By now you may have heard about the series of “incidents” involving airline passengers reclining their seats, and those seated behind them who took exception. Crazy stuff, and it gets me thinking about the concept of airline passenger rights that are (or aren’t) included with the expensive airfare you’re paying for.
If you haven’t heard about the specifics, let’s recap one of them as an example. According to news reports, a man on a flight from Newark to Denver apparently used a plastic device to block the woman in front of him from reclining. Apparently, that is the specific purpose of this device – to take away the ability of the person in front of you to recline, thus letting you avoid having cramped legroom.
Well, this didn’t fly (sorry, bad pun) with the woman ahead of him, and the two reportedly got into a heated disagreement. As a part of this, reports indicated that the woman actually threw a glass of water in the guy’s face.
Yes, these were grown adults, and not children.
As it turns out, the plane ended up getting diverted to Chicago. There, the passengers were removed – and the flight continued on without them. Kind of sounds like the type of situation where two kids are fighting and the parent just punishes both, without worrying about who said or did what.
This wasn’t the only such episode around this time frame. There have been a few others, each with a twist but ultimately revolving around the same issue: someone reclining a seat, and someone else getting very upset over it.
I’m sure we each have a point of view on this. What’s mine?
It will be the first entry in my list of 5 rights airline passengers pay for, even if other passengers get annoyed:
1) The Right to Recline Your Seat
Now, I have done enough traveling to know that it can be annoying when the person in front of you reclines his or her seat all the way. It takes away some legroom that you would otherwise have, and can push that tray table closer to you. There are better ways to spend a few hours that dealing with that.
However, I think this is simply one of the aspects of air travel that we have to deal with. The seats do recline, and I’m not aware of any regulations that prohibit someone from reclining seats mid-flight. There are times when the flight attendant will want passengers to have their seats upright, but generally in mid-flight it’s understood that you can recline.
When someone pays for a ticket, they are paying for use of the seat. That seat reclines, at the option of the paying passenger. When the person behind uses a 3rd-party device to take away the option to recline, it becomes a case of one customer preventing another from getting what he or she is paying for. Sure, it’s annoying, but that passenger also has the right to recline as well – thus impacting the next passenger in the following row. It’s just how it is.
Now, throwing a glass of water in someone’s face is clearly not socially acceptable behavior. But as far as the reclining seat debate goes, I’m sympathetic to the person who wanted to recline but got prevented from doing so – and not the cramped passenger behind who tried to prevent it.
With that, I’ll briefly touch on a few additional rights I think airline passengers have when they purchase a ticket:
2) The Right to Eat
Now, common courtesy says that we shouldn’t be bringing onboard some food that’s going to make the whole plane smell like roasted garlic. However, bringing a sandwich or otherwise non-obtrusive food should be perfectly okay.
One person I know was on a flight years ago, when the person next to her was clearly vegetarian. Not that there is anything at all wrong with that, but my friend was eating a sandwich with lunchmeat on the flight. The vegetarian woman didn’t like it, and said so.
My friend didn’t flinch, and didn’t think that she should stop eating a sandwich because someone next to her didn’t like it. How absurd. So she kept eating. All the while, the woman would make gagging sounds each time a bite of the sandwich was taken.
I’ve seen a few other situations, more mainstream, when it’s clear that the person next to me didn’t like that I brought some food onboard to eat. You know what? I didn’t feel guilty.
Furthermore, regular economy seats used to come with a hot meal before the days of snack boxes dawned upon us. So it was once perfectly normal to eat a hot meal, albeit possibly lousy, provided by the airline itself on the flight.
So, there is no need to be uptight about someone eating.
3) The Right to Get Up and Use the Restroom
It’s a basic human need, and most people get this. But once when younger, I had to get up a few times on the flight. An older lady sternly told me, after getting up 2 prior times, that she would appreciate if I would not get up again until the flight landed.
That was one of those times, when younger, that you realize that just because someone is an adult, it doesn’t mean that he or she is truly a grown-up. I mean come on; you just have to keep those thoughts to yourself. Again, a person paying for a seat has the right to get up and use the restroom – whether other passengers like it or not.
And yes, if you’re sleeping, that means that someone might need to walk in front of you to get to the aisle. Which means the beauty rest might get interrupted. But, we should expect things like this to happen.
4) The Right to Have a Quiet Conversation
The key word here is quiet. If someone is talking loudly, that’s too much in my view. However, having a very quiet conversation with the person next to you is perfectly okay. Think about how many people have met each other over the years though talking on a flight!
I realize that some people will claim that they have the right to peace and quiet, and a chance to sleep. Well, I would agree with the right to have a pleasant flight and certainly people can sleep, but the reality is that we can’t totally silence others on the flight. Air travel was never intended to be a place to meditate in silence.
5) The Right for Babies to Cry
I’ll admit when I was younger, I couldn’t stand it when I heard babies start to cry on flights. It was annoying. Frankly, it’s not fun now either.
However, as I became a parent, it occurred to me that – lo and behold – babies do cry! It’s normal!
So the people that give dirty looks to parents of kids that fly should give those moms and dads a break. It is what it is. I’ve seen a few instances (not with my kids) when passengers have gotten quite irritated with a kid crying. Once, a guy asked the woman behind him if she could just get her kid to stop crying. I couldn’t help but feel bad for her, and think he was a nut. I mean, she paid for a ticket – and babies do cry – so what’s the issue?
Bottom Line: Air travel is not a spa experience, and it was never intended to be that. Rather, it’s a way to get from Point A to Point B, while spending a fair amount of money to do so. While that entitles us to some rights, it also entitles our fellow passengers to rights too. So, let’s all be cool about it
My Questions for You:
Where you do stand on the reclining seat debate?
What are your thoughts on these 5 rights, in terms of getting what you pay for?