It’s become a national crisis. There’s a war in American airspace and something must be done about.
I speak of course of airline travel.
When did it turn into a reality TV show?
If you follow the news perhaps you saw the report about the Delta Air Lines flight from New York to West Palm Beach that had to be diverted to Jacksonville on Sept. 1 because two female passengers got into a heated argument. It began when one of the women became angry because the passenger in front of her reclined her seat.
This was no isolated incident. Three days earlier, a flight from Miami to Paris was diverted to Boston because of a confrontation between two passengers over the exact same reclining-seat issue.
Four days before that confrontation, a United flight from Newark to Denver was diverted to Chicago after two passengers -- a man and a woman -- argued over -- you guessed it -- a reclining seat. This time, the male passenger used a “knee defender,” a device that prevents a seat from being reclined. The female passenger was so angry about the device that she threw a cup of water on the man, who refused to remove the device when asked to do so by flight attendants. Both passengers were removed from the flight.
If you’re like me, you are asking yourself some tough, deeply thoughtful questions, such as:
Where do I get that Knee Defender device?
The aforementioned issues have sparked a national debate about airline etiquette. Associated Press conducted a poll after the first confrontation: Who was at fault – the man who refused to let the other passenger recline his seat, or the woman who reclined her seat?
The answer of course is obvious.
It’s the woman’s fault.
Anyone who reclines a seat on an airline should be forced to eat airline food for a week and sit in the B seat between two offensive tackles with bad hygiene.
It’s not against airline rules or the law to recline your seat; neither is putting your feet up on someone’s lap across the aisle or coughing in your seatmate’s face. It’s just rude and inconsiderate.
Look, on the Fun Scale, airline travel ranks somewhere between awful and terrible; personally, I’d rather have a root canal than fly coach. I’m not surprised by the confrontations. I’m surprised there haven’t been more of them.
The airlines share equal blame for the mid-air confrontations. In an effort to squeeze every dollar out of their flights, airlines have reduced the room between seats (as well as the width of seats), cramming as many people as they can into their coaches like they’re hauling cows to the market. Unless you’re Danny DeVito, you’re bound to be uncomfortable. No wonder passengers are acting like 5-year-olds.
You’ve got to have your wits about you to have a reasonably comfortable flight these days. When you get on a plane, you’ve got to act like Peyton Manning standing at the line of scrimmage making a pre-snap/flight read. First, check the overhead bin because, let’s face it, it’s a land rush to claim space there, and it’s critical that you put your carry-on up there so you’ve got foot room.
Next, check the person who is going to be sitting in front of you. Does he/she look like a recliner? Let’s hope not.
Then you make your last pre-snap read: Who is sitting next to you? If he’s as big as Cuba and he’s already claimed the elbow space on the mutual armrest, your game plan is in serious jeopardy. As the plane rises into the air and gains a certain altitude, the flight attendant comes on the P.A. to tell you it’s safe to move about the cabin and recline your seat.
This is The Moment of Truth. Will the man/woman/child in front of you recline? And then it happens: The man reclines his seat, right into your knees. He’s almost in your lap. Suddenly, you’re a dentist and he’s your patient. You can count the hairs on his head. The book you are trying to read is inches from your face. Your laptop is crushed. If only you were a contortionist. Packed into your seat like an anchovy, you face a dilemma: Do you ask him not to recline and risk offending him? Do you give him a few shots in the back with your knees? Do you surrender?
You can thank the airlines for all of the above.