Skip to main content

Stop the insanity of reclining airplane seats

By Maria Cardona
updated 9:47 PM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
What are the most annoying habits on airplanes? A series of seat recline skirmishes has passengers talking about the aggravations of air travel. Click through the gallery of 20 top irritants. What are the most annoying habits on airplanes? A series of seat recline skirmishes has passengers talking about the aggravations of air travel. Click through the gallery of 20 top irritants.
HIDE CAPTION
20 rudest things people do on planes
20. Abusing overhead bin space
19. Taking ages to choose a movie
18. Compulsive leg-shaking
17. Boarding ahead of group number
16. Babies crying
15. Getting huffy when you leave seat
14. Yacking on cell phone
13. Bringing aboard stinky food
12. Loud talking
11. Establishing armrest hegemony
10. Poaching shared middle seat
9. Coughing, sneezing, germ sharing
8. Playing games with sound on
7. Wielding huge suitcases as carry-ons
6. People behind trying to disembark first
5. Cutting fingernails
4. Baring feet
3. Hogging toilets
2. Reclining seat
1. Kicking seat-back
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Maria Cardona: 3 planes recently diverted when passengers fought over reclining seats
  • She says the way to save us from our out-of-control uncivil behavior? Ban reclining seats
  • Let people play for reclining seats. But they can't grouse when seat in front reclines, she says
  • Cardona: Survey says most travelers would support a ban. If you wouldn't? Fly first class

Editor's note: Maria Cardona is a political commentator for CNN, a Democratic strategist and principal at the Dewey Square Group. She is a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton and was communications director for the Democratic National Committee. She also is a former communications director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- We have now witnessed the third instance in only nine days of a flight being diverted from its original destination because someone leaned her seat back and someone objected.

Has it come to this? Do we really need air marshals on flights now to intervene between people in front who (in this most recent case) want to get comfy and knit, and people behind who want to put their heads down on a tray table to nap?

Maria Cardona
Maria Cardona

While both passengers in each of the three cases had reasonable arguments on their side -- recliners felt they had every right to recline, and the people behind them felt their personal space was being violated -- does their inability to work it out not seem like just another example of a society where civility is declining?

There is a simple solution to save us from our worst selves: Get rid of reclining seats.

If we are all compelled to sit upright for a flight's duration, the issue of invading already infinitesimal personal space simply goes away.

This device caused an in-flight fight

What about your comfort you might ask? After all, in the breathless drive to obtain cheaper and cheaper fares, passengers are willing to give up much for a cheap flight. But must they endure even more?

Consider: The seats on budget conscious airliners like Spirit and Allegiant don't recline, and these airlines don't suffer disruptions from angry passengers about to brawl. And their bottom lines aren't exactly suffering.

Opinion: Don't ban reclining seats, ban jerks on planes

Too drastic? OK, there can be a middle ground, like asking fliers to pay more for reclining seats, which can be the same ones that have more legroom. Passengers already pay more for that, so it would work out quite nicely. One caveat: Passengers in these seats will have to know that the seats in front of them may recline into their capacious legroom space.

There will be an uproar, you say, from passengers if airliners ban reclining seats? Not likely. A recent survey of 1,000 air travelers by travel search engine Skyscanner showed a whopping 91% would support banning reclining seats on short-distance flights. Some 43% percent even supported a reclining seat ban on long-haul flights.

Airlines phasing out seat-back screens

And flight crews tired of breaking up fights would enthusiastically embrace such bans.

Folks, let's all go buy extra neck pillows, not Knee Defenders.

Let's save civility, cut down on diverted flights to places no one paid for to be, and simply increase our sanity. And if reclining comfort is still something you do not want to compromise on -- even if you are willing to impose on the comfort of your fellow passengers -- there is another solution for you: fly first class.

Read CNNOpinion's new Flipboard magazine

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:17 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 10:05 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
updated 8:03 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
updated 8:12 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT