has amounted to, I doubt we could expect honest answers in the thread, and will have to resort to observations in the field.
posted by pwnguin at 10:44 AM on August 29


Huffpo is on the case.
posted by empath at 10:47 AM on August 29


In all seriousness though, I think this thread just proves that everyone considers their own comfort to be more important than the other person's and there's no way to solve that short of separate planes.

Well, except for the people in my (apparently rather small) camp: the "tall person who doesn't recline, but considers it absolutely the right of the person in front of me to use the reclining seat they paid for" camp.

I would also say (again talking as a 6' 4" person) that in my experience having the seat in front recline doesn't alter my leg room all that much (the pivot point from which the seat reclines is not all that far below knee level--the seat would have to recline a long way back for that to be a major effect). What it does do is render the tray table kind of useless (the top of the seat back is now between me and the tray) and generally add to my psychological sense of being like a pig in a factory farm.
posted by yoink at 10:48 AM on August 29


Generally speaking, Americans think not being able to recline their own seat would be a more horrible travel fate than having the seat in front of them reclined. A 43 percent to 34 percent plurality said that not being able to recline their own seat would be the bigger inconvenience of the two on a daytime flight, while a whopping 70 percent to 15 percent majority said that would be the bigger inconvenience on an overnight flight.
posted by empath at 10:50 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


"This is an argument from assertion and not reason."

My reasoning is laid out upthread; basically by not communicating you turn the situation into one where both parties are likely to be worse off.

I'll also note that tu quoque isn't a rebuttal.

"I'm interested in the people who feel the space they're sitting in is theirs alone and inviolable and that they'll angrily defend it. Do they attack flight attendants reaching across them to serve food? Refuse to let people by to go to the bathroom? I'm thinking the answer is "of course not" and that they actually know this space isn't unequivocally theirs.

If a flight attendant doesn't communicate with me when they reach into my space, particularly if they touch me, yes, I am annoyed. For folks going to the bathroom (or getting luggage, since I'm often in the aisle), I get annoyed if they don't say anything. The rebuttal to the idea that this is not a space legitimately controlled by the person seating is that you wouldn't tolerate it if someone stood there instead of proceeding on to the bathroom, and that they generally realize they are inconveniencing you, not the recliner.

"I think a better example is this - if there are smoking and non-smoking establishments, and I choose to go to a smoking one, I've lost my right to complain when I smell cigarettes or inhale smoke. In the same way, if I choose not to pay for business class, I've lost my right to complain when someone reclines upon me."

No, you're missing part of the analogy: Even at a smoking establishment, someone who blows smoke into your face is still a boor, especially if they do so knowingly. Smoking etiquette requires one to make the effort not to blow smoke into the faces of others, even in a smoking establishment.

"I'm still not getting the calculus that goes "the airline gave me a seat that's too small, but it's the guy in front of me who's an asshole for wanting not to have horrible back pain for the first day of/after travel.""

That's a failure of your ability to reason things out then. The airline gave you a seat that's too small to recline to the point that you desire, but you're mad at the guy behind you who doesn't want knee pain. As per above, the solution is to communicate, not just assume entitlement, unless you're willing to risk both you and the person behind you having a worse trip than you would have had if you had just talked to them and worked something out.

"I'm kinda curious -- are the abnormally tall at least consistent? Do they forgo reclining even though odds are you could do so comfortably, and safely?"

I try to talk to the person behind me before I recline, at the very least to give them a heads up in case they have something on the tray. I also try to be aware if I'm sitting in front of a tall person.
posted by klangklangston at 10:52 AM on August 29


empath's HuffPo poll, showing that 55% say that reclining during daytime flights is acceptable, seems consistent with the range of opinions expressed in this thread. It was an eye-opener for me, but it seems that them's the facts.
posted by Eyebeams at 10:52 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


That's a failure of your ability to reason things out then.

It's really got nothing at all to do with "reason," Klangklangston. This is simply a matter of something where some people are assuming that there is a social norm in one directly and others are assuming that there is a social norm in another. There's no "reason" why it's obviously "wrong" to recline, any more than there's a "reason" why it's obviously "right" to do so. Proxemics have nothing to do with "reason"--they're purely cultural. The problem here is that no widespread prevailing cultural consensus has emerged around the airline seat.

