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?


  1. Geoff said,

    The seat reclines for a reason, it’s a fu**in right. Airlines that sacrifice pitch for recline remove the reclining mechanism or fly ATRs. If it ‘s available it’s meant to be used. Probably the most useless and stupid discussed in this day and age on blogs and forums. The seat is made to recline, so is the one in front and so is the one behind (unless reclining into an exit row.)

  2. TrevorDFW said,

    Maybe you could put buy a case of Knee Defenders, put credit card ads with referral codes on one side, and a picture of CX dim sum on the other, and give them out as blog gifts?

  3. Jessica Stigler said,

    Trevor, WTF?

  4. James K. said,

    I’m with Geoff here. I try to be considerate, particularly on day flights, but asking if it’s a “right,” to me, is absurd. Are you going to also ask if it’s one’s right to eat on a plane, lest the smell bother other people?

  5. Total said,

    nd yet the mere perceived annoyance of inflight use of cell phones is spurring the government to action,

    Calm down, you overprivileged libertarian.

  6. MDTRAVEL said,

    It’s a right…done and done. And the dude that got into it with a woman? Total douchebag.

  7. Charlie said,

    If they don’t want the seat in front of them to recline, then they can get a bulkhead seat, an exit row seat, or they can try and buy tow tickets and reserve the seat in front of them.

  8. Robbo said,

    I say ban reclining seats in scum-sucker class, especially with the USA airlines. It’s bad enough with loud, overweight, selfish people on board without the added ridiculousness of reclining seats on s-s class

  9. Ben Hughes said,

    The whole problem with reclining seats is external costs. When you recline your seat, the entire cost of that recline is born on someone else – not yourself who is making the decision.

    Those bad incentives are always likely to lead to bad outcomes.

    I’d much rather see reclining seats pivot from the bottom instead of the top, such that a recline comes to the trade-off of having less legroom, affecting no one else except yourself. No external costs.

    Sadly that’s not really the case with current seat design. Given the status quo, seat reclines are a right, but I still think we should solve the fundamental cost externality.

  10. dhammer53 said,

    We had this ‘discussion’ on Flyertalk over 10 years ago, or thereabouts. As a matter of fact, USA Today interviewed me for the story.

    Since the airlines allow you to recline, then be my guest and recline. Don’t tell me I’m rude for doing so. Now I may not like it when you recline into me, but that’s my tough luck.
    About 10 days ago, Peter Greenberg wrote about this. You can check his website. After that article, I put him in the Christopher Elliot class < groan.

  11. Candace said,

    We just flew our first flights on Southwest to and from EWR to Las Vegas this past week. I must say NO ONE reclined their sets in our area! It was great!

    I have seen people recline just for the heck of it, as soon as we are airborne and leave the seat that way the entire trip. Reclining is not more conducive for sleep for me either, so I never recline unless the person in front of me has done it!

    People should be more courteous and realize we are all in a tin can flying together. Let’s be civil.

  12. Ben Hughes said,

    Barring bottom-pivoting seats, I’d love to see a market emerge where customers could easily and without stigma pay other passengers for a seat recline. If I’m in Economy and poised to get hundreds of dollars of work done so long as I can use my laptop, I’d gladly pay the person in front of me $20 to *not* recline the whole flight. And he very well may be far better off for accepting that payment. There is no market right now to adjudicate the highly different values various people place on reclining their seat vs. having a seat reclined into them.

  13. iahphx said,

    I think Spirit is on to something with “pre-reclined) (aka non-reclining) seats. The problem is that with pitched reduced on just about every airline, a reclined seat is almost ALWAYS annoying to the pax behind you.

    Also, the reality is that frequent flyers (the folks reading this column) realize this, and are much less inclined to recline. It’s the so-called “kettles” who are clueless about it. So the net result is the kettles luxuriate why the frequent flyers tend to suffer.

  14. kevinbryan said,

    Are you *allowed* to recline? Of course. But should you? The mere existence of this debate is enough for you to know that you are highly likely to bother the person sitting behind you when you recline. The ethical thing to do then, is to take that into account – on a night flight, it’s more or less expected that everyone will recline, but on a 2 hour day flight you are being a jerk.

    It’s funny that someone mentions that it is like eating smelly food on a plane. I agree with the analogy, but disagree with the conclusion: you shouldn’t eat pungent food on a plane *because* it bothers other people. The same goes for opening your window shade on a TATL when everyone is trying to sleep, or playing laptop speakers/video games without speakers, etc. Basically, just have respect for the people who are sharing a confined area with you. It’s not that hard.

