Thanks to all the recent press about reclining airline seats, I have a question for you:
When do airline passengers have a right to recline their seat?
A. Whenever they want, it’s their seat.
B. Almost never, c’mon, there’s someone sitting behind them.
C. It depends on the height of the passengers.
D. None of the above. You’re asking the wrong question.
If you answered D., you are absolutely correct. The question is not whether it’s proper to recline a seat or not, but why airlines do not provide their customers with enough space to sit comfortably in the first place.
Of course, the airlines would much rather you focus on answers A., B., and C. In fact, they’d rather you focus on anything that distracts you from the real issue of them packing in more and more passengers (and profits) by reducing legroom and narrowing seats.
Speaking of What’s Kicking
What started this current round of debate? Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen the YouTube video of a particularly irate passenger banging the reclined seat in front of him. And unless you’ve sworn off air travel all together, chances are you’ve either been the kickee or the kicker (or at least thought about it) on a recent flight.
My incredibly eloquent friend and best keynote speaker, Crystal Washington, posted THIS on Facebook:
“This is a fabulous example of misdirection. Now people are debating flight etiquette. The ROOT of the problem isn’t a need for better communication or etiquette between seat mates. The issue is shrinking seat pitch (space between one point on a seat and the exact same point on the seat in front of it). This has shrunk by 2-5 inches over the last 30 years. A single inch can mean the difference between knees touching the seat in front of it or having a little space; 2-5 inches is extremely significant.”
Attached to her Facebook post was a VIDEO LINK. It showed Ed Bastian, the CEO of Delta Airlines suggesting that the problem is caused by passengers and not the airlines. And if that wasn’t enough to blow the arrow right off your BS meter, scroll to 1:55 in the video. That’s where the perpetually smiling Bastian points out that he “never reclines.” Why? Because as the CEO of the airline, he “doesn’t think (he) should be reclining (his) seat.” Of course, that brings up a second question – when was the last time you think the CEO of Delta Airlines sat in a center seat in the rear of the airplane’s economy coach section? Maybe, like, oh I don’t know… NEVER??!!
Why is Flying Like Recycling Trash?
One of Crystal’s readers, Courtney Clark added:
“This reminds me of the Adam Ruins Everything episode about recycling. They discuss how the popular trend toward recycling started when companies stopped using re-useable glass bottles in order to save money and shifted to cheaper (for them) plastic and aluminum. Then they created public awareness campaigns calling the public “litterbugs” for creating so much trash. So the companies saved themselves money and then blamed us, the consumers, for the garbage created by the shift. This sound a lot like the same blame-shifting situation.”
I fly to some of the best keynote speaker gigs in the country and the world almost every week. Each time I get on an airplane I am stunned by the airlines blatant attempt to wring every single penny out of their customers. They shamelessly remove virtually every creature comfort, from legroom and seat width, to beverages, Wi-Fi, and snacks; from carry-on luggage allowances to checked baggage limits. And then they have the impudence to try to sell those “perks” back to us at wildly inflated prices.
Snacks, luggage allowances, and enough legroom to fit comfortably are not indulgences, they are the prerequisites for safe and comfortable flights. They are also the hallmarks of brand value and loyalty. While frequent flyer programs and geographical necessity might make passengers grudginly stick with an airline, only punctual, comfortable, delightful, and safe service will make customers like that same carrier. When the airlines figure this out and start treating their passengers like human beings instead of treating us like cargo, we’ll all be better off.