To recline or not to recline, that is the question — unless of course you're in the last row or in front of an exit row. No air travel etiquette issue invites more heated debate among travelers than this one, and the argument reignited this week over a viral video of a man aggressively reacting to the passenger in front of him exercising her right to recline.
In a brief video taken by the recliner, a bald, bearded man appears to repeatedly punch a seat headrest while making a couple inaudible comments that seem to be directed to the blonde woman ahead of him. While few people are arguing in favor of this response, commenters seem completely divided over whether he is the only jerk in this situation.
@BravoAndy Here’s a great jackhole! He was angry that I reclined my seat and punched it about 9 times - HARD, at which point I began videoing him, and he resigned to this behavior. The other jackhole is the @AmericanAir flight attendant who reprimanded me and offered him rum! pic.twitter.com/dHeUysrKTu— wendi (@steelersfanOG) February 9, 2020
The video was reshared by numerous accounts and outlets, and people quickly divided into camps. Team "Recline Em If You Got Em" and Team "Reclining Is Rude AF." In the interest of full disclosure, I belong to the latter camp, but do not condone how the seat puncher chose to vent his frustration. Use your words! Kindly ask the person in front of you to please put their seat up if it is pressing against your knees.
Some commenters admitted to other, more passively aggressive tactics they've used against recliners, like using their air vent to annoy the recliner into bringing their chair upright again.
It’s rude to ever recline your seat. I angle my air conditioning vent on the back of their necks until they turn around to adjust it. I tell them I’ll turn it off for a raised seat. Always works.— BridgeFaithful (@bridge_faithful) February 12, 2020
Whether you are pro- or anti-recliner doesn't seem to point to divides based on height or how often you travel, either. Even in the special interest groups of Tall People and Frequent Fliers, there was furious much disagreement over the right to recline vs. the right to leg room.
Even some celebs weighed in. Comedian Andy Richter and I seem to agree. "He is absolutely the bigger dick, but if he explained that her reclining impinged on his space and she didn’t care, then she’s a dick too. Airlines are cheap bastards and seats are cramped, just because you can recline doesn’t mean it’s okay make a trip s--tty for someone else."
Musician Sebastian Bach, however, took a more hardline stance in favor of recliners. "She paid for her seat and can recline it if she wants to. He has no right to be an a--hole, especially to a woman. I guarantee this punk wouldn't do this if I was sitting in front of him #Bully
The two celebs bring up two interesting side arguments about this exchange that occurred in this midst of the heated debate. One being that the man would never have been as aggressive toward a male passenger who might match or overpower him physically, and that the true jerk in all of this is the airline industry.
After all, it is somewhat cruel to install seats that can recline while decreasing the seat pitch every year it seems, to the point that there is no way to lean your seat back without significantly inconveniencing the passenger behind you. Airline seats have become more and more cramped over the years so airlines can fit more seats on each flight and thus increase their profits.
One thing virtually everyone can agree on is that air travel seems designed to bring the absolute worst out of us. You're often having to get up at an ungodly hour, you have to get practically naked to walk through security, you can't bring enough toiletries, and then when you get on the plane, you are packed like sardines and breathing stale recycled air in close quarters for hours at a stretch. Commercial airplanes have truly become buses with wings for those who can't afford business or first class.
It's tough to spend that kind of money to experience that level of discomfort just to get to your destination. Just remember, you're not the only person who overpaid for that unpleasant experience and try not to make it any worse for anyone else on board, mmkay?