Thursday, December 20, 2007

Airplanes, revisited

I had no idea my opinion that people should not recline their seats on airplanes would be so controversial- apparently many people feel quite justified to do so regardless of the comfort of the person behind them. The most recent comment:

I don't see how it's rude to recline one's chair, regardless of whether the person in the chair behind is with a child. When you pay for an airline ticket, you pay for the right to recline. If anything, you should be apologizing to him for brining [sic] your baby on the plane and making his trip much less enjoyable. Buy a business class ticket or suffer like everyone else.

Interesting... I'm not sure how the person in front of me's trip was less enjoyable. They took their maximum amount of space the whole flight, Landon was silent the whole flight, and after we landed she (not he) complimented me on his good behavior (she complimented me on his cuteness before we took off). I guess I just don't understand feeling so entitled to knowingly make someone uncomfortable. Of course you have the "right" to recline your seat, but that doesn't mean I can't find it rude. You have the "right" to do a lot of things that are rude. And I have a right to use my tray table and just try using a laptop or eating a meal on your tray when someone's seat is pushed back. I've never reclined my seat- I don't have a dire need for the extra space (lovely as 3 more inches might be) and I just picture the person behind me being all squished and I feel bad. If people kept their seats up, maybe we all wouldn't have to "suffer" so much on planes. And I'm pretty sure those people so full of entitlement to their maximum amount of space would rather sit behind someone like me who will keep their seat up as a courtesy than someone like them who won't.

50 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree with you more! I am 6'2" and I NEVER recline my seat for the same reason as you. I've routinely had people slam their seats into my knees, which were already shoved into the back of the seat in full upright position. My solution...frequent crossing and uncrossing my legs ('grown up' version of kicking the back of the seat).

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  2. I 100% agree with you. I was stuck on a transatlantic flight in a middle seat with my jerk of a "friend" in front of me keeping his seat fully reclined for the entire flight. To make matters worse, he'd put his hands around the back of the headrest and at that point if i moved like 2 inches his hands would have been touching my face. When I asked him to put his seat forward he told me "They make the seats recline for a reason, deal with it." It was the most uncomfortable 8 hours of my life.

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  3. Amen. I have ranted on this very subject on my blog before, after suffering a particularly uncomfortable plane ride. It's just yet another way that a lot of people do what THEY want to do without any regard for others. I think these airlines should either take out the reclining chairs or give us three more inches.

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  4. Reclining makes me much more comfortable. I know that other people share that preference--I just got off of an international flight where more than half the passengers, people of good will from all around the globe, exercised their right to recline. I do not understand why your preference to sit upright should trump my preference to recline. Sure, you can think that, since it makes you uncomfortable, it's rude for me to recline. I disagree with you. In my opinion, exerting social pressure via your blog to convince me and my fellow recliners to forsake our comfort for yours makes you rude.

    If there really are two camps of passengers (the recliners and uprighters) with strong views, then surely the airlines can create reclining and non-reclining sections. However, the dearth of non-reclining sections makes me believe that by preference is the more popular. But, by all means, continue to think me ill-mannered.

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  5. How cowardly for people to not sign their notes. I absolutely agree with you and I really wish the airlines would switch to non-reclining seats. No one is going to be comfortable with a reclined seat 5 inches from their face, making it darn near impossible for them to use their tray table, cross their legs, or hold their child in their lap. So many people only care about themselves and their own comfort, they really should look around and see how their selfishness is negatively impacting those around them.

    I really question whether the same people that recline their seats in their face of the person behind them do the same thing when traveling by car with a friend or family member in the seat behind them. I doubt it. People just don't give a sh!t about strangers!

    Obviously this is an issue people are passionate about :)

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  6. Hmm, I have to confess I like to recline my seat a little, but never ever all the way, just a little. It doesn't bother me when the person in front of me does that, only when they (all too often) fully recline their seat. I then practice Kate's crossing & uncrossing leg move. You know they make little devices you can buy to insert into the seat from behind so they don't recline - I read an article about it once. That seems a bit much, however.

