Opinion: Reclining Your Airline Seat Puts You in League with Satan

August 27, 2014

This week a United Airlines flight from Denver to Newark was diverted to Chicago after two passengers got into an altercation over the use of a device that prevents riders from reclining their seats.

Reports say that a male passenger used a product called Knee Defender to guard himself against the threat of a full-reclining troll. His fear became all too real when the female passenger in front of him attempted to recline – an argument ensued resulting in water being thrown on the male customer and the flight being re-routed to Chicago.

Ladies and gentlemen – THERE IS NEVER A REASON TO FULL RECLINE. Don’t even try to defend the practice. An airline flight is already painful enough without having to deal with a self-entitled sociopath who thinks it’s their G-d given right to slam into another person’s knees. JUST…DON’T…DO …IT.

Of course, since there’s no real news to report on, many outlets are debating this issue. Behold Josh Barro’s logic in the New York Times:

I wrote an article to that effect in 2011, noting that airline seats are an excellent case study for the Coase Theorem. This is an economic theory holding that it doesn’t matter very much who is initially given a property right; so long as you clearly define it and transaction costs are low, people will trade the right so that it ends up in the hands of whoever values it most. That is, I own the right to recline, and if my reclining bothers you, you can pay me to stop. We could (but don’t) have an alternative system in which the passenger sitting behind me owns the reclining rights. In that circumstance, if I really care about being allowed to recline, I could pay him to let me.

Dan Kois of Slate wrote about this issue (and talked about it above):

The problem isn’t with passengers, though the evidence demonstrates that many passengers are little better than sociopaths acting only for their own good. The problem is with the plane. In a closed system in which just one recliner out of 200 passengers can ruin it for dozens of people, it is too much to expect that everyone will act in the interest of the common good. People recline their seats because their seats recline. But why on earth do seats recline? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if seats simply didn’t?

Some European airlines are already banning reclining seats and recent surveys claim that 90% of travelers say they hate reclining seats. So for that 10% who enjoy and feel entitled to the full recline… we’ll see you in Hell!

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