  15. paul said,

    It’s all just part of the torture of flying these days. TSA, overcrowded planes,upcharges,rude gate agents and poor ontime service.
    I understand the need for the occasional need to recline and I always comply if they ask but some passengers do it to just make trouble. I’m 6’3″ and 260 and the headrest hits me between the shoulder blades and when a petite passenger in front of me immediately reclines their seat as soon as altitude is reached I just start coughing and if that doesn’t work I make sure I start spraying a little on the top of their head. This usually works.

  16. Simple Traveler said,

    I’m 6’6″… Geoff will die and it will be worth it

  17. Chris said,

    It’s a Pright. :)

  18. VG said,

    The argument that the seat is made to recline, so it is OK is absurd. My car is made to maybe 130 mph, but I don’t assume that gives me the right to go 130 mph in a school zone.

    Most seats are based on designs that originated when seat pitches were far more generous than today.

  19. Gizmosdad said,

    Just because the airline chooses to give you something doesn’t mean it’s a “right.”

    I admit that I will occasionally recline, but only enough to relieve the pressure on my lower back. I’ve had too many close calls when I’m working on my laptop, and the person in front of me reclines and crushes the screen on my laptop – they do so quickly, and I have to move fast to keep from breaking my laptop in half. So I like to pay it forward, and consider the person behind me when I recline.

    Just because the aircraft manufacturer chooses to implement a really crappy feature that has the potential to destroy my personal electronics doesn’t mean it’s a “right.” Reclining a seat invades another person’s personal space. Have some courtesy people, and stop feeling so entitled!

  20. Kevin said,

    I’m 6’7″ and can very easily stop you from reclining by virtue of the fact that my knees press into the seat in front me in standard economy. I almost rather enjoy the attempts of the person in front attempting to recline and banging into my knees, thinking their seat must be broken. They usually manage to recline when I’ve stepped away to use the lav, but when I come back, I wedge my knees back in and reclaim the 2-3 degrees I can. Most of the time, the offending recliner is a regular sized person. I have empathy those in the 6’4″ + camp who sit in front of me! and I let them recline, quite literally laying it forward.

  21. Kevin said,

    * paying it forward, that should have said.

  22. sbtinme said,

    A reader upstream joked about banning food on flights, but boy, I sure like the sound of that! Nothing worse than finding yourself on an E-145 for 3 hours with four rows of folks all clutching takeout bags from subshops and onion ring kiosks. Gag

  23. Kathy W. said,

    “A flight attendant asked him to remove the device and he refused.”

    Wow!

    I wonder if UA will welcome his business in the future. Is it possible that the airline will “86” him?

    And perhaps ditto for the woman who threw the cup of water at him?

  24. Broc said,

    I think airline policy and common sense dictate here. If the seat reclines, then the person has a right to recline, as long as it’s not during a meal service or during takeoff and landing.

    I usually don’t recline even if I can, and would prefer the option to be taken away. I like the idea of the bribes or permission requests, but they don’t trump the right of the person to say no and recline anyway. Unfortunately.

  25. Ed said,

    The words I dread hearing, but used almost to the point of making me nauseous are “Sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight”. It can easily be taken as open invitation for everyone (including the person sitting in front of me) to hit the recline button. I leave my seat up unless I’m suffering some major back pain. I’d rather not be the first domino in the chain.

  26. Jason said,

    Simple, dont book flights of 2+ on narrow body. Or just make a stop on either Dallas, St louis or Denver.

    I have flown United E+ and they seem spacious for economy. The jerk was lucky he was doused with water. If the FA tells you to cut it out, you cut it out!

    Need space for your laptop and work? then ask you boss for business class. If you are denied then you are working for a cheap employer. Time to go somewhere else. And if is personal business, then you are not making enough!

  27. Adam said,

    In my eyes: I have the ability to recline, I paid for a fare that has seats that recline so I will recline. Whether I sleep or not is irrelevant. If someone has less space they could have purchased a seat with more space, aka F. If your weight is an issue…not my problemo.

  28. Leslie said,

    To Paul and Kevin, et al: at times you may have a person seated un front of you with severe back problems. Does the fact that you desire to use an electronic device or that you are tall trump the attempt for comfort that they have every right to seek with a seat recline given to them with their purchase of a seat? What make the likes of you so entitled? Please show some common courtesy to your fellow travelers, as well. Happy travels, all.

  29. Cece said,

    If you are going to get “hundreds of dollars” worth of work done in coach by paying someone to not recline, you would be better served spending the extra bucks for an upgrade where the problem wouldn’t even exist.

  30. jfhscott said,

    First, I am so glad that the TSA did not involve itself in this.

    But, it is, at bottom, a “right” subject to rules of courtesy.

    The airspace in front of me is “mine” subject to deprivation by the pax in front of me by using ordinary design features. After that , it is “theirs”.

    I recall a flight (an early morning DCA-DFW) where the pax behind a friend literally kicked my friend’s reclined seat back into takeoff position. That is called battery.