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  7. long time reader here. i'm in the reclining camp.

    i do feel for you, traveling with a kid, but i think plane rides with kids basically just suck, reclining people in front of you or not.

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  9. I sat behind someone the whole way from LA to Athens who reclined his seat. Worse, he reclined his seat without considering that I MIGHT BE LEANING FORWARD AT THAT VERY SECOND getting something out of my backpack that was stored underneath his seat (leaving me with a bonked head and a sore neck). I agree that we all have the right to recline the seat, but it is a lot nicer to the people behind you not to do it for the ENTIRE flight (or to at least check behind you first).

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  10. Why does the airline provide the functionality if we are not supposed to use it?

    I need to recline a little bit. Otherwise, I will be in neck pain by the end of the flight. The way most airline seats are curved aren't built for my back. This in conjunction with the fact that the toes of my short legs barely graze the floor makes flying pretty uncomfortable as it is. I am 5'5, but I have short legs.

    Expecting someone to not recline their seat is like expecting someone to not use their lights overhead when the plane is dark. I am not understanding where all the reclining hate is coming from. :-)

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  11. Also, my husband vehemently agrees with all of you and says I am full of poo. We are a house divided, apparently. :-)

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  12. Bengali Chick12/20/07, 7:40 PM

    I'm mean. I admit it. I'm in the reclining camp:( BUT, if someone asked me to sit up -- I would. Okay one exception. Not on a long ass flight overseas, I zonk out. Give me some wine, pillows and I will recline and curl up and sleep.

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  13. Well I must admit I'm a seat-recliner and always have been. It honestly never occurred to me not to recline. - I do it as soon as the seatbelt sign comes off and just sort of assumed everyone did. Maybe it's because we used to do lots of overnight flights when I was a kid so I equate flying with naptime. I can't promise I'll reform - but next time I'll take a look behind me and then consider my options. :-)

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  14. I NEVER recline and for one very good reason:

    On my first transatlantic flight the man in front of me kept his seat reclined from the moment we took off! When our meals came out the flight attendant had to ask him to put his seat up so that I could let down my tray. As soon as the attendant walked off, he muttered a few expletives under his breath and slammed his seat back into recline. My meal tray flew onto me and I was covered in hot tea, lasagna and salad. The attendant rushed back to us, gave him a very stern lecture and guided me to my new first class seat. The look on his face was priceless. BTW - 1st class food is better and the attendants will even wash your grubby college hoodie for you.

    It's a little self-centered to think that you deserve those 3 inches more than the person in front of you.

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  15. I agree with the poster you referenced and the last part of Melissa's comment. Many people (like me) are extremely uncomfortable having to sit (to me, unnaturally) upright in those rigid airplane seats. You have asserted that the person in front of you is rude to recline because it makes you uncomfortable. That assertion contains a judgment that your comfort is more important than his/her comfort.

    I understand that traveling with a child is difficult. I disagree that you can argue, however, that this difficulty makes your comfort more important.

    If a recliner makes you uncomfortable when you're traveling with your child, then you should make special plans like purchasing two seats, or traveling first or business class. It's more costly, but it's one of the (many) additional expenses having a child imposes.

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  16. Long-time reader12/20/07, 9:41 PM

    I hate to go against the general grain here, but I agree that reclining your seat on an airplane shouldn't be considered rude. My thought on the matter is, if I recline my seat and take up your space, you can recline your seat to get the space back. And if that takes up the space of the person behind you, he can recline his, and so on and so forth. That method seems to solve the problem of taking up "other people's" space much more easily, since I doubt the people who currently choose not to recline their seats would be uncomfortable if they did so, while I am extremely uncomfortable if I don't recline my seat.

    Just my two cents.