I could see it going in either direction, eventually, and either direction would have it's "reasonable" rationale. Either we say "the airline sells reclining seats and consequently that means the only space you have reliably purchased when you buy your seat is the space between your nose and a reclined seat in front of you. If you are distressed by that either don't fly, buy a more expensive seat, or hope that you can appeal to the kindness of the person in front of you." Or we say "reclining your seat intrudes into the space of the person behind you and therefore you should only do it if they explicitly give their permission." Both of those positions are eminently "reasonable" (the first may have the advantage of being legally enforceable if one got right down into the explicit contract terms of the ticket you bought)--but which one prevails as a social norm has nothing, at all, to do with "reason."
posted by yoink at 11:03 AM on August 29 [4 favorites]


I'm so glad that everyone here is able to see the other point of view and reach a consensus of opinion. This has been a really productive discussion!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:08 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Kirth Gerson: This has been a really productive discussion!

If you believe that "reach[ing] a consensus of opinion" is the sole or even primary barometer of a productive discussion, that's your problem. Sometimes, contentious issues have no correct answer that can be verified empirically. People disagree about stuff.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:14 AM on August 29


That's a failure of your ability to reason things out then.

Still waiting for evidence of that being the case, rather than the straw man it's showing itself to be. (Cites reasons you agree with: based on reason. CItes reasons you don't agree with: not based on reason.)
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:15 AM on August 29


The crux of the disagreement here seems to come down to whether your ticket entitles you to use of a seat or an amount of space.

Do the airlines sell you a "space" on an airplane or a "seat"? They sell you a seat. It is a seat built to recline.

The space people are attempting to claim as indisputably theirs is demonstrably not indisputably theirs, as they must also yield it for people going to the bathroom, flight attendants serving food and drinks, etc.

(And again, not for nothing but I'm 6'1" and have to sit bow-legged when the person in front of me reclines. So I'm not a short lazy monster who hates tall people's knees. I'm just someone who notes that the taxonomy of tickets--i.e. "seats"--the very design of planes and seats, and the necessarily shifting ideas of legroom on board all favor the "seat" argument over the "space" argument.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:17 AM on August 29 [2 favorites]


What's more, I consider a person's comfort on a plane to be an issue to be addressed personally. People who need to recline have already addressed theirs by buying a seat that reclines. I tend toward the opinion that people who feel they need a particular amount of legroom are best served by buying a seat that comes with it, rather than trying to shame or bully it away from an adjacent passenger.

But again, we don't seem likely to agree on whether the basic right of plane travel is to the seat or the space.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:20 AM on August 29 [2 favorites]


I'm just someone who notes that the taxonomy of tickets--i.e. "seats"--the very design of planes and seats, and the necessarily shifting ideas of legroom on board all favor the "seat" argument over the "space" argument

It's also worth noting (it may already have been noted above, but I'm not going to reread this whole thread) that if you read through the material in the seat pocket in front of you when you get on the plane you'll almost certainly find, somewhere, a set of instructions telling you about the features of the seat you have purchased (audio/visual, tray, adjustable headrest etc.) Among those "features" will be the seat's ability to recline. This will not be accompanied by anything saying "if the person behind you agrees." It seems pretty clear that the airline is directly telling you that they regard "your space" as including the space into which the seat moves when it reclines.
posted by yoink at 11:21 AM on August 29 [7 favorites]


And also: I just did some measuring and found that the amount of clearance my fairly long legs need is reduced by five inches by sitting straight, bowlegged with my ankles crossed and up against the base of my seat. The sitting straight up part is marginally uncomfortable, but then, reclining fixes that in a jiff.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:24 AM on August 29


If you believe that "reach[ing] a consensus of opinion" is the sole or even primary barometer of a productive discussion, that's your problem.

I don't believe that, so it's not my problem. Do you believe that people endlessly saying the same contrary things to each other is a productive discussion?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:34 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Do you believe that people endlessly saying the same contrary things to each other is a productive discussion?

Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position!
posted by yoink at 11:38 AM on August 29


Kirth Gerson: I don't believe that, so it's not my problem. Do you believe that people endlessly saying the same contrary things to each other is a productive discussion?

No, but that's not what's happening here. As just one example, DirtyOldTown's point just a few comments up about the space not being yours because you have to yield it to flight attendants, etc. is a point I don't think anyone's made yet. I still don't think that this logic is quite correct, and even if it were, I don't think it provides dispositive proof that the anti-recliner position is the right one, but it's forced me to think about the space/seat discussion from a different perspective, and is therefore a productive addition to the conversation.

Certainly, there is some talking in circles and digging-in of heels happening -- this is still MetaFilter, after all -- but I don't think that the near certainty that we won't arrive at a consensus is relevant at all to the quality of the discussion, and I do think people are making new points, though, by definition, fewer new points than were made when the thread itself was new.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:40 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Looks like seatguru.com hasn't been mentioned yet.

