Al Arabi Travel Agency

Seat reclining in economy class – a sensitive subject!

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My return from Rome a few weeks ago departed Rome Fiumcino at around 10pm. If you’ve read the blog post, you’ll know it was a pretty full on holiday and, naturally, me and my wife were fairly tired on the way home. The plane took off, dinner was served and then we tried to settle down for a bit of sleep. I tried to recline my seat but, nope, nothing. Was it stuck? Afraid not. The chap in the seat behind me had actually braced his knees against the back of my seat so that I couldn’t recline my seat.

Inspired by this experience I asked this question on Twitter last week: 

‘What’s your view on seat reclining in economy cabins?’ 

That line of questioning is hardly going to win me any journalism awards but I felt it was best to leave it deliberately vague so that I could see a wide range of opinions on what is already a delicate subject for many travellers. First opinions were very black or white:

@GinGoddess – Absolute necessity unless v. short haul. But not during meal service – ever. I would limit how far they recline on daytime flights for short haul.

@eaConsItGrp – Should be punishable by being force-fed economy class airline food. Intrusive, thoughtless & egotistical. #ThingsThatAnnoyMe

@SurenaSays – I’m 5’4” and I feel squashed when someone reclines their seat. God knows how horrid it must be for someone who’s tall!

@pennyvanilla (an airline stewardess) – I’ve been shouted at before by a pax (passenger) demanding me to wake a sleeping pax up to put his seat forward!

The debate eventually led towards the concept of day and night on board an aircraft. One person might wake up at 8am, board at midday and consider it daytime but for someone else who has been travelling longer, their body clock might be so out of sync that they consider it to still be night time. This was mirrored by the comment from @MissMaxine that ‘there is no day and night when on a flight. I WILL RECLINE’

@KrysiaJ noted that ‘surely if everyone reclines their seat all have the same space? I don’t have any issues with it personally’. However, the common theme seems to come back to the idea that there’s no night or day when you’re travelling long distances so not everyone will necessarily want to recline at once.

It’s fine to talk about whether we mind it or not but the next step in conversation ended up turning to how the problem could be fixed in a way that might please everyone.

@eaConsItGrp – Lights down, seat autorecline?

So what’s next for the future of economy seating?

A Malaysian engineering student named Alireza Yaghoubi recently showed plans that he says solve this solution:

The issue is that the seats take up about 16% more space in the cabin. This doesn’t sound like a lot but the airline industry (which operates on fairly tight margins) might be resistant to the idea. Airlines do seem to get more interested in ideas which save space rather than use more which is, of course, a real shame for the consumer.  

I think the issue of reclining a seat in economy is a really divisive one and not one I’d fancy trying to work out the answer to. Personally, I tend to think that all seats should NOT be reclined during meal service as it can be a bit tricky to eat with the tray table on your lap. However, if the person in front of you is fast asleep with their seat reclined then maybe we should just leave them to it. The world could always use a little more kindness, right?

On a separate note, @eaConsItGrp finished up the conversation by saying what’s ‘worse than the recliner in front is the kicker from behind’ but we’ll save that for another day..!

Finally (in case you were wondering), I did manage to actually recline my seat on that flight from Rome. The gentleman behind eventually got up to use the bathroom so, in a desperate moment of opportunity, I reclined my seat to maximum, closed my eyes and relaxed for the rest of the flight. Victory.

Please do leave a comment with your thoughts about seat reclining or what you’d suggest to help the situation! 


– Daniel (any personal views represented do not represent the views of Al Arabi Travel Agency)



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