Scott Mayerowitz reports that a United flight was diverted today when a fight broke out onboard. One passenger was using the ‘knee defender’ to stop the passenger in front from reclining their seat.
The flight from Newark to Denver diverted to Chicago, where the TSA deemed it “a customer service issue.” The flight continued to Denver and arrived 98 minutes late.
The fight started when the male passenger, seated in a middle seat of row 12, used the Knee Defender to stop the woman in front of him from reclining while he was on his laptop…
A flight attendant asked him to remove the device and he refused. The woman then stood up, turned around and threw a cup of water at him, the official says. That’s when United decided to land in Chicago. The two passengers were not allowed to continue to Denver.
Is reclining your seat (in coach) is a right or a privilege?
- Is it something you’re entitled to do independent of the wishes of the passenger behind you? Or something you do only to the extent it doesn’t inconvenience them?
- What if you want to sleep and they want to eat or work on their laptop?
The problem can actually be worse in domestic first class if the seats there have greater recline but only marginally more legroom. (I’m still happier in first class than coach, even when the passenger in front of me reclines! And some American seats recline into the seat’s own space, making this a non-issue.)
Ironically, in today’s incident the passengers were seated in economy plus — with extra legroom!
I believe that reclining is the passenger’s right.
- The seat reclines (except on Spirit and Allegiant!)
- You control your own seat.
In an environment surrounded by masses of people it’s even nice to pretend no one else exists.
It’s even better to take politeness into account.
- Don’t recline during mealtime.
- Try not to recline unless it serves a real purpose.
Do you need to recline if you aren’t trying to sleep, and you don’t have back issues? If you do need to recline, try to recline less rather than more.
The Knee Defender is a rubber clamp that an airline passenger can use to prevent the seat in front from being reclined. It hasn’t sold well, and was initially banned by American and Continental and now by all major US airlines. The fact that the device was banned tells me there’s a norm against preventing passengers from reclining their seats.
Interestingly, a real fight broke out over the use of a knee defender and the government doesn’t ban it – the airlines do. And yet the mere perceived annoyance of inflight use of cell phones is spurring the government to action, fearing that airlines won’t manage the issue well themselves (even though it’s legal in much of the world without fights breaking out).
I was once in coach flying Cleveland – Los Angeles. I paid a young child, with mother’s consent, $5 not to recline her seat. I got four hours of work on my laptop as a result, a great investment of $5. In that case the initial allocation of property rights belonged to the child and we found a Coasian bargain.
So is reclining a right or a privilege? How do you handle reclining your seat?
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