You can look up seat maps that show the best and worst seats.

There are also nifty charts that show the seat pitch on different aircraft, as the seat pitch varies even on the same airline.

Here's the chart for shorthaul economy class. Note the seat pitch varies from 28 to 39 inches. This might explain why some people are puzzled about how there might possibly not be room for someone's knees.

You can even sort by seat pitch and choose your flight depending on whether you prefer to have more space or prefer shoving matches!
posted by yohko at 11:57 AM on August 29 [7 favorites]


"I could see it going in either direction, eventually, and either direction would have it's "reasonable" rationale."

Uh, yeah, that's what I was saying. If he can't see that the same argument applies from the other side, it's a failure to reason that through.

"Still waiting for evidence of that being the case, rather than the straw man it's showing itself to be. (Cites reasons you agree with: based on reason. CItes reasons you don't agree with: not based on reason.)"

Straw man? No, if you are "still not getting the calculus" after having it explained about eleventy-billion times in this thread, then that is your failure to reason things out. It's not a straw man to say that — perhaps the word you were looking for was "tautology."

"Do the airlines sell you a "space" on an airplane or a "seat"? They sell you a seat. It is a seat built to recline. "

This is inane, especially given the amount of times the "from design"/teleology of seats has been addressed. The "seat" includes the space to occupy it, and what you actually purchase is a "ticket," not a seat. You do not keep the seat after the conclusion of the trip.

" I tend toward the opinion that people who feel they need a particular amount of legroom are best served by buying a seat that comes with it, rather than trying to shame or bully it away from an adjacent passenger."

They can, by jamming their knees in tightly enough that the seat can't recline, or otherwise blocking the reclining with other materials (bags, etc.). Someone who needs that much space to recline also has the option of purchasing a more expensive seat. This is not a convincing argument.

This is particularly true when you fly on airlines that still have ashtrays in the seat arms, despite smoking on planes being banned for a good 20 years now. (Usually, they're now blocked with a retrofitted plate, but that's not always true.)

"Among those "features" will be the seat's ability to recline. This will not be accompanied by anything saying "if the person behind you agrees." It seems pretty clear that the airline is directly telling you that they regard "your space" as including the space into which the seat moves when it reclines."

The airlines are trying to have it both ways. That's not indicative of anything regarding the space allocation.
posted by klangklangston at 1:04 PM on August 29


(Sorry, that second ¶ about ashtrays was in reply to the previous quoted excerpt.)
posted by klangklangston at 1:08 PM on August 29


The airlines are trying to have it both ways

Where's the evidence of this? Where is there any explicit claim (comparable to the explicit "your seat can recline if you push this button") from the airline to the effect that you may, if you wish, prevent the person ahead of you from reclining the seat? It seems to me that the airlines are trying to have this one way: they sell reclining seats and they explicitly instruct their passengers to recline them if they so wish.

Again, I can see that it would be possible for a cultural convention to emerge in which it was considered rude to do this without the explicit consent of the person behind you (that such a convention has not yet emerged seems to have been demonstrated), but I can't see any evidence that the airways are "trying to have it both ways" on the issue.
posted by yoink at 1:09 PM on August 29


How are they trying to have it both ways? They're selling seats with the ability to recline and not selling the space for it. It's similar to how airlines have overbooked flights for years. There they promise to do something physically impossible and only provide compensation because it's required by federal law.
posted by klangklangston at 1:42 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


perhaps the word you were looking for was "tautology."

"Disagrees with me; therefore, not based on reason" is...well, exactly as I said. Tautology, it ain't.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:49 PM on August 29


otherwise blocking the reclining with other materials (bags, etc.)

This isn't permitted on a lot of airlines, and with good reason. You are not within your rights to modify other people's property so that it only gets used as you wish.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:54 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


They're selling seats with the ability to recline and not selling the space for it. It's similar to how airlines have overbooked flights for years. There they promise to do something physically impossible

"Physically impossible"? Oh come on. Again, I'm 6' 4"--I fly quite a lot and the person in front of me is reclined more often than not. I'm two standard deviations above average US male height (70"--SD=3"). I've never, once, prevented the functioning of the reclining seat in front of me, and that's on a wide variety of sizes and kinds of airplane. It is simply laughably untrue to say that the airlines are selling a function that is "physically impossible."

And, again, I typically do not recline my own seat, except on overnight flights.
posted by yoink at 1:58 PM on August 29 [3 favorites]


Where is there any explicit claim (comparable to the explicit "your seat can recline if you push this button") from the airline to the effect that you may, if you wish, prevent the person ahead of you from reclining the seat?

This is getting silly, but I'll just remind you that I don't have to do anything to prevent the person ahead from fully reclining the seat. I just have to sit there and not move. If the airline provided instructions that I should at all times be prepared to instantly take evasive action if the seat ahead moves, that would be different.

Whether the length of my thighs is more than one standard deviation from the human average is yet unknown.
posted by sfenders at 2:03 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


It is interesting that a Venn diagram of the "I only oppose reclining in the interest of basic civility and because I expect a modicum of respect for my person" camp and the "I will fucking fight you and bang into you on purpose if I don't get what I want" camp finds the latter completely encircled within the former.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:11 PM on August 29


Shit's going to go down when airlines let customers talk on cell phones during flights. I'm curious whether reclining advocates will defend talkers' 'right' to talk loud and long (and heap disdain on shushers and tell them to buy an upgrade for a cabin where there may be less noise).
posted by faux ami at 2:12 PM on August 29


This is getting silly, but I'll just remind you that I don't have to do anything to prevent the person ahead from fully reclining the seat

There are people who do not physically fit into bus seats. That does not mean that bus companies are all selling some horrible lie about the functionality of their seats. That there may be some exceptional freak cases out there (my father was 6' 6" and my brother is 6' 7"--neither of them ever prevented someone in the seat in front of them from reclining. You must have pretty amazing thigh bones!) but exceptional cases are hardly relevant. There very exceptionality means that we cannot, by definition, use them to determine what the usual case is supposed to be. Clearly, in your case, you can only say to the poor person in front of you "I'm sorry, I'm a rare physical freak and it won't be physically possible for you to recline your seat." That's their bad luck--and yours. But it tells us nothing, at all, about the normal functioning of those seats.
posted by yoink at 2:13 PM on August 29


""Disagrees with me; therefore, not based on reason" is...well, exactly as I said. Tautology, it ain't."

You seem to be having some reading comprehension problems. Perhaps there's an adult that can help you? A fairly large hint would be that reply I made to Yoink, where I pointed out that the same reasoning applies from both sides — it was right above the tautology remark, so I can pretty well tell that you've read it and not understood it.

""Physically impossible"? Oh come on. Again, I'm 6' 4"--I fly quite a lot and the person in front of me is reclined more often than not. I'm two standard deviations above average US male height (70"--SD=3"). I've never, once, prevented the functioning of the reclining seat in front of me, and that's on a wide variety of sizes and kinds of airplane. It is simply laughably untrue to say that the airlines are selling a function that is "physically impossible.""

Man, I must not be making myself very clear, because that's a pretty silly reply. Read it again, and you'll see what I described as physically impossible was having two passengers take the same reservation, which should have been made even clearer by pointing out that the reason why airlines provide compensation is because they were required to.

But I'm 6'2" and have blocked the ability of a seat in front of me to recline fully using just my legs, so perhaps you can explain to me how it was physically possible for the passenger in front of me to recline through my legs.

"This isn't permitted on a lot of airlines, and with good reason. You are not within your rights to modify other people's property so that it only gets used as you wish."

Ask that adult what "begging the question" means.
posted by klangklangston at 2:13 PM on August 29


(For the record, I'm in the "modicum of respect" circle of DirtyOldTown's Venn diagram.)
posted by faux ami at 2:13 PM on August 29


Man, I must not be making myself very clear

No, you're not. You said: "They're selling seats with the ability to recline and not selling the space for it." And then you followed it with what you claimed was a comparable situation which was "physically impossible."

The claim, however, independently of the comparison, is false on its face. There is, clearly, "space" available for the overwhelming majority of passengers to recline their seats. You may not like having the seat ahead of you reclined, but there is, clearly, in fact and in reality, sufficient 'space' there for the seat to recline. So your argument that the airlines are "trying to have this both ways" fails.
posted by yoink at 2:18 PM on August 29


"There very exceptionality means that we cannot, by definition, use them to determine what the usual case is supposed to be."

That's not actually a very helpful way of thinking about rules and exceptions, and confuses more than it clarifies. It's at best an appeal to popularity.

"No, you're not. You said: "They're selling seats with the ability to recline and not selling the space for it." And then you followed it with what you claimed was a comparable situation which was "physically impossible.""

