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Jourdan Vian: Is reclining on airplanes OK?

Jourdan Vian: Is reclining on airplanes OK?

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I have discovered this week that no incident brings out the passive aggressiveness in people quite like reclining airplane seats.

A video making the rounds on Twitter depicts a woman reclining her seat on the airplane and a man repeatedly punching her seat. They’re in the last two rows. The woman’s seat reclines, but the man does not.

And so a debate was born.

There are two sides to this debate: Reclining a seat is always bad, but punching the seat is inappropriate and the seats recline, so reclining is fine, and punching the seat is inappropriate.

I mean, obviously one person is Team Punch the Seat, but he appears to be alone there.

The majority of Twitter responses advocate for a, let’s say, subtle approach. Aggressively kneeing the seat seems to be the most popular answer. A few people suggested angling the air vent so it hits the back of their neck in the hopes that the mutual discomfort will provide the opportunity to negotiate.

Others suggested messing with the tray table, pushing the seat obnoxiously when you sit up and some light sexual harassment in the form of offering to let a stranger sit in your lap.

A few people even suggested the radical notion of talking to each other like two reasonable human beings. A simple, “Will you please not recline? It’s really uncomfortable,” and “Oh, I’m sorry,” could go a long way. Though that does assume that another adult in public is reasonable

The La Crosse Tribune newsroom as a whole is solidly ambivalent. My fellow reporter and editor who were working Friday morning both said that they wouldn’t recline, but respect the decision of those would choose otherwise.

The news clerk said she didn’t have enough flying experience to answer.

We did come to the conclusion that reclining seats are better than seats that face each other like on some trains, because it’s super awkward to face a stranger. I can definitely attest to that, as I once got an exit row seat that was set up for the flight attendant to sit across from you and that was really weird, despite the best efforts of said flight attendant. He was great at his job, but I hated it anyway.

Due to the lack of consensus at work, I reached out to my favorite tall person, my brother Alex Vian. My brother is a full foot taller than my 5’6” and likes to see big cities, so he has very strong airline opinions.

“It’s awful,” he said. “There’s no change in the little bit you go backwards, but it absolutely destroys whomever is behind you unless it’s a small child.

“And if you’re as tall as me, the plane sucks, period.”

My mom, who is much shorter, agreed that it just plain sucks.

Alex also recommends the cheap airlines compared to the expensive ones. “The seat design lets me straighten my legs out more,” Alex said.

The real villains here are airline CEOs who decided it was OK to build airplanes that pack people in and refuse to take into account the average height of an adult human being. People are getting taller and seats are getting smaller, which just seems wrong.

But as I can’t do anything about that, I’m going to say this: it’s a dumb move to recline your seat. Everyone on an airplane who is not in whatever they’re calling the front with the big seats these days is uncomfortable and their legs are cramped.

I’ve got short legs. I fit quite well into just about any seat you’ve got made for adults. But having someone recline in front of me on the plane makes it so I can’t even manage to hold a book comfortably in my lap. It’s the worst and it makes me hate you. The small benefit you get from reclining is not worth the large detriment to the person behind you.


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