    I do not care if you are tall. I would like to be so, myself. Find a product more suitable for your needs. Purchase E+; purchase F; or just stay home. Your height, alone, entitles you to no solicitude.

    BUT, during periods identified by the FA’s – e.g., mealtimes on TATL’s and TPAC’s follow the traditional request to go upright. Also, prior to reclining, I’d suggest that one look back to see if reclining will spill a drink/impinge on a laptop, etc.

  31. Arcanum said,

    @Jason – Generally agreed, but you forgot one:

    If you aren’t important enough to fly paid J/F, whatever you’re doing on your laptop probably isn’t that important either.

  32. Chris said,

    On the debate, I say, “Have your debate.”

    On the title, I say either “Do Passengers Have the Right to Recline Their Seats in Coach?” or “Does a Passenger Have a Right to Recline His or Her Seat in Coach?”

  33. Jim A said,

    BS. If you want to PAY for my seat, then you can tell me how to use it. Don’t like it? Don’t fly. Or buck up and PAY for first class, which I do, when the length of the flight matters to me. Can’t afford it? Go Greyhound.

  34. Deltahater said,

    Reclining is poor etiquette.
    Seats should never recline in coach and I am with the guy. That the woman throws water at him (at the risk of damaging his laptop) shows what a total twit she was. This is not about gender, but about manners when confined in a small metal tube at 30,000. She had none.
    Reclining is poor etiquette, so an experienced and courtesous flyer should never do it, in coach.

  35. Deltahater said,

    @Adam:

    Wow, just wow. Selfish, arrogant and individualistic. The world is all about you, isn’t it?

  36. Greg99 said,

    @Arcanum – Please.

    You clearly have no clue what you’re talking about.

    I work for a firm where quite a few of its partners make many millions of dollars a year. People pay us >$1K an hour for our services.

    We still fly in coach, unless it’s international, because the flights are paid for with OPM.

  37. Chris said,

    Reclining a seat is your right. Whether or not you exercise that right is your choice. I try to consider the comfort of the person behind me. I appreciate it when others extend the same courtesy to me.

  38. Sid W. said,

    When someone inconsiderately reclines to the fullest extent, I’m forced to optimize my use of the now sharply limited space by raising and lowering my tray table frequently, adjusting the swivel on any in-seat screen, and making liberal use of the seat-back pocket for bulky and pointy objects. If you’re going to make use of something to inconvenience me, turn-about is fair play.

  39. Joe said,

    Judging by the photos on the site that sells these devices, it does not allow the tray table to be folded back up without removing them. In an emergency and these devices prevented a passenger from being able to exit due to being trapped by a lowered tray table, I would think that in the land of lawsuits (USA), the manufacturer of the “knee defender” and the user would be sued to high heaven!

  40. Greg D said,

    Since the airlines allow you to recline, then be my guest and recline. Don’t tell me I’m rude for doing so.

    You are hideously rude for reclining.

    The space in front of me is mine. It’s the only space I can use to get anything done. The space in front of you is yours. Do with that space what you will.

    The key rule is this: don’t be a jerk, even if the airline enables you to be one. You don’t sit in my lap, and I won’t accidentally bump into your seat every 30 seconds. Deal?

  41. larry said,

    I feel that I paid for the area around me and that when the person in front reclines their seat I loose that area. Nothing worse then trying to read a paper when the seat in front of you is 2 inches from your paper. Almost impossible to get out to go to the lavatory. I say limit the amount a seat can recline.

  42. Steve said,

    Passengers have a right to recline, but the courteous, considerate thing to do is to only recline part-way and to minimize doing so during meal-time.

    That being said, the problem and the solution rests with the airlines. They could limit the seat recline, which probably would suit more passengers than the current situation. (As someone pointed out above, the current recline limits were set when there was considerably more room between seats.) And better yet, they could all do what you point out American does on its newer first class domestic seats Gary, which is to have the seat bottoms slide forward in a way that significantly reduces the recline into the laps of the passengers a row back.

  43. Billy said,

    What does Cathay Dim Sum have to do with this?

  44. Leslie said,

    From all the chatter, I see that this is a very “hot button..”. Accordingly, I believe that simple human courtesy, which seems to be so lacking in the “me generation,” should apply. If you are planning to recline your seat, simply attempt to communicate that to the person seated behind you to give them a “heads up” with regard to drinks, laptops, etc. with regard to bathroom trips, if people are awake, simply ask for a forward lift on the seat while you make the trip. Otherwise, try not to awake the sleeping passenger who probably reclined to try to get some sleep in the first place. Common sense and courtesy should rule. Those who are tall and big, this is a problem, but buying seats that can accommodate that circumstance may help. Don’t abuse others because you are uncomfortable in what the airlines consider “standard” seating. We all have to deal with it and pay the same fare. God bless.

