As I flew Delta Air Lines from Chicago to Atlanta on Thursday in coach, I spent a few minutes guessing if the tall man in front of me would recline his seat.
I wanted to work, but if he reclined while I was writing, my laptop might not survive it.
As airplanes pack travelers into smaller seats with reduced personal space, powering up that laptop can be a risky bet: Will the person in front of you recline their seat? And if they do, will they do it so quickly that your laptop suffers?
Delta is hoping to prevent future conflicts between passengers by limiting how much their seats can recline on certain aircraft, according to The Points Guy’s Scott Mayerowitz’s latest story.
Starting Saturday, April 13, Delta will retrofit its fleet of 62 Airbus A320 jets to reduce the recline of the coach seats from 4 inches to 2 inches and the recline of first class seats from 5.5 inches to 3.5 inches.
While it may sound like a chance for the airline to stuff another few seats into an already tight aircraft, airline officials promise that’s not what they’re doing.
“As part of Delta’s continued efforts to make the in-flight experience more enjoyable, Delta is testing a small change to its A320 aircraft – adjusting the recline throughout to make multitasking easier,” Delta spokeswoman Savannah Huddleston told CNN Travel.
“Delta has no plans to add seats or reduce space between rows with this test. It’s all about protecting customers’ personal space and minimizing disruptions to multitasking in-flight.”
It’s not a bad change, really
Frequent fliers are already appreciative. Really, they are.
“Being a frequent business flier, my productivity just dies when the person in front of me drops their seat into my lap,” aviation security consultant Jeff Price said.
“With the narrow room the airlines give you for your legs, I can’t even sit in the normal seats with my legs facing forward. I have to turn them sideways, and it’s worse when the seat drops back.”
“Passengers are packed so tightly into planes these days that any invasion of our personal space is amplified, and seat recline is one of those trigger points that easily leads to disputes between passengers,” he told CNN Travel.
“One is just trying to relax and give themselves a bit of extra room while the person behind them is suddenly struggling with the feeling of the world closing in on them.”
Delta typically flies the A320 on short- to medium-haul routes averaging one to two hours, which are frequented by business travelers, Huddleston said.“That’s what makes the A320 an ideal candidate for this test,” she said.
Aviation blogger Johnny “Jet” DiScala has already noticed other airlines making the move.
“I just flew last week on Iberia Express between Madrid and Seville and noticed their seats didn’t have a recline button, and I thought it would be great if US carriers started doing the same,” he said.
It will take Delta about two months to get the entire A320 fleet retrofitted.
And if the change works for Delta, Mayerowitz predicted that other US airlines will follow.