We've all been there. You're packed like a sardine on your flight in economy. The plane reaches a "safe" altitude for you to turn on your electronics, so you reach down to your bag to get your laptop out and *BAM!* The person in front of you violently reclines their seat smashing your face in.
Yeah, personal space is at a premium on flights these days. If you want more space, you're gonna have to shell out more cash. Virgin Atlantic, for example, will give you extra leg room...if you give them extra money. $60 one way! What is that? $12 an inch? Probably more.
To make matters worse, in recent years airlines have ramped up their effort to squeeze as many seats as humanly possible on a plane to make an extra buck or two. This, in turn, decreased the space between your knees and the back of the seat in front of you by 2-3 inches. Oh, and guess what? Those same airlines still have seats that recline just as much as they did before the extra seats were added.
It's easy to see why people are either for it or against it. There's no middle ground. On the one hand, you have the people that say that because they bought the seat they have the "right" to recline. They're of the belief that those who complain are a bunch of whiny cry-babies. On the other hand, there are those that think reclining might as well be one of the seven deadly sins.
Use some common sense
There's no need to start a war at 35,000 feet over a reclined seat. If you're for reclining (who likes sitting at a 90 degree angle for 3 hours, anyways?) use some common sense. Here are some ideas:
What about red eye flights?
This kind of flight is a different kind of animal. If you're on a red eye, I think it should be expected that nearly everyone will recline their seat to get some shuteye.
What if you're the victim of a recliner?
Again, use common sense. Be polite and ask the person if they can lean forward a little. If that doesn't work (because let's face it, people can be jerks), you can try to nudge the seat up a little if the person in front of you gets up at all. He/she might not even realize it when they sit back down. Under no circumstances should you kick (or knee) the back of the seat. If you're a seat kicker, congrats! You are the most annoying type of passenger there is.
The bottom line
Airlines are trying to get the most out of each flight. That means space is at a premium. If I were you I'd be prepared to be uncomfortable...unless you're flying in first class.
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