How “Recline Rage” Results In Flying Unfriendly Skies


Air crises nowadays can be sparked by rage and reclining seats

I’ll never forget the first I ever flew on an airplane. It was back during the late 1970’s.

For summer vacation, my family flew from Tallahassee to Newark, N.J., on Eastern Airlines. We were headed north to visit my uncle, aunt, and first cousins. That experience was awe-inspiring for me. We were served two meals during that particular flight – breakfast and lunch. Our piping hot food was given to us on chilled china. Yes, real porcelain plates and metal flatware not plastic.

Our beverages were poured into actual glasses, believe it or not. The stewardesses – as they were called then – were all tall, unerringly polite, and genuinely patient. Even now, I remember their friendliness.

I also remember the smoking section of that immaculate 747 jet. Overall, the passengers on that plane seemed happy to be there regardless as to whether their travel was for business, for pleasure, or a mixture of both. How times have changed.

Four decades later, air travel has become a ritual of flying unfriendly skies. Suddenly, recline rage has become all the rage. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

As a former employee of Delta Airlines, I’ve flown on jets of various sizes and speeds. I’ve met many people during my travels. I can tell you that the diverting of a commercial airliner is a very, very big deal. It’s actually only supposed to occur under a handful of conditions: a passenger is seriously ill; a credible threat to the safety of the passengers and flight crew exists upon that plane; the aircraft’s equipment or instrumentation is damaged or unresponsive; or at least one passenger is exhibiting behaviors disruptive enough –that is, too loud, too drunk, too combative– to warrant landing someplace unintended so the person can be removed from the flight.

Flight diversions are incredibly expensive financially, operationally, and logistically to any airline.

The average cost of diverting a single flight is $250,000 – at minimum. For the third time in the last three weeks, a flight had to be diverted over American airspace. Why, you ask? Because of recline rage. In other words, a passenger reclined his seat, infringed upon the comfort of the passenger behind him, and caused injury or damaged a device.

Words were exchanged and physical altercations broke out.

I might understand such a process taking place on a WWE chartered flight, but come on. Has flying from point A to point B become yet another lost art? Where has common sense gone? What’s become of our standard of courtesy?

There’s even a device available for purchase which can lock an airline seat in its upright position. Unreal.

The airlines are partially responsible for recline rage. It’s the inevitable result of cramming as many seats in a confined space as possible. With no leg room to speak of for people taller than 5’9” and a finite number of seats in first class, episodic flashes of anger among passengers are all but certain.

The passengers are also culpable here. How many seconds would it take to stand up and talk to the person sitting directly behind you? Under normal conditions, would it be that hard to work something mutually beneficial out in a respectful manner?

For example, I agree to recline my seat only after my new friend seated behind me finishes his or her meal. Or he or she lets me know when work on that Excel spreadsheet on their laptop is complete. At that point, they’re happy because they’re all set for that business meeting happening once they land – and I’m happy because I can take a nap before we land.

If both parties are happy – no skirmishes occur. No skirmishes means no flights diverted. No diverted flights means all passengers have an excellent chance of making their connections if their journey has additional legs. 

Alas, those in business are in business to make money. If we passengers don’t get it together soon, I can tell you what’s going to happen next. In the very near future, airlines will charge passengers an extra fee for the ability to recline their seat in-flight. In that scenario, everyone suffers. Everybody pays the price.

Don’t be surprised if people who directly cause a flight to be diverted start being charged the full cost of said diversion by airline carriers. That would immediately chill people out, but is that threat even necessary? Congressional intervention is not needed here.

This is America. The land of the free and the home of the brave. I completely rebuke the notion that Americans prefer hooliganism over friendship as we fly. As was the case with me flying Eastern, be mindful that young, impressionable children are present – and watching.

Recline rage needs to go the way of the pterodactyl. To fly friendly, we Americans must once again show ourselves friendly.



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