  45. Bethany said,

    When I fly in *cattle class* which is most often, if I want to recline in my seat I will! I used my hard earned money to pay for MY SEAT so if the person behind me doesn’t like it…perhaps he/she should of picked/bought a better seat. Stop the bitching! Some of you frequent flyers have become so spoiled getting things for free you think everyone should cater to you! What a joke!

  46. Rich said,

    “The space in front of me is mine.” No, the space in front of you, up to the most reclined position of the seat in front, is yours. Beyond that, you can use the space when the person who paid for it isn’t using it. Similarly, the space you can recline into is yours.

    Of course it’s polite to recline slowly, or accommodate the person behind you. But that’s courtesy, not your obligation.

    Want to have more space in front of you? Buy a bigger seat.

    If more space in front of you is necessary for you to do your work, pay for it with the proceeds of that work. It’s preposterous, not to mention the height of arrogance and entitlement, to say that you need the space someone else is entitled to recline into, to do work for which you’re paid “>$1K an hour”, and that you won’t pay for more space that you *are* entitled to because you’d have to spend “other people’s money.” You’ll claim space I’m entitled to to earn other people’s money, but you won’t spend other people’s money to ear n it? Get over yourself.

  47. Lee @ BaldThoughts.com said,

    People are so hostile nowadays and violence escalates in a blink of the eye. She was well within her rights to recline her seat. Yes, he did a jerk move by using the knee defender, but that doesn’t give her the excuse to throw water on him (and most likely also on his laptop!). People can be rude, but you have to kill them with kindness, but revert to animal instincts and lash out. Boo on both of them.

  48. john said,

    To say that seats in economy even EC recline is a misnomer. We should “recline” carefully otherwise I see no big deal. The really disturbing trend for me is the passenger in the window seat who refuses to open the window shade on a non movie flight and when the sun is no factor. This seems to be happening more frequently, especially in first class. Without a view it really makes me feel like spam in a can.

  49. JustSaying said,

    Right……but button should be on both sides of the seat so each passenger can adjust back and forth………just please keep the curtain drawn so I don’t have to listen to this………….

  50. SEA-Mar said,

    So where can i get a dozen knee defenders? I can always tell when im behind an idiot or inexperienced flyer – they recline. Id rather have them recline in coach than F. As a platinum on 2 carriers, i often buy last minute tickets meaning if F is not available im often stuck in an undesirable seat. After reading this article, i think i will make a point tomorrow to talk to the person behind me to advise them i am an experienced flyer and will NOT put my seat back into them unless the idiot in front of me takes my space. Maybe if more of us educate the idiots, some of the slamming back their seats will stop.

  51. Elteetrav said,

    I hAte people who recline. They certainly wouldn’t lean over a couple inches into the space of their seat mates. So why should anyone think they have a right to lean back into the extremely limited space allocated to me.

  52. EgorK said,

    I think LH has the best policy – you can recline any time outside of meal service

  53. UAPremierGuy said,

    Definite right. I paid for the ability (or the option) to recline my seat, and should be able to do so without issue. Coincidentally, I am typing this aboard an American Airlines red-eye flight, where I have chosen NOT to recline my seat as I am in an exit row and am working (or currently distracted) on my laptop.

  54. Barry said,

    I’m 6’1′ I’ve never had a problem with the person in front reclining. What do you lose, an inch of seat pitch? Gah.

  55. Jack said,

    I think Spirit has the solution. Take our the recline mechanism. Problem solved. I was on a regional jet where my knees were already up against the back of the seat in front of me when the seat was in the upright position. The guy in front of me kept huffing and throwing himself against the seatback trying to get it to recline. It was a full flight so I offered to change seats with him but he declined. He eventually gave up on trying to make my legs shorter.

  56. Joey said,

    I agree with Ben Hughes in regards to seats that recline (in exchange of your own knee space).

    I think if the seat can recline, you can recline. Whenever someone in front of me reclined his seat, I would recline my seat too. I thought that’s what everyone did? I really hope the guy with the laptop did not have his own seat reclined!

  57. Sam said,

    A better title for this article would have been “Does a passenger have a right to use equipment not allowed by the airline, and what happens if they do”.

  58. Heels First TravelPlane Diverted After Fight Breaks Out Over Reclining Seat - Heels First Travel said,

    […] to the news that debate over reclining airline seats has reached a new high (or low) as it were. View From The Wing and YULtide on Milepoint both posted about the United flight that was diverted yesterday when two […]

  59. Cheese said,

    I think the best setup would be what cathay’s regional product has, whereby reclining moves your seat slightly forward, and does not impede those behind you. Each person is free to do what they wish with their own allocated space instead if taking away from others.

