Everyone hates reclining seats and recliners on flights. It’s a fact. But how those of us who just want a little room to move without being crushed in our seats deal with them?
If anyone ever needs proof of how quickly civilisation will collapse in the event of a world ending natural disaster they only have to look at how passengers on long haul flights treat each other, or indeed how they react when treated badly by airlines themselves, and nothing is more likely to induce a vein popping ouburst of epic proportions on a plane than seat recliners. Earlier this week two flights in the US had to be diverted after rows broke out over reclining seats – one of them the United Airlines flight from Newark involving the controversial knee defender – and these incidents are far from uncommon.
Surveys by Skyscanner and others have shown the majority of passengers want rid of reclining seats, and to prove the point even further Monarch airways have recently refitted their aeroplanes with non reclining, static seats after a poll of their passengers showed an overwhelming majority wanted them. Yet on most airlines, recliners are still allowed to cause mass discomfort, pain, friction and arguments with no support or ruling from the airlines themselves to ease the situation or force some common manners and decency into the equation. (I mean really, is it hard to have a reclining section at the back and a non reclining at the front?) No, they prefer to just let us all argue it out amongst ourselves. Well I’ve had enough.
Recliners are selfish, inconsiderate, and apparently allowed to do whatever the hell they like!
So what do we do on our next flight to stop them from crushing us into our seats?
Let’s face it, the polite cooperation and the ‘we’re all in this together approach’ doesn’t work.
Pleading to their sense of humanity or consideration goes nowhere, as naturally these selfish, self centred egotists have neither. Being polite and asking for a little compromise is futile as it is often met with a snarling ‘it’s my god given right to recline, I’ve paid for this seat!’
Well I’ve paid for mine too, damn it!
But no one will listen. The flight crew are no help, at best you may get a sympathetic look and a helpless shrug of the shoulders as they scurry off somewhere trying to ignore any problem as much as possible. It isn’t their fault, they are in an impossible situation and are powerless to sort out a problem that the airlines are causing and are refusing to deal with.
You can’t get aggressive, obviously. Despite the fact that what they have essentially done is assault you by either crushing your knees, causing a hot drink to spill over you or even whacking your head with the back of the seat when you lean forward, you can’t do anything to retaliate. The fact that they have just cracked the screen on your laptop by forcing their seat backwards without any consideration would be criminal damage if you were on the ground means nothing in the air despite technically being criminal damage. Yet what can you do? You can’t smash a wooden chair over their kneecaps to see how they like it can you? You can’t take their belongings and smash them to pieces?
Oh no, apparently when they do it, it’s fine. When you retaliate, it’s assault! Apparently. Stupid laws.
If you respond in kind then you will be the one at fault, and even if you politely disagree with anyone there is a strong possibility of being hauled off the flight by 16 large police officers, an armed escort and an overzealous air marshal who thinks he’s a cross between Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson at the next city the airplane can be diverted to. So what do you do?
You get passive aggressive!
The air nozzle approach.
This doesn’t work on every aircraft obviously, but many do allow you to turn on the air nozzle and point it in different directions. So the next time some idiot reclines right into you, make sure they have a nozzle of cold air blowing on their head or down their neck for the entire flight. If they ask you to turn it off, politely remind them that they invaded your space and they are free to move back out of it at anytime. Or use their phrase, ‘I paid for the nozzle and I have a right to use it.’
The sick passenger approach.
If someone reclines right back so that you can see the top of their heads instead of the in flight movie you were just in the middle of watching, then make a point of coughing loudly all over them, sneezing if you can or make retching noises like you are about to be sick. Loudly state in apology that you get airsick very easily and might not have time to reach the bag. They’ll soon move.
The spine beater approach.
Now to be fair you will not have much of a choice in doing this, as odds are if you are tall you knees will be painfully pressed into the back of their seat and halfway to their back anyway. They must feel it in their back when you move, so make a point of it. Knee the back of their seat repeatedly, tap your legs as if you are listening to the longest James Brown track in recorded history, jam your knees into their back as hard and as often as possible. If anything is said, all you are doing is moving and trying to get comfortable, right? It isn’t your fault their seat is in your lap and they are fee to remove it.
