The uncomfortable truth about air travel - GulfToday

The uncomfortable truth about air travel

Birjees Hussain

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

Air travel is taxing

Travelling is no fun and this was highlighted recently when a passenger posted a video of her plane trip that went viral on social media.

Some people love to travel. Others do not, especially when it becomes too frequent. Many people have been known to give up certain jobs because of the frequency of air travel that was required. That kind of job is often referred to as ‘living out of a suitcase’, meaning you’re forever packing, unpacking and packing again. It can be tiresome and exhausting.

Travelling is no fun and this was highlighted recently when a passenger posted a video of her plane trip that went viral on social media. I’m sure you’ve seen it.  The woman reclined her seat. The passenger behind her got upset and began banging the back of her seat with his hands. Apparently the back of her seat was touching his knees. And to top it all off, because of the location of his seat, which was at the very back of the aircraft, it could not recline. After the video went viral, people were divided with respect to whose side they were on, because some identified with the recliner and some with the man in the seat behind her.

I can see both passengers’ points of view, although I’ve never been on a plane where the last seat was that uncomfortable when the seat in front reclined. In fact, I’ve found the last seat to be a tad more comfortable than other seats in economy, especially the ones with 2 seats because there always seems to be extra legroom to compensate for the lack of recline.

After the incident, an airline spokesman said that it might be an idea to ask the passenger behind you if it’s okay for you to recline before doing so. This resulted in an uproar from people who saw the video and read that comment. From the woman’s point of view, everyone argued one simple fact that every passenger has the right to recline their seat especially on very long haul flights or flights that are longer than, say, two to three hours. They also argued that the seat probably costs what it does because the mechanism for reclining it is built into the price. They told the spokesman and directed their ire to every airline telling them that if they didn’t want passengers to recline then they should make sure that the seat does not.

So does that mean that the woman was right and the passenger behind her was wrong? I think both are right.

Now this incident occurred on a domestic flight. Domestic carriers have been known to cram in more seats in order to maximise profits. More seats obviously means less legroom and a reduction in the angle to which their seats can recline. But let’s be honest here and think about things from the man’s perspective. No matter how much less a seat is able to recline, it does not help the passenger behind the seat because his legroom has also diminished.

 In such cases when a seat in front of you reclines it not only feels claustrophobic but physically intrusive. The man claimed that the seat was touching his knee! Can you imagine sitting with something touching your knee for an hour or longer? On any flight that degree of contact from a hard object is totally unacceptable to the human body. Many people asked why the man took the last seat if he didn’t like the prospect of the seat in front reclining. That is the most absurd argument ever. Firstly, airlines often overbook and you take what you can because nothing else is available. Secondly, how could he have imagined that a basic function of an airline seat would have caused him so much physical discomfort? Thirdly if a flight is packed solid, there is no option to move seats after take-off because everyone is packed in like sardines!

I agree that perhaps the passenger didn’t handle things with a cool head. Instead of banging the back of her seat in anger or anguish, I don’t know which, but he could have tried a few things. He could have asked the crew to see if they could help him switch seats with another passenger. But if that didn’t work, he could have politely asked the lady if she really needed to recline (often you don’t unless you intend to sleep which is usually only on long flights) and explain that the seat was causing him knee pain.

The fact is that neither approaches might have worked in which case, upon landing, he could have provided feedback about his trip to the airline and then never to fly with them again. He could also have taken a video or photos of how the seat in front was literally touching his knee and causing him discomfort and post them online with the name of the airline. That usually gets their attention.  

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