  60. Steve Horwitz said,

    What Leslie said. It’s your right to recline, but not during mealtimes and, if you do want to recline, signal it to the person behind you. I tend to reach my hand to the top of the seat as that both signals I’m going to recline and allows me do so slowly and partially if I wish.

  61. Janice said,

    Why not actually talk to the person behind you? Before reclining, stand up, look behind you, and see what kind of person is there and what they are doing. Then, ask them if they would mind if you reclined. Or at least tell them that you need to recline and apologize in advance, give them a chance to move liquids off their tray table, etc.

    If I feel the need to recline, I always ask the person behind me if they mind, or if they would rather I didn’t. If it’s a small child behind me, I ask the parents, who are usually fine with it, since children need less space. I make sure that my daughter asks the person sitting behind her before doing it, too.

    Since we have to share the space, asking is just common courtesy. And if you ask, you will teach others to ask as well, both on that flight and future flights.

  62. Robert said,

    I know when I buy a plane ticket – it’s to accommodate the guy’s laptop behind me and not for my own comfort.

  63. Joe said,

    I will just pour my coke or beer all over his laptop end of discussion. Or wait until we disembark and hit him in the mouth it matters not .

  64. jamesb2147 said,

    The problem: People should be courteous and mindful of others. People are not courteous or mindful of others.

    Long term, Ben Hughes nailed it. Replace the seats with ones that recline from the bottom. No more passenger confrontations.

    Short term, I’ve been thinking long and hard about how to educate my fellow passengers on the potential medical problems their lack of courtesy might afford. Probably the most socially appropriate is to try speaking with the person in front if they’re reclined or trying to recline into your knees. Next up is speaking with the FA about changing seats or requesting the person in front to cease in their reclining attempts.

    To those who say “boo hoo for you,” consider this: You are an extraordinarily rude person.

    To those who say that tall people should buy better seats: I don’t disagree, except that airlines appear to have made seats for a smaller percentage of the population than they should. My knees hit the seat in front of me and I’m 6’2″. Now take a look at male height distribution: http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=male+height+distribution

    My 6’2″ height is within ONE standard deviation of the mean. That means I’m in the middle 66% of heights for men, yet I STILL hit my knees on the seat in front of me. That means there are a lot of people that airlines didn’t consider in designing their seats and placement.

  65. guest said,

    Some comments here make no sense…”I hate recliners they are *insert derogatory name* because they recline into my space.” Then they go on to say “I recline if the person in front of me reclines.” So it appears the trade off for you is, if someone makes you uncomfortable, at that point you are willing to do the same to another. I rarely recline, and if I do so it’s a slow move back and not very far, just enough so that it doesn’t feel like my body is more forward than straight up, but how big are some of you people that someone reclined in front of you makes you go into fits of rage? Coughing saliva on people? Really? Recliner bad, spitting on people ok? Someone stated he has learned to be quick so that his laptop screen doesn’t get broken. Why would you put your laptop in a place that the screen could get smashed? Then you’d blame it on someone reclining not your stupidity for placing your valuable in a place, known to you, that it has a high likelihood of being damaged? It’s called a LAPtop. Use it on your lap. Might not be as comfortable your tray table, but it won’t get smashed. Seems like a starting place to me. All you mission critical flyers with spreadsheets, charts, graphs and whatnot’s blame everyone else for your lack of comfort and ability to use your seat as your flying office. Airlines don’t say, hey, come fly our office in the sky, but they do say, recline and relax. So what gives you the right or option to punish others for your personal decision to use your seat as your office? I don’t use my laptop on planes, does that make me better than you? Should I ‘hate’ all laptop users? Should I spit at you until you get the point that your screen is glowing to brightly for me? Oh wait, you fly a lot for work so nothing you do is ever annoying to another passenger. I think you all need to realize that when you purchase a ticket, you are committing to spend a couple hours + of your life with a couple hundred people that aren’t going to get the memo on your likes and dislikes before the flight. As someone above said, if you were really that important to the company, they’d flight you business/first. I think complaints about right/wrong in economy is just a way for you all to try and feel superior in a class of service you feel makes you not superior. If you want your own dedicated space, pay for it, it’s available.

  66. Lorraine said,

    To Paul who complains about the petite passengers who recline. A little FYI for you: petite passengers hit the pillowtop on the seat at exactly the wrong spot. It pushes our heads forward and is extremely uncomfortable. I recline one click for this reason alone. If the seat back was straight we wouldn’t have to recline. One click is the difference between misery and comfort.

  67. Kathy W. said,

    FYI, United banned the use of the Knee Defender on all its aircraft more than TEN YEARS AGO (around Feb. 2004).
    (And as mentioned in the article above, all major US airlines have banned it.)

