Home > Travel > Seat Reclining

Seat Reclining

August 27th, 2014

Remember when economy seats on international flights were spaced far enough apart that you could have a window seat and still leave without waking up the other two passengers between you and the aisle? That was actually how things were back in the 80’s when I began flying.

I recall things getting more an more cramped; soon, you had to squeeze past the other people’s knees, then you had to kind of step over them in a strange contortion. Finally, it got to the point where egressing from the row required everyone to spill out of their seats first.

That’s not too bad in itself—typically, such seat departures can be an opportunity to take care of business—a toilet trip, getting a drink or snack, getting something from the overhead bins, or even just a leg stretch, which you should do several times anyway on long flights.

However, the closer spaces created a much more annoying difficulty: when the person in front of you reclines their seat.

I hate that. It makes the already confined space you’re in even more claustrophobic, and as a person who prefers to use his laptop on the plane, that becomes almost impossible.

Worse, I have terrible luck when it comes to this. After many 9- to 13-hour international flights (I take one round trip a year on average), I got the feeling that I was almost always behind a recliner. Knowing that often it just seems that way because we remember the bad times and not the good, I started tracking it—and lo, I found that while about 1/3rd of people in my section of the plane reclined fully for most of the flight, I got recliners more than 2/3rds of the time.

I can usually predict it: the moment the seat belt sign goes off after takeoff, WHAM! The seat in front of me rocks back, while the three other seats adjacent to me don’t get that. (I always choose an aisle seat in the center group of seats—only one person to let out instead of two.) I don’t know, maybe people in aisle seats tend to recline more—it seems to make sense, they already arranged for a seat that gives them a bit more comfort.

Yes, I should probably try to sit in the emergency exit row. Except that, for one thing, it usually is filled up by the time I buy my tickets, and, for another thing, the airline I usually fly charges about a hundred dollars extra for these seats.

Now I hear about a product that in one sense sounds nice, but in another sense is totally dickish: gadgets that prevent the person in front of you from reclining. It would not be hard to predict that this would cause fights that could ground airlines, which it has.

The idea of these devices is that some people’s legs are so long that when the person in front of them reclines, it hits their knees, hard enough to cause pain. The person with the “Knee Defenders” will apply the gadgets before seats can be reclined at the start of the flight, deciding how much the person in front of them is allowed to recline.

Now, as you can tell from my previous writing, I would love to avoid recliners. However, I see this gadget as totally asinine.

First of all, imagine being in a seat when the person in front of you reclines. You have not reclined, so you feel squeezed. The only relief you have is to recline your own seat—but then you discover that they guy behind you has locked your seat frozen. For his comfort.

If reclining is such a problem for your knees, there are a few other solutions. If contacting the airline ahead of time and arranging for the problem won’t work, you can try to find an airline that has non-reclining seats. When I fly, ANA is the choice, versus United—ANA has seats which have solid backs. Instead, when you recline, your seat slides forward, sending your legs further under the seat in front of you, which was designed to have more space. It actually works pretty well, and wherever I can get such a seat, I try to. I wish United would change that way.

Alternately, you could just grumble and put down the extra money for their “economy plus” seats that are still smaller than 1980’s economy seats but are marginally bigger than regular economy. Yes, it’s unfair to have to pay a premium for body shape or size, and airlines should be the ones responsible for making it so no one has to suffer unduly. Until they can be forced to change that, though, it may be the price you pay.

One thing is for certain: you cannot just unilaterally decide what comfort the person in the seat in front of you enjoys.

Categories: Travel Tags: by
  1. Troy
    August 28th, 2014 at 06:08 | #1

    hey in other news . . .


    This next high-end generation looks to be an amazing piece of kit; the main secret sauce is the “Ultra” M.2 flash drive slot; this is a 4X PCIe 3.0 interface that Apple has been using in the MBP and Mac Pro for about a year now to get the best throughput to fixed storage (“normal” M.2 connection runs at 2X and that hobbles flash storage to some extent). ASRock is first to market (in the Wintel space) with this “Ultra” slot, and it’s benchmarking well!


    X99 (thanks to its CPU socket having 2011 pins!) also has 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes so ASRock’s “Ultra” M.2’s dedicated 4 lanes to the CPU still leaves 36 lanes for the slots; this means two 16x graphics cards can run at their full 16x, unlike the new z97 motherboards which only have 16 PCIe 3 lanes that are divided 8x / 4x /4x when the “Ultra” slot is used for flash storage.

    For graphics cards, there’s not any big difference between 16x and 8x, but there is a significant hit trying to run two graphics cards with one at just 4x (Nvidia doesn’t even allow SLI at 4x).

    The X99 also has DDR4, which may or may not be worth the extra money.

    I like X99 since the CPU, Haswell-E, doesn’t have any integrated graphics on it. What a waste of CPU space when you already have a $400+ GPU plugged in!

    If I don’t get a MBP next year I’ll be building an X99 box for sure. Next year’s MBP should be pretty killer too, with Broadwell (Broadwell-H, what’s going to go in the MBP, is being delayed until summer 2015)


    This at least gives Apple adequate time to integrate NVidia’s latest and greatest “Maxwell” GPUs into the MBP.

    Well, heck. I’ll have to get both I guess. I’ll wait for Windows 9 before building the box tho . . . that’ll also give some time for the motherboard BIOS to settle down (pioneers take the arrows!)

  2. Troy
    August 30th, 2014 at 03:22 | #2

    So the x99’s are out today, yeay!


    is a 5 minute build I did . . . $2300 not counting the $100 windows tax.

    I’m going to wait for Windows 9, and also for the M.2 fixed storage market to mature a bit, 4X PCIe and NVME are the next things they need — Samsung SM951 is the keyword here.

    Plus it’ll be nice to catch the next generation of nvidia cards


    The equivalent Mac Pro is $2000 more than this, blech.

    I love that motherboard btw; the only thing worse than too few slots is too many slots!

    That’s why I got a IIcx, LOL.

    Both of my main PCs — the Windows box and my MBP are from 2008. Wonder how long next year’s PC purchases are going to last.

    Speaking of which, shoot me an email if you’re interested joining a free Apple developer program to get a 20% discount at the US Apple store (you’ll probably need a US credit card and shipping address). There’s an undocumented developer discount still out there that I found accidentally.

  3. Troy
    August 30th, 2014 at 03:27 | #3

    Come to think of it, that mb:


    *is* a IIcx!

    goddamnit Apple, why can’t you guys make something like this — the headless iMac — for $1500 or so. I’d buy it instantly!

    or better yet just ship OS X for BYO already.

Comments are closed.