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  17. I hardly ever travel on a plane. As a matter of fact, I think I've only done it once since 9-11. However, it seems to me that either the seats should have limited reclining ability (if any) or everyone should consult the person sitting behind them and work it out before the seat is reclined. Since the latter may be a bit touchy, I think the first option is best.

    I think being considerate and accommodating on both ends is ideal but that may not work out and an airplane is certainly no place to get into a fight with your neighbor.

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  18. My two cents: I usually always recline, I try to do it slowly, as to not hit anyone or anything. I have no problem with the person in front of me reclining-- isn't this why the seats recline? Further, I've eaten plenty of meals on the tray while the seat in front was reclined-- never had a problem. I do see, however, how a child in the lap would be a problem. But, I have to add that I always thought it was more rude for people to not buy a seat for their baby-- it never made sense to me that adults have to be buckled in, but babies can just sit on laps. There is nothing more annoying in air travel than having to sit next to someone with a baby in the lap. BTW-- I don't have kids, but I've flown solo with niece and nephew while they were babies, so I know how difficult it is.

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  19. I'm confused--weren't you traveling with your husband? Couldn't he hold Landon and give you a break, or trade seats with you if the person in front of him wasn't one of the four people reclining?

    Anyway, you should try to be a little more laid back about these things (no pun intended), because chances are, your next flight Landon will puke all over the place, or scream the entire time, and make everyone around you miserable (not just the person behind you). You wouldn't want them to be as harsh and judgmental as you are being about the person in front of you, would you?

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  20. I gotta say that I agree with the seat recliners... I'm almost 6 feet tall, and I fly almost once a month. I always make sure to wear flat shoes to give myself the extra leg room that way, but if I could not recline I'd be MISERABLE. I have a terribly bad back, but beside that, the upright seat position is just unnatural for anyone even with a good back. I sat on the tarmac in Houston not too long ago with a delayed flight for over an hour in an upright position in a middle seat, and it took nothing short of heavy drugs to relieve the spasms. I'm always really careful about reclining... I make sure that I do it slowly and when the person is not trying to get to their bags under the seat or get up to use the bathroom. And also, I can't remember the last time I was on a flight when the person in front of me didn't recline. That said, if it's an issue, I also talk to the flight attendents to see if in the case that my reclining isn't possible, if they could please reloacte me to another seat where it is.

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  21. Wow- I never realized this was such a hot topic. As a veteran of many many many long haul flights I have to say that without the reclining I'd probably have ruined my back... its bad enough to start with :(. But I do always look behind me before reclining, and always sit in the upright position while eating. But on short haul flights (under 5hrs) I usually don't recline (unless its overnight). But then again I have to point out that space between seats depends on the airline- and that is the problem. Pretty much -the lower cost airlines keep their costs low by cramming in as many seats as humanly possible. Which is why I usually choose one of the bigger airlines for long haul.
    You can check out seatguru.com for info on spacing.

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  22. I sorta feel really bad now. Never did it occur to me that people would be pissed because I was reclining my seat. I guess I have just always thought of plane flights as terribly uncomfortable. I would never assume to tell someone else how to make me more comfortable.

    I have at times slept on a tray table that was being pushed back by a reclined seat. I just think we are all uncomfortable and any way you can get comfortable, good for you.

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  23. I am a six foot tall woman and my knees touch the back of the seat even when it is upright--when it is reclined, my arthritic knees are in agony. I never recline out of consideration for the person jammed into the seat behind me as I have suffered on every single flight I have ever taken.

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  24. Wow, it's amazing the comments here.

    I'm in a mixed camp: Long Haul, of course I recline to sleep - on the 12 hour legs everyone does. But on long haul, there is more space - seats are a little wider and there is a greater gap.

    Short haul, I'll often use my laptop, and sit up, or recline a tiny bit - slowly!

    As a general rule, if there is a problem at meal times I'll ask for the seat to go forwards. And if I'm working on a laptop I ask the person not to recline suddenly.

    For me the recline/not recline thing isn't so bad as the sudden change from one to the other.

