The internet is a polarizing place to begin with. But a recent cell phone video that has gone viral has sent frequent flyers into two diametrically opposite camps — and ready to wage passive-aggressive war upon each other at 36,000 feet.
As your editor here at Proud American Traveler — and a multi-million-mile flyer — let’s just say I have my own very strong opinion about who is right and who is wrong in this debate…
…and who is at fault for creating this firestorm in the first place.
By now you’ve probably seen the viral video of the bearded guy repeatedly fist-bumping the back of the woman’s airplane seat after she reclined, spilling his drink all over him.
The internet and every single person who has ever flown on an airplane is taking sides.
Go Ahead, Blame “The Victim”
While I certainly do not condone his somewhat aggressive form of protest, there can be no doubt that anyone who reclines their seat in the coach cabin of an airplane is a horrible selfish human being.
There. I said it. Bring on the hate mail.
I don’t care. I’m right.
Seat recliners are wrong.
I fly virtually every day. I’ve flown over three million miles. Almost all of them in coach.
And I have never reclined my seat. Not once.
The reason is simple: because THERE IS NO ROOM to recline your seat in the cramped coach cabin of an airplane.
At 6’3” I am painfully aware of this fact — and made even more painfully aware every time the jerk in front of me tries to push his seat further into my kneecaps which are already embedded into the back of his seat.
This brings me to another peeve about this argument.
If you are under six feet tall, your opinion literally SHOULD NOT COUNT.
For short people, a reclined seat in front of them is a minor inconvenience — it eliminates a few inches of personal space and makes it a bit harder to eat or work on your tray table.
Irritating, to be sure.
But for anyone over 6 feet, all that inconvenience is trumped by the torture of crushed kneecaps crammed into the metal frame of the seat for hours at a time.
If you don’t understand that there is no room to recline, the two kneecaps pressed into the back of your thinly insulated seat should be all the clue you need.
Hmmm…I Wonder Why My Seat Won’t Recline
And yet seat recliners remain undeterred, repeatedly pressing the little silver button and pushing backward with all their might.
Occasionally, the person in front of me will turn around to see what is obstructing their self-proclaimed God-given right to recline.
At which point I will politely point out that they are already sitting in my lap and there is no more room to recline.
At this point, the seat recliner has already proven to be both clueless and selfish by even attempting this maneuver, not self-aware enough of the simple fact that he is wedged in a cramped metal tube with zero space between the seats.
But at this point, having been freed from the burden of his own lack of self-awareness, the seat recliner can redeem himself a bit if he relents and chooses to ride out the rest of the flight in an upright position like the rest of us.
Oh, but some seat recliners will not be deterred, descending into the depths of evil humanity.
You Are About to Go Viral
And this is where our famous viral video picks up.
Despite being asked by the bearded guy not to recline her seat, the woman chooses to do so anyway. When the man protests by (admittedly) immaturely pounding the back of her seat with his hands, out comes the ubiquitous cell phone.
The seat reclining woman begins recording the man punching her seat and hits the flight attendant call button.
Much to her dismay, the flight attendant takes the side of the man — who, by the way, is seated in the very last row where seats cannot recline.
The flight attendant tells the woman it is a violation to record video on a flight, threatens her with federal prosecution and offers the man a free drink.
Call the Lawyers
Enraged, the woman immediately posts the video to the internet and contacts her attorney, filing a lawsuit against American Airlines and assault charges against the passenger behind her.
These disputes, which happen on every single flight, are usually waged by more passive-aggressive means.
A kneecap to the small of the back.
A few bangs on the tray table.
A stray fold of my newspaper irritatingly rubbing the top of the bald head now laying a few inches below my chin.
But we all know who is REALLY to blame here.
Yes, selfish unaware passengers who recline their seats have a special place reserved for them in the depths of hell — preferably strapped to a gurney with two demons perpetually banging their kneecaps with a ball pein hammer for eternity…
…but I digress…
…it is the airlines that created this passive-aggressive battle at 36,000 feet for personal space.
Once upon a time, airlines provided enough space for normal-sized human beings to sit on their planes.
But the pitch between seats has steadily shrunk over the past four decades by more than eight inches.
If you are naïve enough to believe the airlines are unaware of this untenable situation, then you need to read my theory on how airlines HATE their customers.
Two obvious solutions the airlines could provide to solve this problem are to provide enough space for people to fit on their planes — or, if that is too much to ask — at least get rid of the recline option and the little evil silver button altogether.
Torture is All Part of the Business Plan
But making passengers miserable and hate each other is all part of the modern airline business model.
I would go so far as to postulate that the viral video incident and resulting lawsuit against American Airlines is all part of their marketing plan.
The higher your expectations for misery, the more you are willing to pay the airline.
Any other industry wants to market to you all the wonderful benefits of its services.
The airlines market how tortuous their service is.
Just listen to Delta CEO Ed Bastian, in response to this seat recline controversy.
You Need to Pay (A Lot ) More for Comfort
After hilariously proclaiming that “We generally do not see that issue on Delta”, he quickly adds that passengers can always opt to pay more to sit in “Delta Comfort”, coach class seats that have what used to be normal legroom.
Do you see what he just did there?
Yes, we deliberately designed our seats to be tortuous for normal-sized human beings. However, if you pay us even more money, we will relieve some of the torture.
And by “pay us even more money” I mean A LOT of money, often hundreds of dollars more per flight.
The airlines are not in the business of getting you from Point A to Point B. They are in the business of dreaming up novel depraved methods to torture you — and then getting you to pay them to relieve some of the torture.
Well, they say what comes around, goes around. I guess we’ll all have to wait for the afterlife to see if that is true…
…but I have some suggestions.
For airline CEOs like Ed Bastian, forget the demons with ball pein hammers. That is WAY too good for them.
If I had anything to do with it, they will have a special “Airline CEO” corner of hell all to themselves — strapped into a coach seat on one of their planes for all eternity.