    Anyone who tries to use one onboard and is requested to remove it by a flight crew member (as was the case here) should follow crew instructions. The fact that Mr. So-and-So actually refused to do so speaks volumes. :(

  68. peachfront said,

    @Lorraine Big people who complain about petite passengers don’t even consider us human beings. Otherwise we would have not to explain — repeatedly! — that we are real live actual human beings with the actual ability to feel physical and emotional pain. I’ve been told straight up to my face that only large men get bad knees. In what universe? Bullies always preferentially pick on smaller people. I’m a petite woman myself, and at times I am literally pushed around by these guys. I try to stay in first/business, but you still get pushed and shoved sometimes at the gate etc. It definitely gives you a dark view of human nature.

    From the sound of it, this bully got on this flight planning to start a fight all along. And when the FA told him to put away the knee defender, he defied her. So this is a problem individual from the get-go.

    Too bad the woman put herself in the wrong by over-reacting. But you don’t know how many times she’s had to take the same **** from some thinks-he’s-God jerk. Maybe she finally just got pushed to the limit.

  69. John Levine said,

    I am six foot four. If I am sitting behind you in coach, and you put your seat back, you will break my kneecaps, and I’m not being metaphorical here.

    Knee defenders are obnoxious, but people who insist on slamming their seats back are far worse.

  70. Cory said,

    I think we overuse, and misuse, what is and is not a “right”. To me, a right is a sacred thing. Right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc. Those are rights. You cannot take them away. Spirit would have to allow reclining seats if the ability to recline was truly a right.

    Now, I don’t usually care if you do. I once had a giant of a man in every way who reclined on me, but due to his height and mass I felt like his head was under my nose. That is the only time I’ve been uncomfortable with the person in front of me reclining.

    I tend to think that reclining is completely rude and selfish. I have more sympathy to the passenger getting reclined on than I do the passenger doing the reclining. The recline is such an insignificant thing for the one doing the reclining, but a big deal to the person behind. This may just be my own personal experiences and biases, but my reclining has added exactly 0.000% to my comfort level. Sometimes, it actually is less comfortable to me.

    So, really, what the hell are we fighting over?

  71. ftheb said,

    That guy who used a banned item, and acted like a selfish ass and total disregard for rules, flight attendants and other fellow passengers, should be banned from flying.

    If not, what will he do next? Lock the trays of the other tables cos he cannot stand the smell of food? Lock the toilet doors cos he cannot stand people visiting the toilet next to his seat?

    I cannot see how his actions are defend-able.

  72. Angelina said,

    I’m a recliner and I don’t feel guilty about it. If the seat has a recline feature, I’ll be using it. Actually a few interesting arguments ended up in the comments of a post I wrote a couple years back… Do Passengers Have a Right to Recline? http://justanotherpointstraveler.boardingarea.com/2012/04/18/do-passengers-have-the-right-to-recline/

  73. Alan said,

    My wife is 6’2″ tall but the majority of her is leg (36″ inseam). Even pressed into the back of her own seat her knees press into the seat in front of her. When that seat reclines into her she’s stuck. The best course of action is to ask for the seat to be upright, and usually people are accommodating. Knees pressed into that reclined seat, or constant bumping in an attempt to annoy the person to put it upright never works.

    Why can’t the airline proactively offer a taller person an E+ seat? I doubt my wife would take it when we fly as a family but the option would be nice. And yes, we’ve paid for E+ seats in the past but it’s an unfortunate added expense when there’s really no other option. But the devil’s advocates who typically post to these things will castigate me for thinking this way, which is too bad.

    If we all looked out for each other we’d all be better off. If the person who wants to recline looked first and saw the person behind on a laptop there could be more understanding and choose to not recline. If the person behind noticed a lot of squirming and discomfort he/she could tell the person in front that it’s ok to recline. Communication will avoid ugly confrontation.

  74. George said,

    So I think the majority on this thread agree that you should be able to recline your seat. I’d probably agree, because it is a normal function of the seat. The seat should be put back up when people are eating and/or when you go to the bathroom. If the person in front of me does not remember to put their seat up when they go to the bathroom, I sometimes reach through and helpfully put it up for them- maybe they forgot.

    I don’t understand the idea of asking the person behind you- if asked, I would always say no, I’d prefer that you did not recline.

    What about knees in the back- acceptable? The reality is, if you recline and I sit normally, my knees will be pressed into your seat, and I will shift occasionally, poking you in your back. I think it’s fair, and the normal cost of reclining, though the woman in front on my last flight gave me a dirty look.

  75. Don said,

    It’s a stupid question.

    A better question would be: does a passenger have the right to punch out the a-hole sitting behind them who is attempting to disable their seat’s functionality?

    I say yes, oh yes, and hell yes. Throwing a cup of water is for pussies. Any idiot behind me attempting such crap is gonna get the snot beaten out of him. Go ahead and throw me off the plane afterwards, I don’t care, somebody has to strike a blow for justice. I’ll take one for the team.

