August 1, 2008

Megan's Summer Friday

Every Friday between Memorial Day and Labor Day I'm going to be featuring "guest bloggers" as a part of my "Summer Fridays" series. This week's entry is from frequent flier, Megan, who shares her disdain for unreasonable airline requests.

I experience seat anxiety whenever I get on a plane. One of my greatest fears is being trapped in one place for several hours, becoming very sleepy, and not being able to sleep. (I am not one of you lucky people who can fall asleep anywhere, at any time, standing on your head). Thus, I am always afraid that either a) my seat won't recline for some reason or b) the person behind me will make a stink about it. I have
always operated on the assumption that you are allowed to recline your seat--otherwise they wouldn't recline, right? People always get slightly pissed off when the person in front of them does it, but social norms usually prevent them from saying anything. At the end of the day, not being able to sleep when you are exhausted is far more excruciating than not being able to put your laptop screen completely upright.

Luckily for me, I never had anyone actually attempt to prevent me from reclining my seat until very recently, when the man behind me shoved my seat forward with his hands and shouted that his legs were "too long." I was caught completely off guard so I complied, but then proceeded to fume about it for the rest of the flight. I eventually decided to be passive aggressive and just reclined my seat in tiny increments, so that he couldn't be sure what I was doing. But the anger has stayed with me. If I had been alone I would have been fine being that jerk who told him he was free to get reseated/cut his knees off/just deal, but I was with friends and didn't know what their expectations were about airline seat reclining. So I decided to take a poll.

It turns out that most people assume you are allowed to recline your seat, but don't like it when the person in front of them does it. Kind of like how you hate pedestrians when you are driving and hate cars when you are walking. But I was surprised to find that I had a couple of friends who believe that seat reclining is one of the rudest things you can possibly do, and that we as a society have an obligation to reverse this insidious trend. This only made me more curious, so I decided to go to the top and started asking flight attendants.

After much exhaustive research, I am happy to report that there is, in fact, a definitive answer to this age-old question: IT IS ALWAYS THE RIGHT OF THE PASSENGER TO RECLINE HER SEAT. SEAT-RECLINING BENEFITS COME WITH THE PRICE OF THE TICKET. In fact, airline seats are meant to all be reclined during the flight like dominoes, and the vast majority of passengers recline their seats. Check it out next time you fly. The only time your seat must be upright is during takeoff and landing. But what about those freakishly tall people, you ask? Well, they can book ahead of time and make sure they get the aisle. I should not have to accommodate them via torturous sleep deprivation. If they are over 6'8" and still managed to book the middle seat for themselves, they can ask a flight attendant to re-seat them behind someone else who enjoys sitting upright for seven hours at a time.

Some of you may have experienced an instance where the flight attendant asked you to put your seat up because the person behind you complained. At the end of the day, you should always do everything the flight attendant tells you to do--please don't get yourself arrested. But that doesn't mean you can't politely decline first. And if he actually makes you keep your seat up, feel free to get him fired.

So seat recliners of the world- unite! What you can do and what you should do are certainly different things, but know that the final decision is yours. Don't the let misguided airplane etiquette fanatics mislead you--the relief of your exhaustion trumps their preference for watching movies. And honestly, very few people's legs are actually that long.

I am going to go recline my seat now.

If you have something you'd like to write about just let me know, and you might be the next Summer Friday blogger!

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