Yes, and they're comparable as examples of the airlines trying to have things both ways by selling the same good twice.

"The claim, however, independently of the comparison, is false on its face. There is, clearly, "space" available for the overwhelming majority of passengers to recline their seats. You may not like having the seat ahead of you reclined, but there is, clearly, in fact and in reality, sufficient 'space' there for the seat to recline. So your argument that the airlines are "trying to have this both ways" fails."

… except when there isn't physical space for the seat to recline, as demonstrated by my stopping the seat from reclining with my knees in a neutral position. In which case, the recliner does not get to take advantage of the good you believe they were sold.

So, no, your bombast and bluster about "fact and reality" aside, there is not always physical space for them to recline into, ergo the airline trying to have it both ways by selling the same good twice. While not my original point, your insistence on how reclining can't be physically impossible is just empty assertions.

You're free to fume and assert more on this, but the simple fact is that for seats that would recline into my knees, I have an effective way to prevent that, though it's one that makes the journey worse for both me and the person in front of me.
posted by klangklangston at 2:27 PM on August 29


You seem to be having some reading comprehension problems. Perhaps there's an adult that can help you?

This comment breaks the guidelines. If you care to engage in actual debate, rather than declaring that anyone who opposes you is a child who can't read, please do.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 2:28 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


So, no, your bombast and bluster about "fact and reality" aside, there is not always physical space for them to recline into

Speaking of "reading comprehension problems": I acknowledged that there may, in fact, be exceptionally rare cases where there is not such physical space. There are rare cases where a person cannot fit into the airline seat at all. Those cases do not prove that, in general, airline seats are a scam and that airlines are selling seats which people in general cannot reasonably expect to fit.

By the same token, it is--simply as a matter of fact--inarguably the case that in the vast majority of cases the seat is able to be physically reclined while the person behind the seat continues to occupy the seat they were sold. That is simply the reality of what occurs in thousands upon thousands of flights every single day of the week. The existence of a few, exceedingly rare cases of people whose extraordinarily long thighs prevent that seat from reclining is no more proof that the airlines are selling something which in general is of no use to the purchaser than the fact that some people are allergic to the interiors of airplanes is proof that the entire airline industry is attempting to poison us or is a money laundering front that doesn't actually carry any passengers anywhere.

You got over excited and made a silly statement that was self evidently false, Klang. Don't double down on that silliness.
posted by yoink at 2:38 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: Speaking of "reading comprehension problems"
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:06 PM on August 29 [3 favorites]


I'm rather darkly amused at the amount of male privilege on display. And it is overwhelmingly male privilege; in the US, less than one in a hundred females are 5'10" or taller, and it is probably closer to one in a thousand who are taller than six feet. And in reaction to people using a seat in the way it is designed to, people are talking in raging fury about assaulting people, kicking their seat, having their children molest them.

I'm pretty fat, and regular airline seats are uncomfortable for me too. Guess what? I fucking plan around that. I pay the extra money for more leg room. When I'm picking out seats, I choose window seats so I can slouch against the hull, and I pick ones where the aisle seat is already taken to maximize the chance that there will be no one in the middle. I've even brought a second seat at times. When possible, I buy upgrades to first class with my miles. And if all of that fails, if I end up wedged next to a big guy in coach whose shoulders are encroaching on my seat? I deal with it, I don't get mad at the person in front of my for reclining, I don't get mad at the guy next to me, I certainly don't spit on anyone or kick their seat, I put on my headphones and deal.
posted by tavella at 3:30 PM on August 29 [9 favorites]


"Speaking of "reading comprehension problems": I acknowledged that there may, in fact, be exceptionally rare cases where there is not such physical space. There are rare cases where a person cannot fit into the airline seat at all. Those cases do not prove that, in general, airline seats are a scam and that airlines are selling seats which people in general cannot reasonably expect to fit."

These are not cases in which a person can't fit into the seat at all, unless you beg the question on space allocated to reclining. And that you tried to hand-waive about exceptions, roughly 20 percent of US males are above 6'. Even at 6'2" or 6'3", that's still a good 5 to 7 percent, which — given a plane holds, what, an average of 150 people, that's seven to ten people on every flight. That's not an exceptional case that is so rare as to be uncontemplated, it's something that happens regularly and predictably. And you acknowledged the exceptions after I pointed it out, not in your initial complaint about "physical impossibility." I am glad you took responsibility for your reading comprehension problems, though.

