Right to recline? American Airlines seat reclining debacle divides internet

A hairy situation involving a reclined airplane seat has taken off online, sparking the debate: do we really have the right to recline?

Video footage shared to Twitter on Feb. 8 shows a man seated behind a woman on an American Airlines flight, in the very back row. He’s seen continuously bumping the back of her chair with his hand after she reclines it.

(Since he’s seated in the very back row of the plane, he doesn’t have the luxury of reclining his own chair.)

“Here’s a great jackhole! He was angry that I reclined my seat and punched it about nine times, hard, at which point I began videoing him and he resigned to his behaviour,” the woman tweeted.


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“The other jackhole is the @AmericanAir flight attendant who reprimanded me and offered him rum.”

Flying on airplanes is generally uncomfortable for all passengers involved, but Twitter is seriously divided over who was in the wrong in this particular situation.

The airline responded to the woman’s complaint on Twitter, asking her to privately message them. In response, she wrote back: “You clearly want me to do this quietly through a DM. I’m done being quiet!

“I’ve had extensive neck surgeries — my cervical spine is completely fused … I’ve lost time at work, had to visit a doctor, got x-rays, and have horrible headaches for a week.”

In a statement from American Airlines to NBC News, they said that they’re “looking into the issue.”

“Why were you so inconsiderate?” one Twitter user asked. “Reclining airline seats is such a dud move. I admire his resilience.”

Another wrote: “How about you think about other passengers instead of yourself?” One pointed out: “It was a plane, not your private lounge. You don’t recline so far you’re on someone else’s face.”

Not everyone was in agreement, though. Some thought the woman in question had every right to recline her seat, and it was the man’s fault for not choosing a seat he could also recline.


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“If you don’t like reclining seats then sit somewhere else or go on another plane,” one person tweeted in response. “If I’m paying for a seat that reclines I’m damn well going to use it that way.

“Using a standard function for the purpose it was meant for isn’t an excuse for this man to bully you into submission,” one commented. “Shame on AA. Would he have done this to another man?”

Some individuals took the two passengers out of the equation, instead putting blame on airlines for continuously reducing seat size.

One social media user asked: “How about @American Air should stop reducing the space between seats?”

“It’s the airline’s fault for putting in too many seats,” another pointed out. “Especially American Airlines!”

While the internet couldn’t come to a conclusion on who was to blame, the fact of the matter is that airline seats have been getting smaller for a long time.

They started to shrink in the 1980s, and economy seats are now often around 17 inches wide. The amount of legroom on aircraft has also decreased.

Gabor Lukacs, founder and co-ordinator of Air Passenger Rights, says shrinking seat sizes are a safety concern but airlines want to make money.

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“The more passengers or seat rows an airline can fit in the same aircraft, the more profit it can make,” Lukacs told Global News in a previous interview.

Before airline deregulation, USA Today reports, economy class seats had 36 inches of pitch. Now, some have as little as 28 inches.

Some airlines, like Delta and Spirit, don’t even allow passengers to fully recline.

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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