07/08/2010 07:05 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Reclined Seat-Backs Can Break Laptops and Assure Uncomfortable Flight

I'm writing this aboard a flight from San Francisco to New York. The good news is that not only is there Internet aboard but it's one of the few Delta planes to have AC adapters so I'll be able to use my laptop the entire flight. The bad news is that the person in front of me has just fully reclined his seat-back so it's nearly impossible for me to perch my laptop on the tray table. In fact, had it not been for a quick response on my part, the laptop screen might have broken when he abruptly reclined his seat.

I don't blame the guy in 19F -- I blame Delta and almost every other airline for allowing seats to recline this far in their economy sections.

With the seat in front of me fully reclined, the only way to use my laptop is to shove it all the way into my belly. To keep my hands on the keyboard, my elbows have to be so far back that I feel like I'm doing isometric shoulder exercises rather than typing.

Not a Good Trade-Off

What especially bothers me about the seat-back issue is that the extra discomfort I'm experiencing greatly exceeds the small amount of extra comfort the person in front of me may be enjoying. Even if I weren't using a laptop, I'd be far less comfortable having his seat in my face than I would be sitting upright.

In the meantime, when you're on a plane, think about the person behind you. If you must recline, don't go all the way back in one swift motion and, consider only going back part of the way. You might even turn around and ask if it's OK. And let's hope that the person in front of you heeds the same advice.

Of course, you have a couple of options, but they'll cost you. You could fly business class or use an iPad instead of a laptop.

What do you think? I'd love to hear from others on the question of whether the ability to sit back justifies the ability to enjoy a little bit more space in front of you?