  76. Greg D said,

    Yay for Janice.

    As for Bethany: When I fly in *cattle class* which is to damn often, if I want to get some work done, or read a book, or otherwise use my laptop in my seat I will! I used my hard earned money to pay for MY SEAT so if the person in front of me doesn’t like it…perhaps he/she should of picked/bought a better seat. Stop the bitching! Some of you frequent flyers have become so spoiled getting things for free you think everyone should cater to you! What a joke!

    Anyone who wants to do violence to me, and those like me, is welcome to try. You will probably find you won’t enjoy the experience.

    I love leaning back in my chair at work, or at home. When there’s no one behind me whose space I’m invading.

    But invade someone else’s space, and you’re a jerk. The fact that the airline has enabled you to be a jerk doesn’t make you the least little bit less of a jerk.

  77. Kevin said,

    Leslie, if someone trying to recline into my lap had a back problem or some kind medical reason for needing to do so, I would certainly appreciate having that explained to me so we could work out a compromise rather than incessantly banging into my knees and creating a medical condition for both of us.

    If explained to me, I could offer to switch seats so they can be behind me and recline into the lap of someone else. And of course, that would give me free reign to recline guilt-free.

    Though it should be said that unless I’m in F/J, I have a strict no recline policy, a “don’t do unto others” kind of thing.

  78. J.J. said,

    Jason made a good point about Economy Plus. Reclining is less of an issue with a 34-35″ pitch. I can’t imagine a five hour transcon or a 10+ international flight with my seat in the upright position because someone behind me took it upon himself to decide whether or not I should recline. This works both ways. If you want to recline, great. If you don’t want someone to recline into your space, great. You have the option of upgrading your seat. They even make an announcement before departure, if you want to upgrade to economy plus please see an agent or a flight attendant.

  79. Dan More said,

    The space we rent when we fly is the area of our seat, which runs between the two arm rests (or arm rest and window-wall, if a window seat) and from your seat back to the un-reclined back of the seat in front, plus the floor area, under the seat in front. We are renting that space, in which the seat in front of you reclines. It was not an issue for seats to recline into our rented space years ago, before airlines became cattle cars, since there was sufficient space for the recline and your legs.

    Unfortunately new non-recline seats were not considered as current seats were moved closer together eliminating the previous amount of leg and recline space.

    I do not think seats should recline on today’s crowded flights, until they are replaced by non-recline seats. Since seats are still capable of reclining, I do not think people should recline, at least without asking if its OK for the person behind to give up some of their rented space.

    It is similarly not OK for the person in front to place their bag or some of their possessions under their seat since this is the rented space of the person behind. That space is for your feet, unless you chose to put a bad in that rented space.

  80. Dan More said,

    The space we rent when we fly is the area of our seat, which runs between the two arm rests (or arm rest and wall) and from your seat back to the un-reclined back of the seat in front, plus the floor area, under the seat in front. We are renting that space, in which the seat in front of you reclines. It was not an issue for seats to recline into our rented space years ago, before airlines became cattle cars, since there was sufficient space for the recline and your legs.

    Unfortunately new non-recline seats were not considered as current seats were moved closer together eliminating the previous amount of leg and recline space.

    I do not think seats should recline on today’s crowded flights, until they are replaced by non-recline seats. Since seats are still capable of reclining, I do not think people should recline, at least without asking if its OK for the person behind to give up some of their rented space.

    It is similarly not OK for the person in front to place their bag or some of their possessions under their seat since this is the rented space of the person behind. That space is for your feet, unless you chose to put a bag in that rented space.

  81. philatravelgirl said,

    My knees press into the seat all the time and I get funny looks here and there. I tend to sit on the aisle and hope that I can put the arm rest up for the flight so that I play chicken with the beverage carts instead as I sit sideways to move my legs into the aisle. or practice some good yoga moves. Do people have a right? I’m sure legally the only right I have paid for is to be flown from point A to B (but even then that’s an in question). I have the right to upgrade for more room at a price. I’d like to think I have a “right” to a clean plane, friendly crew, snack too but I’m dreaming.

    Common courtesy goes a long way – I don’t recline my seat and if you ask I generally say ok (good travel karma) but do know that I’m stuck with my knees in your back (unless I can turn to the aisle) and if others need to get out of the row, I need to pull the back of your seat to wedge out.

  82. Jottingsbyjim said,

    I’m 6’2″ – tall but short by NBA standards – and the reclined seats jam my knees. See http://jottingsbyjim.com/2011/12/18/rude-recliners/

  83. Rich said,

    “The space we rent when we fly is the area of our seat, which runs between the two arm rests (or arm rest and wall) and from your seat back to the un-reclined back of the seat in front, plus the floor area, under the seat in front.” I think that’s simply not correct. The space you rent is the space from the maximum recline of your seat to the maximum recline of the seat in front of you. That’s why the control over your seat back is accessible to you on *your* armrest, and not accessible to the person behind you.