    As for travelling with children: most airlines long haul give kids the bulkhead seats - right up the front with nothing in front of them and space for a crib.

    If you were flying to London with Landon (hee - I like the name switch), then you could book the seats up the front with a crib.

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  25. Wow! And I thought you had a lot of commenters before!! This is crazy and people apparently feel passionate about it. I think you're right -- it's about being considerate. I hate when people recline because, inevitably, they take up what little space I have. That said, being tall myself, I can understand why *some* people might feel a need to do it. But if you have a lady with a baby behind you, why not turn around and let her know what you're doing first. Perhaps she can switch seats or, better yet, perhaps you can? Traveling with a baby sucks and NO ONE wants to hear said baby scream during the entire flight. So doesn't it make sense to make things MORE comfortable for said screaming machine? As for passing the baby off to her husband, I know that when my son was little, he only wanted to be held by me during times of stress. And, having traveled a ton when Pumpkinhead was an infant, I think an airplane can be a scary place for a kid.

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  26. I used to travel quite a bit and always hated when the person in front of me reclined.

    While I still really hate it, I talk to the person now, and ask up front if they'd mind bringing their seat forward during mealtime.

    Otherwise, I just put up with it and fume. I mean, really, sometimes it's difficult to read a book because the seat in front of me is in my face.

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  27. I haven't had a chance to read other's comments, but I'm with YOU. I have flown to Europe several times and 12 hours non-stop to South Africa and I've never reclined my seat. That teensy extra bit of comfort (and let's face it, it's teensy) is not worth it, if you are making the person behind you suffer. On the other hand, I'm petrified to fly with my 11 month old twins, now, or in the near future, for their comfort and other's. Nice to hear that Landon did so well. You're brave.

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  28. wow...can't believe all the feisty comments.

    I"m only 5'1" and the seats are terribly uncomfortable for someone whose head hits just below the head-rest. Reclining helps a little, but if I do, I check behind me so I don't take the person back there by surprise (i.e. tray table in the gut). But I usually just get a blanket or pillow and stick it behind my back to give me a little more support.

    as for those who said that traveling parents need to purchase a separate ticket to bring their baby on the flight...well, don't tempt us. We'll be sure to put them rear-facing and then you won't be able to recline your seat at all anyways. So either you can choose to be a polite and considerate flyer by not reclining when you see a parent has their child in their lap, or you can be forced to not be able to recline your seat.

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  29. Flying used to be an elegant mode of travel, with white-glove wearing attendants and spacious seating. This would be back when my grandmother took one of the first transoceanic commercial flights.

    I don't recline, because it doesn't make me any more comfortable and I know it sucks for the person behind me. There's no benefit and there's an overall decrease in comfort, so it seems pointless.

    The key here is not the recline/don't recline fight, or even the right/rudeness debate. The key is that airlines are all about making us miserable, providing the minimum of service for the maximum price. Did you see the ruling on the NY law providing passengers with rights to water and bathroom facilities when they're stuck on the tarmac for more than 3 hours? The airlines were against it. I think that really sums it up.

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  30. I've always thought everything was just a matter of opinion, but whoah!

    Something I've never understood is how people can feel it's acceptable to be so rude. Sure, they're allowed to recline. I'm also allowed to fart , but I do my damndest on planes not to, so that other people aren't uncomfortable. Maybe it's just me, but I believe we're all debating something called "manners." Which much of America seems to be lacking.

    My guess is this person (as well as the rest of you who think is acceptable to be so greedy) isn't the type of person who won't hold a door for a person with a stroller.

    LL you are famous!

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  31. PS- I find it funny that so many more of these postings are from "anonymous" people....

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  32. Good lord, all this controversy over a little reclining seat. I like how most of the posters who are assholes are also anonymous. Does this indicate that they know they're assholes and are ashamed of themselves? I agree that a person has the right to recline their seat. I also have the right to repeatedly and forcefully open and close my tray table, drop my laptop on the tray table, accidentally kick the back of the seat over and over again, and grab the back of the headrest in front of me every time I need to stand up. Passive aggressive? No, not at all, it's just my "right." Oh, and the airlines surely wouldn't have created a tray table if they didn't mean for me to open and close it twenty times during the flight.

