The great seat reclining debate of 2014

Three U.S. planes have landed early in the past weeks after seat-reclining disputes between passengers. The first culminated in a thrown glass of water. The latest involved a knitter and a woman trying to sleep on a tray table:

The onboard witness, Aaron Klipin, was seated next to a woman who attempted to recline her seat, which prompted an argument from the female passenger behind her who was trying to sleep on the tray table.

“This woman who was sitting next to me knitting actually tried reclining her seat back and the woman behind her started screaming and swearing and the flight attendant came over and that just exacerbated what was going on, and then she demanded that the flight land,” he said.

A great debate has arisen.

There are anti-recliners. Here’s Bill Saporito in Time:

I don’t travel with a Knee Defender, but I do travel with knees. Just being an airline passengers makes everyone cranky to begin with. Being 6 ft. 2 in. and long of leg, I’m in a near rage by the time I wedge myself into a coach seat. And now you want to jam your chair back into my knees for four hours? Go fly a kite. It’s an airline seat, not a lounge chair. You want comfort, buy a business class seat.

There are reclining supporters. Here’s Gulliver, the travel columnist from the Economist:

It can be annoying when the person in front reclines his seat, particularly if you are negotiating a scalding hot cup of tea at the time. Ultimately, though, it is his right to do so; and a quiet word is better than a sneaky chair lock.

I am guessing that years from now, we’ll look back at the seat-reclining debate with wonder. Once upon a time, we’ll reminisce, airlines had padded seats with tray tables, arm rests, and (even if you chose not to recline it) a seatback.

Check out the wording for this patent for a new style of airline seating from Airbus:

In the aeronautical sector, some so-called “low-cost” airlines seek to increase the number of passengers transported on each flight, and more particularly on short-haul links, in order to maximize the return on the use of the aircraft. To that end, and by using the same aircraft or an aircraft of similar capacity, the number of seats in the cabin must be increased.

This is what that looks like.

US Patent & Trademark Office