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To Recline Or Not To Recline? The Ultimate Airline Question

Posted: 09/12/11 07:03 PM ET

To recline is uncouth. Not only that -- it's selfish and narcissistic.

That is, according to a snarling group of social media friends -- a virtual vicious mob, if you will -- who tried to school me when I posted the following status on my news feed: Are we supposed to ask the passenger behind us if we can recline our seats on planes?

I posed this query on Facebook after a newspaper advice columnist warned a reader that reclining one's seat is considered a soaring faux pas. Snorting haughtily at the misguided advice, I expected a like-minded barrage of pro-recline comments on my wall. But I was taken completely aback by the glowering contempt for passengers who dare seek comfort in flight.

"You're not supposed to recline. It's just rude," someone summed it up. Seriously?

Others hijacked the thread to express years of pent up rage against airborne boors like me who audaciously reposition their seats. The consensus was that this hoarding of valuable aircraft real estate is an act of hostility against those behind us.

"The person in back of you can't put their tray table down when the seat is reclined... It's impossible to eat, drink or work in comfort minus those precious inches," one commenter seethed, adding expletives directed at a fellow passenger who once thoughtlessly reclined her seat en route from the US all the way to Paris.


I countered that reclining is one of the last free on-board amenities. (Note to airlines: Don't even!) But another friend wrote: "I paid for those 6 inches of space in front of me and I think it is just completely rude for someone to dip down into that space."

My argument that I also pay for the right to push that button on my armrest fell on deaf ears. Equally futile was pointing out that if we're not supposed to lay back, the airlines wouldn't offer this as an option.

Posters responded with assertions about greedy airline carriers squeezing chairs together without accounting for the dismal dearth of space left between seats. That may well be true. But frankly, dozing mollifies my anxiety. So call it sinister or callous, when in flight, I recline!

The only scenario in which I might sit upright is if I were under strict doctor's orders to wear a neck brace. Nor would I ever twist around to ask for lounging approval, if only for fear I'd encounter a belligerent passenger behind me who'd render a negative answer. Come to think of it, in my decades of travel, not a single person has ever asked me for permission to move their seat back. Nor have I ever had to forgo a snack or beverage because of an unwieldy tray table.

So cuss at me under your breath. Gripe to your travel companion. Tweet about my arrogance. But I have better advice for this raging minority: Next time you're up-in-arms while up in the air, just sit back... and relax.

 

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