It's worth noting that you didn't object to describing overbooking as promising something that's physically impossible (and that this tangent is from your misreading), but someone being bumped involuntarily happens less often than 5 to 7 percent of the time. And not only do we have rules and norms for that, but we have federal regulation to reify them.

And if the reclining works for both parties in the vast majority of situations, why not set the norm of communicating over it? That will help defray the regular, predictable outliers while letting the most people get what they want.
posted by klangklangston at 3:35 PM on August 29


It's similar to how airlines have overbooked flights for years. There they promise to do something physically impossible and only provide compensation because it's required by federal law.

If you want to sit on my lap you have to pay extra for it.
posted by desjardins at 5:28 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


I can just see the joyful expressions of airline executives all over the world as they gaze over the fray, rub their hands together and chuckle with glee over possible ways to monetize the recline issue.
posted by mochapickle at 6:29 PM on August 29


You are not within your rights to modify other people's property so that it only gets used as you wish.

Then why are you arguing that you are within your rights to modify my knee room property so that it only gets used as you wish?
posted by Evilspork at 6:56 PM on August 29 [3 favorites]


roughly 20 percent of US males are above 6'

Based on the extensive knowledge of seat pitch and human anatomy I have acquired from this thread, I'd say anywhere from six feet to not more than a couple inches above it is about the height where you're likely to be just barely able to sit normally (or close to it) in a typical airplane seat until the reclining happens. More than one taller person seems to have forgotten that this is possible, presumably because they are accustomed to sitting all the time in a fashion specifically engineered to conserve leg-room.

If a person in this not uncommon height range happens to be sitting behind you, they are most likely able to accommodate your desire to recline the seat. Unfair though it may be, we have demonstrated that you might expect some kind of antagonistic reaction if your method for asking them to move their legs a bit is to shove a large object into them while seated on the other side of an opaque barrier with your back turned. A bit of eye contact or an incomprehensible word in a foreign language would be better.
posted by sfenders at 7:05 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


EconoSpeak:
The real problem with Coase in this context, however, has to do with the incentive to threaten to recline. Suppose I am indifferent between reclining and not; in other words, the value to me of being able to put my seat back is exactly zero. Does this mean I’ll simply keep my seat upright and avoid all hassles? Not if I’m Homo Economicus, I won’t! No, as soon as I hear that reassuring electronic beep that says takeoff restrictions are ended, I’ll push my seat back as far as it can go and wait for you to make an offer. My incentive is to hold out for as much as you are willing to shell out and then take it.

This is a well-known result in economics, of course. In the classic case of pollution, assigning property rights to the polluter results, in dynamic equilibrium, in more entry of potential polluters and greater payments to them by pollutees relative to the static outcome...

Barro provides a useful example of someone whose understanding of Coase extends as far as the wonders of Markets in Everything and then simply stops. We see the same phenomenon in just about every aspect of microeconomics, from the virtue of sweatshops (workers voluntarily take those jobs, no?) to the evils of rent control (deadweight loss! black markets!). More complex considerations that take into account dynamics, interaction effects and the like never intrude. What you end up with is an ideological truncation of economics, and, as the Great Airplane Debate illustrates, it is largely ideology that frames public discourse.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:38 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Etiquette columnist Dear Prudie weighs in: yes, you have to let the person in front of you recline.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:49 PM on September 2 [2 favorites]


You are on a plane; you are bound now only by Skylaw. The rules of God and man no longer apply.

TWO FLIERS ENTER! ONE FLIES COMFORTABLY!
TWO FLIERS ENTER! ONE FLIES COMFORTABLY!
TWO FLIERS ENTER! ONE FLIES COMFORTABLY!

And now, I've got two travelers. Two passengers with a gut full of fear. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls… flyin' time's here!

TWO FLIERS ENTER! ONE FLIES COMFORTABLY!
...
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:21 AM on September 3 [4 favorites]


TWO FLIERS ENTER! ONE FLIES COMFORTABLY!

And now, I've got two travelers. Two passengers with a gut full of fear.


Two passengers, both like in dignity,
On Air Verona, where we lay our scene,
In ancient seats break to new mutiny,
Where civil backs on civil knees do lean.
Upon the fatal wings of this sad trip
A pair of star-cross'd tourists take their flight;
Whose misadventured path to landing strip
Is cursed by one’s fatigue and t’other’s height.
The fearful passage of their aching bones,
And the continuance of their mutual rage,
Which, but their journey’s end, nought could postpone,
Is now the nine hours' traffic of our stage;
The which, though you with patience now attend,
Regrettably, airlines alone can mend.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:55 AM on September 3 [5 favorites]


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