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Should Reclining Seats on Planes Be Banned?

Welcome to Upright Position, SmarterTravel’s new weekly series in which Features Editor Caroline Costello discusses emotional and controversial travel topics. Join the debate by leaving a comment below!

Few topics ignite the vicious indignation of anyone who has been packed into economy class quite like that of seat reclining. When I wrote that I sometimes recline my seat on the plane in this op-ed, lots of commenters expressed that I am an evil piece of trash, exclusively responsible for the painful conditions of coach class because one time I leaned my seat back a few degrees. Some readers called me “entitled” and “selfish.” One woman threatened to “jam [her] legs into [my] back.”

It appears that the same angry mob I fielded also responded to this poll for Skyscanner. According to the poll, nine out of 10 travelers think seat reclining should be totally banned. We should get rid of the buttons altogether or at least designate special seat-reclining times onboard planes, say more than 1,000 travelers who took the poll.

Three percent of respondents claim to have suffered an injury from a reclining seat. Three percent of respondents also probably believe that they have been dispatched to the moon on a mission to save the Earth from deadly alien life forms.

Sorry guys, but a seat-reclining ban will probably never happen, and not just because the idea is ridiculous. There’s not much incentive for airline staff to regulate harmless passenger behavior when they’re busy following safety procedures and keeping drunken passengers fully clothed and everything. Are we not a bunch of adults who can handle something as complicated as a plane seat with a recline button? Clearly, no. Not when we’re making threats and kneeing seats in the manner of aggressive kindergarteners. So a more responsible entity—the airline industry?—should take away the recline option, like when your mom takes away the TV remote because no one can agree on which Saturday-morning cartoon to watch. Is this what you want? Stop fighting, everyone!

Before you attack your seatmate with your legs, consider this: According to Dr. Ben Kim, seat reclining helps stave off back problems. Dr. Kim says, “Contrary to popular belief, sitting in a reclined position is healthier for the lower back than sitting upright is. This contention was bolstered by information presented at a recent meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.” Maybe the guy in the reclining seat is perfectly nice and reasonable but has a back problem and is trying to mitigate serious pain. Maybe you could simply ask him if he wouldn’t mind going upright while you eat your delicious airline meal. Instead of calling for an industry-wide ban, can’t we all just get along?

What do you think?

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