Before I get into the subject of “recline rage” let me tell you a little bit about myself. I was brought up in a strict home where kids were supposed to be “seen and not heard.” Furthermore, one of my father’s constant mantras was “respect, so that you’ll be respected.” I suspect that the combination of these two things with the fact that I’m a woman (socially taught to be less assured than men) made me dysfunctionally considerate of other people’s needs (over my own) and overly concerned with other people’s opinions of me.
It has taken me a long time, and some time in psychotherapy, to get rid of those false beliefs, or as I like to say “to let the bitch out,” (whenever I need her to save me from my too-polite self). But, I fall back into old patterns from time to time. In fact, as a parent, I go overboard in the be-aware-of-others department. For example, if we’re in a line, I make sure that my sons are not standing too close to the person in front of us, or making any arm/leg movement that could result in that person getting hit or pushed. In an airplane, I make sure that they’re not pushing the seat in front of them with their feet, and that they gently close the tray table once they’re done eating.
I just want to teach them to be aware and considerate of others. But I enforce these conditions with such zeal and drama that I often wonder if I’m sending my kids the wrong message about their right to occupy space in the world, and whether they will also need some type of confidence therapy at some point in their lives. I try to compensate for this with lots of hugs and kisses.
MY RECLINE RAGE STORY
Now that you have a clear picture of how I am, let me tell you my recline rage story, which was less about rage and more about indignation. It happened a few weeks ago when I took a 9-hour flight with my two sons from Miami to Paris. Since it was a night flight, my 10-year old fell asleep soon after take-off at 8:50 p.m. I waited until the meal service was finished to recline his seat. The French twenty-something-year old sitting in the seat behind my son’s asked me not to recline the seat. I explained that my son was sleeping uncomfortably and that I needed to recline the seat. He asked me to just recline a little bit, which I did (the bitch wasn’t out yet).
Then, I proceeded to recline my seat. The French teenager’s [French] mother tapped on my shoulder to tell me not to recline it. I began a long explanation that we needed to sleep, that the people in front of us had reclined their seats, that this was the way that planes were designed, and that she should recline her seat as well. All this as the considerate me—ok, the wimpy me—was reclining the seat only half way.
To my surprise, instead of thanking me for only reclining my seat (and my son’s) half way, she answered that she had taken airplanes before in that snotty way that the French have mastered since the French Revolution, when they killed Louis XVI, his wife Marie Antoinette and abolished the monarchy.
I was fuming. I gave my 14-year old a speech about the importance of not being too nice and then I proceeded to do the only thing that was left for me to do, I reclined all of our three seats all the way back. I don’t know what I would have done if she had continued to argue with me. But let’s just say that I totally understand the lady who threw a glass of water at the passenger seated behind her who had blocked her seat with a “Knee Defender.”
I had no intention of writing about this incident at all, until I started reading that a couple of airplanes have had to divert their flights and land because of passengers fighting in Economy class due to what the media has dubbed “recline rage.” The media can be so short-sighted sometimes.
[Tweet “This is not about “recline rage.” This is class warfare, literally. #Right2Recline”] While all passengers, regardless of the airplane class that they’re traveling on have to suffer the indignities of being treated like criminals (shoes and belts off, x-ray machines, electronic-wand frisks), Economy class passengers have the added humiliation of being treated like cattle, packed as many and as tightly as possible. I remember well the time that one of my sons dropped a DS game on the floor at my feet, during a flight. I could not bend over to pick it up because the seat in front of me (which was not reclined) prevented me from doing so. I had to get up, and get down on all fours in the aisle, in order to be able to pick it up.
NOT “RECLINE RAGE,” RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
This is beyond “recline rage.” This is rage against the airlines who put us in this position, or should I say in the most uncomfortable positions in order to cater to Business and First class passengers and to boost their profits. I’m surprised that this hasn’t blown-up sooner and I’m glad that passengers are beginning to say “enough is enough,” even though they’re not saying it as much as acting it out.
Passengers who are not Brian Hamilton (@BrianHamiltonSI) that is, a Sports Illustrated writer who recently tweeted, “PSA: You never recline an economy class airplane seat. Never, ever, never, never. It is the peak of selfishness. End of story.” Well, Brian Hamilton can kiss my [reclining] ass. I will continue to recline my seat fully for the simple reason that I can. I will recline my seat as far back as the seat design allows me to (which might not be a lot in the future). I suspect airlines are already considering fixed seats for Economy.
On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve read comments online where people are saying that if you don’t want those in front of you to recline their seats, that you should upgrade at least one class. That is much easier said than done. I went to Expedia.com and entered a Miami-Paris direct roundtrip ticket for September 18th, returning September 25th on Air France. These are the prices:
Economy: $1422. Premium Economy: $2107. Business: $7,316. A Business class ticket is 5 times more expensive than an Economy class ticket—not double, not triple—five times more; it is also 3.5 times more expensive than a Premium Economy ticket. A Premium Economy ticket is 1.5 times more expensive than an Economy ticket and it’s questionable whether it’s worth it. On Air France, the Premium Economy seats are wider and have bigger media screens, but the reclining option is a bit bizarre. The seat’s back moves down, not backwards while a foot rest comes up. In other words, the reclining angle for the seat back in Economy class is better than in Premium Economy.
I’d like the airlines to explain why the price gap between Business and the two Economy classes is so huge. Is it really justified, or is it that airlines have a sadistic streak and enjoy seeing Economy class passengers suffer? I bet it’s the latter. What other explanation is there for making us walk through Business and First Class at the end of a flight, when we are most exhausted and fed up, where the leather-upholstered seats and crumpled blankets are evidence to the fact that some people slept there, and slept well?
SOME SUGGESTIONS TO AIRLINES WHICH WILL NEVER BE HEEDED
Here I make some suggestions fully aware that 1) Airlines will not be adopting any of them any time soon or ever, 2) Economy class passengers will always get the shorter
end of the stick space between rows, because the airlines don’t give a s#&t an inch about Economy passengers’ comfort.
1. Take away the food, from all the classes. It’s a safe assumption that Business & First Class passengers can afford to go to the priciest restaurants before the flight. As for Economy passengers, ask them if they’d prefer food or to be as horizontal as possible on a long-haul flight. For me, horizontal it is.
2. Stop making bigger planes; make faster ones. It can be done. The Concorde used to fly from New York to Paris in 3.5 hours. I wouldn’t need to recline my seat for such a short flight.
3. Stop lobbying against high-speed trains. Other developed and fast-developing countries in the world have both, airline and high-speed train industries. Why can’t we, the #1 economy in the world?
4. Figure out ways to make Economy class passengers happier with their flying experience. We can’t have bad food, restricted space, and the smallest media screens. Something’s got to give. I’m hoping, but doubting, that “something” is space.