Should reclining seats on flights be banned?

Nine out of ten air travellers think that passengers on short-haul flights should be banned from reclining their seats, or at least restricted to certain times.

Even on long-haul flights, a survey by travel website has revealed, 43 percent of people think there should be restrictions. A third of passengers say they have suffered discomfort after the person in front of them has reclined their seat, and three percent say they've actually suffered an injury.

Arguments over reclining seats are common, with over six in ten cabin crew surveyed saying they've seen passengers getting into arguments over bashed knees and spilled drinks. On one occasion two years ago, a flight from Washington DC to Ghana was forced to return to Dulles Airport with a military escort, after a fight broke out between two men.

"The strong support for a change in reclined seat procedures makes sense," says psychologist Dr Becky Spelman, clinical director of the Private Therapy Clinic in Harley Street. "People will generally adhere to them, accepting that it is fair. This could lead to a more pleasant flying experience for the majority."

However, the survey also found that air passengers are a hypocritical bunch, with 70 percent of the 1,000 people polled saying that they wouldn't be put off reclining their own seat, even if the person behind them were pregnant. This figure rose to 80 percent if that person were elderly or frail. Women between 18 and 24 were the most likely to be considerate of the person behind them, while men over 35 were the most selfish.


Some discount airlines have already scrapped reclining seats - though this has more to do with cutting costs than preventing passengers from irritating their neighbours. Cathay Pacific attempted to deal with arguments by introducing seats which had fixed backs but a sliding seat, but is now getting rid of them after passengers complained they were uncomfortable.

Meanwhile, some passengers take control of the situation themselves. A product called the Knee Defender, available from the US, consists of two heavy-duty plastic clips which attach to a passenger's tray table and prevent the seat in front from being reclined.

Earlier this summer, an Australian poll found that inconsiderate reclining was the number-one peeve of air passengers. In the UK, though, a survey found that people are most annoyed by the opposite problem: children kicking or banging the back of their seat.

Read Full Story