A Few Words About Reclining Airline Seats

Face it, people: You've made it clear you want a low price more than you want comfort, so this airline has provided it.


Catch Me If You Can / Youtube

Good morning. This is your captain. We'll be cruising today at an altitude of 30,000 feet, and we expect to arrive at our destination on time. Then we'll spend 45 minutes on the tarmac waiting for a gate to open up, because apparently, the airport folks had no idea we were coming.

Our flight crew will be coming through the cabin shortly to offer you a choice of lukewarm beverages along with a tiny chemical-infused snack that wouldn't sustain a gerbil through a cold night. You're welcome to take a nap, if you can sleep through me coming on the intercom to inform you of things you couldn't care less about.

And if there's anything we can do to make your flight more pleasant, please let us know so we can figure out if there's a way to charge you for it.

But I want to make a special announcement today. My last flight got diverted because a couple of knuckleheads started screaming and throwing things at each other. Turns out one of them wanted to recline a seat and the other took offense. I really hate detours. So let me tell you how it's going to be.

You all bought a ticket for a seat that reclines, which means if you want to recline, you're entitled to do it. I'm not saying you should. Just because you're free to spend the entire flight sobbing to your seatmates about your breakup or berating them with your opinion of Barack Obama doesn't mean it's a considerate thing to do. Just because you are allowed to scratch and belch en route doesn't mean your mother would approve.

But if we wanted to prevent our passengers from reclining, we would install seats that don't recline. So if the person in front of you leans back, you have several options. You can politely ask if he or she would mind not reclining, or at least not reclining quite so far. You can buy him or her a drink as an incentive.

You can pull out a twenty-dollar bill and pay an old-fashioned cash bribe. Heck, I don't care if you offer sexual favors, as long as they don't happen on board. If nothing else works, you can weep and beg.

What you can't do is use a "Knee Defender" to block the seat from reclining. You can't push against the seat until the other person returns the seat to its upright position. You can't scream and swear and throw things. If you do, we'll land at the nearest airport and let the cops put you in a seat you'll find even less comfy.

If our policy offends you, let me make some suggestions. Next time, buy a seat that has extra legroom. Or upgrade to first class. Or patronize one of the airlines whose seats don't budge.

Or just forget flying. I hear Amtrak cars have more room than airline cabins. You could get in your car and drive. You could stay home.

But if being stuck with a reclining seat in your face bothers you so much, let me bring out the world's smallest violin to play a microscopic sad song. Your ancestors probably came across the ocean in steerage, crammed into dim spaces with smelly strangers for weeks at a time, fighting off rats and scurvy.

Or they may have come in slave ships against their will, where they had a truly excellent chance of dying. They may have crossed the continent in a bone-jarring covered wagon eating buffalo jerky three meals a day.

And you? You have to endure modestly cramped quarters for a few hours to be transported vast distances they would have needed weeks or months to cover. Boo friggin' hoo.

Face it, people: You've made it clear you want a low price more than you want comfort, so this airline has provided it, often losing money in the process. That's why we have to charge for bags and meals that used to cost you nothing. Factor in inflation, and you pay a whole lot less than passengers did back in 1979.

If you were willing to pony up for more space, my employer would be happy to install a La-Z-Boy for every traveler. But you're cheap. You squeeze every nickel until Thomas Jefferson screams. And then you wonder why we pack you in so tight.

So be grateful for the bargain fare. And notice: It's not spelled F-A-I-R.