If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ve probably heard about the three incidents that have occurred over a person’s right to recline on an aircraft. It’s a controversial issue, with a lot of people weighing in on either side of it. Personally, I am against reclining and don’t do it, even when I’m on a long haul flight. I have short legs, so leg room is rarely an issue for me. For other people, flying in coach can be an especially nightmarish experience because they are too tall or too fat to fit in the seats.
I had heard about the Knee Defender some time ago. It’s a gadget that costs about $22 and, when clipped to a person’s tray table, prevents the person in front of them from reclining. United passenger James Beach received it as a gift from his wife at Christmas and has been using the device to prevent people in front of him from reclining. He reportedly never had issues with the people in front of him reclining until August 24, when he was trying to work on his laptop and the woman sitting in front of him tried to recline and couldn’t. Beach and his fellow passenger ended up getting in a fight on the aircraft and both were disembarked in Chicago.
I can understand why people think using the Knee Defender is wrong; after all, if they paid for a seat that reclines, they should be able to recline, right? On the other hand, isn’t it also wrong not to have consideration for the person sitting behind you? Mr. Beach was using his tray table and doing work with his $2000 laptop computer when the woman in front of him “slammed” her seat back. Then she threw soda on him, which could have also ruined his computer and affected his livelihood.
It seems to me that more civility is needed from all angles. Airlines need to give people more room and pay more attention to keeping their passengers comfortable, even if it means higher fares. My guess is that the people who really need to fly will pay the higher fares and a lot of them will be grateful for the extra space.
Passengers need to be more tolerant and considerate. We should be less hesitant to speak up when someone makes us uncomfortable and, at the same time, we should pay more attention to the person beside us and their comfort. Yes, you have the right to recline, but that doesn’t mean you should always do so, especially if you’re on a short flight.
What’s really funny about this situation is that since this incident, sales of the Knee Defender have skyrocketed, despite the fact that several US airlines prohibit their use. This is a sign that there are a lot of people out there who hate reclining seats and airlines may have to contend with more incidents involving Knee Defenders. But really, I think what the airlines ought to do is take out a row of seats and give people a little more room. That way the seat recliners can recline and tall people don’t have to worry about their knees needing to be defended.