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  33. Wow, this is really very funny when you think of it.

    I hate people who recline their seats into my lap. It makes it very difficult to do anything in front of you - read a book, knit, eat (as someone else mentioned).

    Frankly, I am very claustrophobic, and as soon as that seat goes down in front of me, my need to get up and out of the plain goes into overdrive. However, I understand that people have the right to do it.

    What we really need to do is petition the airlines to give us more room so that when someone does recline, they aren't plopping their heads in my lap for a scalp massage.

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  34. "New Duck," what's your REAL name, or are you just another anonymous a**hole?

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  35. Oh come on guys, be nice on LL's blog comments!
    -Sarah

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  36. Wow! The Formula v. Breastfeeding Discussion of 2006 can't hold a candle to the Great Airplane Seat Throw Down of 2007. I have to admit I cracked up while reading several of these (my little blog exerts social pressure? I had no idea), shook my head at a few, nodded sympathetically during more, and just generally sat in amazement at all the back-and-forth debating and justifying.

    It was quite interesting. This is something I really like about blogs- the accumulation of opinions from all over and people's willingness to share them.

    My personal conclusion: I will continue to not like it when someone pushes their seat back, and I will continue to not do the same. However, I understand that some people need it to be back (health, height, weight, etc.). That doesn't mean I won't inwardly groan when the seat moves in towards my face, but I will try to believe that the person really needs the space more than I do. And I will continue my perpetual quest to get a bulkhead or exit row seat- or perhaps, one day own (or borrow- you know someone in my class will end up with one) a private jet. Lastly, I hope that those who automatically ram their seat back will at least *think* about the person behind them and consider keeping the seat more upright.

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  37. Frequent Flyer12/21/07, 3:07 PM

    Not to beat this subject to a pulp . . . but every person is built different. When I was younger I to was very annoyed when some people insisted on reclining their seat back for what I thought was really rude. My husband is a full recliner (If his seat were in the full upright position it would be like he was leaning forward - fortunatley he thinks ahead and is able to get an exit row seat or many times he goes in business class. If you are a frequent flyer many of the planes the seats just behind first/business class have more leg room and you can get one of those seats. If you are not a frequent flyer maybe you can try and request (tell them your situation that you are traveling with a baby and need more leg room and maybe the airlines can accomadate you). Good-luck

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  38. After reading all of these comments, I have one final thought, as a pro-recliner. I never thought someone reclining in front of my really took away any of my space, and that's why I never thought it was a big deal. The space that was eliminated always seemed to be space that was going unused anyway. So, like I said previously, I figured if I did it slowly (similarly to how I would bring down the tray table to not jar the person in front of me), it really isn't taking away anyone's usable space. I figured if it didn't annoy me (I actually am easily annoyed), it wouldn't be bothersome to someone else. I still can't quite figure out how the movement of something about 12 inches in front of your head and shoulders impacts what you can do in your lap-area. I'll pay closer attention on my next flight.

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  39. I TOTALLY agree with you....people who recline their seat on airplanes are jerk-faces. C'mon...everyone well knows that the extra 1 inch gained by reclining the seat does not make a bit of difference...all it makes you is an a***hole. I despise people who recline their seat in front of me and do my best to bump the back of the seat as much as I can when faced with this situation. Yes, I'm petty and infantile. :)

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  40. Recliner Hater12/21/07, 5:09 PM

    PS. The people who love to lay in the lap of the poor luckless passenger behind them are probably the same people who also liked to smoke on planes, back in the day when that was allowed. Very similar disregard for others' comfort and health.

