I’ve written about the seat recline debate on many occasions, but finally experienced a real-life incident on my recent British Airways flight.
My position has been consistent over the years. Whether you recline your seat is your prerogative, not the prerogative of the person behind you. Even though a reclined seats often results in an uncomfortable position for the person behind you, that is the reason their seat reclines as well.
There are two exceptions. First, one should always recline their seat gradually. A sudden recline may result in a broken laptop. Second, seats should rarely be reclined during meal service (there are exceptions).
I was seated far in the back of the aircraft in 38H. Of course, my seat was up for the meal service. Of course, I reclined my seat gradually. But that wasn’t good enough for the passenger seated behind me.
He was a portly German gentleman, probably in his late 60s. He began cursing as I reclined my seat, then hitting it. I turned around and glared at him and he said nothing.
I turned back around and he began muttering to himself in German, cursing me out (assuming I was an Englishman and calling me some choice expletives). Zoning him out, I leaned back to go to sleep.
About 20 minute later he began shaking my seat. I got up and turned around. He made motions for me to put my seat up.
I proceed to lecture him, without expletives, in German that it was my right to recline my seat and that I had no choice when the person in front of me also reclined.
He was shocked that I spoke to Germany and quickly shut up. I did not hear from him again during the flight.
When we landed, I offered him my hand and noted that economy class is difficult for everyone. He nodded and shook my hand back, noting that due to our late arrival he had missed his connection to Dusseldorf.
Tight seat pitch leads to air rage, but it is a reality of flying in economy class. I’m glad my own incident did not spiral out of control.