Airline seats: Reclining dispute gets physical
Here we go again, said Christopher Elliott in USAToday.com. The raging debate about whether it’s “a jerk move” to recline your economy airline seat has escalated to a new level of hostility. Last week, an American Airlines passenger posted a 45-second video of the man seated in back of her as he repeatedly punched her reclined chair. The recliner, Wendi Williams, says she complained to a flight attendant about the man’s behavior. But the attendant sided with the puncher and told her to delete the video. When Williams refused, she was threatened with federal prosecution. In response, Williams threatened to slap the airline with a slander suit, as well as sue for medical expenses for a neck issue that she says the punching aggravated. She also wants the unidentified man charged with assault and the flight attendant fired. “I will recline!” she defiantly tweeted.
Good for her, said Paula Froelich in NYPost.com. The option to recline is obviously implied by the presence of a button. While I understand that the puncher was seated in the last row of economy and couldn’t recline himself, “we’ve all been there.” He should have just checked in early to get a better seat or perhaps paid “a little more for extra leg room.” Look—if passengers buy a seat that’s capable of reclining, “they have a right to recline it,” said Geoffrey James in Inc.com. Even if that weren’t so, nothing would justify this moron having a tantrum like a “testy 3-year-old.” He needs to remember that fares are so low only because “airlines pack as many seats as possible into each plane.”
That’s the real problem, said Luke O’Neil in TheGuardian.com. Since the late 1970s, economy-class seats have shrunk from as much as 36 inches of legroom to as little as 28. Greedy airlines are trying to squeeze ever more profit by squeezing ever more passengers into a tighter space. And when conflict ensues, said Victoria Song in Gizmodo.com, the airlines blame the passengers. Delta CEO Ed Bastian reacted to the punching controversy by saying “I never recline,” and recommending that reclining passengers ask permission from the person behind, “if it’s OK.” The solution is not better etiquette, but a decision by the airlines to start treating their passengers “like human beings instead of chattel.”
Wendi Williams/Caters News, AP ■