The tray table fiddler approach.
Okay, so you can’t use the damn thing properly anymore because the selfish idiot in front of you has made it impossible, but what you can do is keep letting it drop slightly then pushing it back into it’s closed position. Repeatedly. Hard. Just keep pushing it up and down more times than the pants of someone with Delhi Belly, you can be damn sure their backs can feel every single shove. Hey, you paid for it, it’s your RIGHT to use it, right?
The frustrated drummer approach.
Well you can’t watch the in flight movie anymore because the low angle makes everything look like a damn negative, so you have to entertain yourself somehow right? Start drumming your hands on the top of their headrest! Don’t worry if you aren’t musically inclined, the more out of tune it is the better! As long as it is the headrest you are drumming and not their head, it isn’t assault!
The weak bladder approach.
No, this isn’t what you are thinking. When someone reclines into your lap develop a sudden need to get up and go to the toilet as much and as often as possible. Make sure when you do you pull, push and shake their seat as much as humanly possible to assist your contortionist like attempts to get out of such a cramped space. Extra points for the infamous headrest catapult technique! (There is a special place in hell reserved – right next to the recliners – for those people who do this when the seat in front is fully upright!)
The slightly modified weak bladder approach.
If you are in the middle seat or by the window, it obviously isn’t fair to your fellow passengers sat next to you if you want to get up and come back every few minutes, so just do the exact same thing but stay in your seat and say you are just trying to get comfortable.
The devil child approach.
This will obviously only work for those who happen to have the double whammy of having a recliner in font and a child at the side of you, and you will obviously have to have the okay of the parent, unless you want to end up pinned down by half a dozen police officers and whacked straight on a certain list when you land. But if you can, swap seats with a child and make sure you have a stash of sweets with you in your carry on. Fill the little brat up with sugar and bribe them with more sweets for every five minutes they spend gleefully kicking the hell out of the back of the recliners chair! (Again, get permission from the parent, maybe bribe them with sweets too!)
The new best friend approach.
Well, if they must invade your space and press the top of their heads right up against your face they must want to be friends right? Best friends! So why not lean over and have a little chat? About anything. It doesn’t matter. Talk about your endless fascination with rocks, or maybe about who is doing who on that vacuous reality TV crap that gets shoved down everyones throats, just make sure that you stare at them throughout with a slightly manic grin. A few nervous high pitched giggles and a rant about how they took your rope, gaffer tape and huge stash of hard core magazines off you at customs wouldn’t go amiss either. My bet is they will want to sit up as far away from you as possible pretty quickly!
So is this approach immature? Probably. Is it wrong? Maybe. Is it needed? Absolutely!
Recliners are showing absolutely no consideration for you, and if they don’t care about courtesy, manners or your health and comfort, why should you give a damn about being polite or reasonable with them?
Let’s face it people, there is no such thing as compromise in the face of such overwhelming selfishness as seat reclining. We’ve tried compromise. We’ve tried putting up with the status quo for years! Yet all we have got for those efforts are flights that are more stressful and uncomfortable than ever, all we have got for trying to compromise is the threat of constant discomfort and pain for the entire flight and the ever present chance of air rage breaking out over knee defenders! The airlines who are forcing this issue are on the whole refusing to do anything about it, the selfish idiots who put their own minimal comfort above anyone else have refused to be reasonable, the recliners have no respect or awareness for you or your comfort or wellbeing, so why should you feel any guilt or transitory shame for doing to them what they do to you? They don’t care about your feelings or comfort, why care about theirs?
So on your next flight, the next time some insensitive sod decides it is okay to sacrifice your comfort and wellbeing for a marginal increase in their comfort, get passive aggressive!
Obviously this article is (mostly) meant in jest, with tongue firmly in cheek and I am in no way actually suggesting you do any of these things (for the most part anyway)!
Did you enjoy this article? Do you think these actions are reasonable or do you think they are over the top? Are you a dreaded recliner? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.