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  41. I'm amused to find that there are so many people who also use the grown-up version of kicking the seat. I do this often, sometimes untintentionally as my knees are usually quite close to the seat in front of me i'f i'm sitting with my legs straight out.
    However, when on planes I usually bring a pillow and try my hardest to get the window seat so i can lean over and go to sleep. If i'm doing this, then by all means, you can have the space that i'm not using.
    But if i'm awake, i'm probably using my laptop, and when your seat is reclined, i can't open it all the way, which usually means that the angle of the screen is such that i can't see it correctly. Reclining my seat to "regain" my 2 inches of space is not going to fix that, and in fact, will probably make it even harder to use, as my laptop would then be farther away.
    So basically, If I am using that space, whether it is for my laptop, my food, a book, my knitting, or my baby, I find it very rude of you to take it away.
    I totally agree that you do have a right to recline your seat, as the option is provided to you, this is really a question of manners. How selfish do you have to be to take away the little bit of space of another person for the MINIMAL comfort you gain by reclining your seat.
    Those of you with back problems would probably have more luck asking for a pillow and putting it behind your lower back. This way, you are a still reclined, but it is because you have used your own space by moving your ass forward instead of your shoulders backward.

    Just my 2 cents. (though this is a kinda long post, maybe that was more like 4 cents)

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  42. i am not self absorbed12/22/07, 5:48 AM

    just remember--knitting and laptop use are very important. so no reclining for anyone!

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  43. Freudian Slip! I meant it's a little self-centered for recliners to think they need the extra 3 inches more than the people behind them. However, maybe when it comes to the tiny bit of space that each person is allotted on a standard airplane, maybe we're ALL selfish and hunting for an extra 3 inches.

    Great, now I've said something that rude anonymous writer agrees with. Certainly not what I wanted!

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  44. Well, I don't recline either. No, not even on a flight from Detroit to Oksaka, Japan. I can't sleep on the airplane no matter what, so reclining isn't going to help me any. And by not doing it, I may be helping the person behind me to be the smallest bit more comfortable.

    Why don't I recline? Because once I was by the window, and the person in the center seat in the aisle in front of me reclined ALL the way. And I had to pee. Could I get past them and the person seated next to me? NO, not really. Somehow I managed to get past them and use the restroom and back to my seat. But I got glared at. ALOT. When I got up, when I sat down, AND when we landed and we were all getting off the plane.

    And I have another favor to ask of my fellow passengers - please, if you have 2 carry ons, put one under the seat in front of you and one in the bins. Don't hog the bin space with both your bags. I'm 5'10", and if I can suck it up and have a bag by my feet, so can you. Especially since you're probably going to recline your seat and make it impossible for me to get to my bag in the bin anyway.

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  45. "ins-a" - I'm not saying that using my laptop and knitting are very important in the grand scheme of life. But they are things that I like to do, in part to distract myself from the lack of space and general crappiness that is riding in an airplane.

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  46. I agree with you as well. Even though it would be more comfortable, I never recline my seat, for the exact same reason: I absolutely do not want to squash the person behind me. At least we can rest assured that we're more considerate people than the seat recliners in front of us.

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  47. Ya know... I've found that if the person in front of you reclines, you can make YOURSELF more comfortable by reclining. If everyone just reclined, we could all be comfortable!

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  48. You are more comfortable with your seat up and the seat in front of you up. I'm more comfortable with my seat reclined and the seat in front of me declined. Apparently, it is rude to be in the latter category? Lots of comments minimizing the added comfort of three inches of reclining but maximizing the discomfort the same three inches of encroachment cause...maybe different people are comfortable in different ways...maybe because the airplanes do allow the seats to recline it is because more people agree with me and are more comfortable reclined with the seat in front reclined than both upright...Don't you think the airplanes considered this when designing their seats? They don't benefit from the reclining seats unless on the whole they increase rather than decrease comfort for the plane. Who is so cynical to really believe that people are reclining their seats with no added comfort solely to hurt the person behind them?

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  49. declined = reclined (spelling errors take away some of your steam)....

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