    I don’t know about you, but most of the planes I fly on have new slimline seats installed in the last couple of years, well after seat pitch was reduced. They were installed with recline buttons for a reason.

    We accept that if you want to take up some of the seat beside you, you have to buy it. If you want to dictate the position of the seat in front of you, why shouldn’t you have to buy it too?

  84. jfhscott said,

    @Dan More

    You say:

    “The space we rent when we fly is the area of our seat, which runs between the two arm rests (or arm rest and window-wall, if a window seat) and from your seat back to the un-reclined back of the seat in front, plus the floor area, under the seat in front. We are renting that space, in which the seat in front of you reclines.”

    Oh, is that in the contract of carriage or do you rely upon some heretofore undiscovered provision in the Warsaw Convention? I have an idea for you, Mr. Legal Scholar, next time someone reclines on you, sue them for trepass, idiot.

  85. Andy Shuman said,

    @Ben Hughes

    Hundreds of dollars of work done? Why are you flying in economy? And why do you need a market to “emerge”? Just slip the dude a $20. :)

  86. gabriel said,

    sure, you can recline if you think that is your “privilege”. but don’t be offended when the person in front of you does the same and you feel that they are intruding on “your” space…

  87. Dan More said,

    Rich

    “The space you rent is the space from the maximum recline of your seat to the maximum recline of the seat in front of you.”

    This is not correct Rich. The space is dictated by logic. The first bulkhead seat has no recline seat in front of it. The last seat in front of the bathroom cannot itself recline. If rented space is the “recline” area, the bulkhead seat has a larger rented area than was purchased and the last seat gets less space than was purchased.

    Thanks

  88. Dan More said,

    jfhscott said

    “Oh, is that in the contract of carriage or do you rely upon some heretofore undiscovered provision in the Warsaw Convention? I have an idea for you, Mr. Legal Scholar, next time someone reclines on you, sue them for trepass, idiot.”

    As explained to Rich:

    The space is dictated by logic. The first bulkhead seat has no recline seat in front of it. The last seat in front of the bathroom cannot itself recline. If rented space is the “recline” area, the bulkhead seat has a larger rented area than was purchased and the last seat gets less space than was purchased.

    Thanks

  89. Rich said,

    Dan More:

    Your “logic” explains equally well why the space under your own seat is for your storage. The first bulkhead seat has no storage space under a seat in front of it. If rented space is the space under the seat in front of you, the bulkhead seat has a smaller rented area than was purchased. The only problem is, everyone acknowledges that this is not the case.

    Yes, some seats are better than others. That’s true at the movie theater and at concert venues, too. Some seats are closer to the screen. Some have better acoustics. I pick a seat in the front row of the balcony knowing that my foot room will be limited so that I can have an unobstructed view. In many places in life, equally priced things get different benefits.

    Your position is this: If you’re sitting in front of me, the recline space of your seat belongs to me. You have control over it and I don’t, even on the most recently delivered planes. The airline tells you when you must not use it (taxi, takeoff, approach, and landing, and in the case of some airlines, meal times). It does not tell you not to use it at other times (and may ambiguously encourage you to use it by saying “sit back and relax”). There’s a device that allows me to assert control over this piece of my space, but most airlines forbid me to use it. Yet the space is mine. That’s logic.

  90. Dan More said,

    Rich

    Thanks for your additional comments. There are some exceptions to all rules. The bulkhead seats have the room for bags, alto the airlines do not allow bags to be placed there for safety reasons. The stewardesses go out of their way to find space for those bulkhead bags, even putting them in the first class storage if there is room there. There is no seat in front of bulkhead seats because there is a bulkhead where the seats would be placed. This is the exception. The number “1” has no number in front of it. This is the exception. Things have to start somewhere and the bulkhead seat is the start of seating on economy class on a plane. The space that the bulkhead seat person has rented is that space between their un-reclined seat back and the space up to the bulkhead wall.

    It is not the pricing that determines logic on flights. Prices change minute by minute. One coach seat can be priced hundreds of dollars higher than the seat next to it. It sometimes depends on the time of purchase.

    The logic is that most seats, for whatever price paid, has only so much assigned room and that is the space between your seat back and the un-reclined seat in front of your seat.

    If someone uses the recline, they are reclining into the person’s rented space behind. I am not stating that this should be prohibited if seats have a recline feature. I just believe that it should not be done.

    Thank you

  91. Lindy said,

    Ouch, Rich, don’t let Spirit Airlines hear you… Actually I’m shocked they haven’t ALREADY found a way to charge you for reclining mid-flight.

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