Nine out of 10 airline passengers say they want reclining seats banned in economy class, according to global travel search company Skyscanner. British Psychologist Dr Becky Spelman offers some explanation as to why reclining seats increasingly fuels passenger air rage: “It’s partly because there are two general personality types while travelling. There’s the ‘Altruistic Soul’, who is considerate of others, and the ‘Selfish Ego’, who will look to increase their own comfort at the expense of others.”
The Seat Recliner
The Skyscanner survey of over 1000 travellers found that:
- 43% felt even long haul flights should implement set times for when passengers are permitted to recline their seat
- 60% of cabin crew from around the world report either being involved in, or having witnessed, heated arguments between passengers on the very touchy subject of reclined seats
The survey found an alarming amount of Selfish Egos, with 70% of people admitting they would still recline when sat in front of a pregnant woman, and 80% saying they wouldn’t care if the person behind was elderly or frail
Women aged from 18-24 were the most likely to display Altruistic Soul tendencies (considerate of others)
Men over the age of 35 were more likely to exhibit Selfish Ego characteristics (their own comfort comes first).
Dave Boyte, Skyscanner market development manager for Australia and New Zealand says: “When you’ve got two very different personality traits crammed into a confined space for long periods of time, there’s always a chance for head-to-head clashes to take place. Having set times to recline your seat might make for a more peaceful flight for everyone.”
The Armrest Hogger
On an overnight Qatar Airways flight Doha-Singapore several days ago, I sat in the window seat and a young English traveller sat in the aisle seat. Between us was a short little man in a bright blue tracksuit who somehow managed to take up 100% of both central armrests and then spread his legs akimbo so his boot-clad feet were taking up half our tiny foot space as well. Not bad for a guy who was about 160cm tall, if that. I had to keep nudging his foot away, occasionally muttering “space hog”, and finally put my handbag to the right of my feet to prevent his foot sneaking in again. The Englishman wore a furious expression, but in that British stiff-upper-lip way, dealt with it by not speaking to the man for the entire flight.
The man in front of me had reclined his seat even before take-off, but I won’t go there. I’m pro seat reclining, up to a point. Generally it’s good manners to keep your seat upright during meal service, and some cabin staff do ask passengers to keep their seats upright for that time. I forgot, on a flight to New York, and reclined my seat so suddenly that the meal tray of the person behind me ended up in their lap. Not my finest moment. But otherwise, I’m all for doing what you can to make that itty bitty seat more bearable, if your posture feels better that way.
In economy class, every square centimetre counts. Personal space is probably the most compromised you’ve ever experienced – unless you’re on a crowded commuter train or bus. If you’re on a plane for a few hours, does it really matter? But if you’re on a long haul – seven hours or more – then it does matter. But I guess that’s what movies are for, free booze is for and ear plugs, eye masks and neck pillows are for. I can’t advocate sleeping pills because doctors claim that sleeping in one position for long periods contributes to the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis.
The Armrest Hogger and The Seat Recliner could have unexpected health benefits – they could make you so uncomfortable and restless you’ll fidget all the way to landing and your blood circulation will thank you for it.