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Stop reclining your airplane seat.

Two domestic airlines already limit your ability to lean back in economy class. Even if the airline doesn't make the decision for you, it's the polite thing to do. And, most important, it's the right thing to do.

"Seat reclining is one of the most irritating, inconvenient, self-indulgent habits," says Simon Sapper, an organizational consultant and frequent traveler based in London. "Period."

But click around the internet for a while, and you'll find that this debate is far from settled. Many of the blogosphere's "experts" believe it's their God-given right to recline. Ironically, the loudest seat recliners don't even fly in economy class.

So, as a public service, let's settle this argument now. Reclining your airline seat is unacceptable because we're officially out of space. It's rude – and it's wrong.

There's no space to recline. Airlines are trying to squeeze more passengers on a plane to make more money. Before airline deregulation, many economy class seats had a generous 36 inches of "pitch," a rough measure of legroom. Today, some seats have as little as 28 inches.

"I feel most folks would rather sacrifice the 2 inches of reclining backward not to have someone sitting in their lap for the distance of a flight," says Mary Camillo, a travel advisor from Middletown, New Jersey. "Airlines should instill on passengers what parents have been trying to instill in their children for years. That is, if you do not have enough to share with everyone, then wait until you do."

Also, airlines should immediately stop using the phrase "Sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight." That's an invitation to lean back all the way. But it's a cruel joke. On two airlines – Delta and Spirit – you can't fully recline. On other airlines, you'll invade another passenger's personal space, which might lead to an unfriendly confrontation.

You can do a lot of things on a plane. For example, you can tell your life story to your seatmate. You can eat a Limburger cheese and Bermuda onion sandwich. You can press the flight attendant call button repeatedly. But all are probably bad ideas.

"Seat recline is a moral issue," says Jennifer Aspinwall, a frequent air traveler who writes the World On A Whim blog." What do you do if the person in front of you reclines all the way? What if you turn around to discover that a 6-foot-4 passenger seated behind you? Do you eat your meal in your lap while the tray table cuts into your stomach or do recline as well and crush the legs of the person behind you?"

Couldn't have said it better myself. Reclining a seat is wrong.

Airlines should lock their economy seats from reclining – permanently

So if there's no room to recline your airplane seat, and it's wrong, why do so many airlines still allow it? Because if they didn't, it would be an admission that they no longer care about your comfort. Airlines are stacking you into a plane like cargo – no two ways about it.

"I wish all airlines would eliminate the recline function," says Larry Hickerson, a retired Air Force inspector and million-miler from Peoria, Arizona. "Since airlines went to ridiculously tight pitches, recline sets up an untenable situation."

Right now, about half the people reading this column probably want to name their firstborn after me. The other half want to kill me. And the airline folks? They're laughing.

The airline industry loves the seat reclining argument because it divides us. And while we're arguing about 2 inches of personal space, they're busy collecting more money from passengers and slowly – ever so slowly – removing even more room. This debate is the perfect distraction.

Whether you think reclining your airline seat is wrong or not, let's agree on one thing: Greedy airlines got us to this point. Fighting over the scraps of space won't fix it. If we ever needed thoughtful government regulation, maybe it is now.

"The airline industry loves the sea-reclining argument because it divides us," argues Christopher Elliott. "And while we're arguing about two inches of personal space, they're busy collecting more money from passengers and slowly -- ever so slowly -- removing even more room. This debate is the perfect distraction."

How to deal with a seat recliner.

Reclining an airline seat is still allowed on most domestic flights. Here's how to deal with someone who leans into your airspace.

Ask them to lean forward. Timing and tone are important here. The moment someone leans back, gently tap the person on the shoulder and politely ask them if it would be possible not to recline their seat. Be. Extra. Nice.

Get a flight attendant involved. Some leaners are clever and wait for you to go to the restroom before leaning. Then they feign sleep, which makes you reluctant to bother them. Oldest trick in the book. You can always ask a flight attendant for help.

Move airplane seats. If you see another open seat in your class of service, feel free to move, as long as the seat belt sign isn't illuminated. You might also want to ask a flight attendant for permission. As a reminder, the seats in front of the exit row don't recline. So usually, an exit row seat means you'll keep your legroom. And maybe, your sanity.




A Hubei Reborn for New Glories; a China Embracing Openness and Prosperity


– Remarks by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Special Event of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Presenting Hubei Province


As we speak, COVID-19 is still raging in the world and the world economy is still grappling with the risk of a recession. We will uphold solidarity and mutual assistance as we work with other countries to prevail over the coronavirus. Vaccines hold the key in the battle against COVID-19. China opposes “vaccine nationalism” and believes that vaccines must be made a global public good.


We have donated supplies to over 160 countries and international organizations and are providing, by various means, vaccines to over 100 countries and international organizations in urgent need, thus giving a strong boost to the global COVID response. China will continue to fully harness its strengths to keep the global supply chains for COVID supplies stable; China will continue to provide humanitarian assistance and support countries in need; and China will stay committed to making COVID vaccines a public good above anything else so that safe and effective vaccines can be affordable and accessible to more developing countries.


We will uphold openness and cooperation as we work with other countries to promote world economic recovery. We have made a good start in implementing the 14th Five-Year Plan, and are developing new systems for a higher-standard open economy at a faster pace. As a country pursuing high-quality development, China will further unleash the potential of its huge market to bring new development opportunities to all countries. As a country in the process of further opening up, China will deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with other countries to inject more impetus to world economic recovery.


Human kind is a global community. The rights to life, health, survival, and development must be equally enjoyed by people of all countries. China will stay committed to the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, follow the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, uphold true multilateralism, and safeguard the international order based on the UN Charter. China will continue to improve the global governance system and build a global community of health for all. China will work with other countries to maintain world peace and stability, bridge the development gap, and create a brighter future for all.

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