Passengers who recline without thinking are no friends of mine.

Air travel reclining has to stop.

You may think you are just relaxing. You may think it's your right. But tilting your seat back on a domestic flight is an act of aggression. No different than poking someone's shoulder at a pub. Eventually you will push the good flyers of this country too far. Then there will be nothing relaxing about what will happen to you.

Like most New Zealanders I am a nice person. I help people when they break down, I stand up for the elderly on buses, I smile and say "good morning" to strangers on the street and I ask checkout people "how their day is going" even though I don't care.

But recline in front of me mid-air and I will explode.


I used to let reclining slide. I turned the other cheek. That was before I saw the damage it can do. Two years ago on a flight from Auckland to Dunedin I was catching up on some work. My laptop was out on the tray table, a coffee beside it. I was relaxed and happy. Then suddenly the person in front reclined right in my face, spilling the coffee on my laptop, burning my knees and staining my white shirt.

I undid my seat belt and jumped up expecting an apology or at least some sympathy. What happened next shocked me to my core.

"I'm allowed to recline you know," yelled the 50-something lady who had just scolded me with her aggressive relaxation.

That day I saw into the cold, selfish heart of the recliner. I was forced to spend the next 10 minutes kicking the back of her seat. Every time she complained, I yelled "I'm allowed to".

Luckily she backed down and tilted forward before the hostess became involved. Heated in-air arguments rarely end well.

In recent weeks three US flights have been returned to destination on the back of a reclining fracas.

It's only a matter of time before it happens here.

It's important to note that many recliners have no idea what they are doing to the passenger behind them. There is a recline function so they use it. These people need to be told. With all the pointless safety nonsense we have to listen to pre-flight. Surely they could add a "recline responsibly" line.


Hassling people to turn off their laptops 30 minutes before landing is a waste of time. They know it and you know it. Passengers reclining in other passengers' faces is a ticking time bomb.

In the perfect world there would be enough space between seats to recline without causing a brouhaha. If the airlines are going to have a recline function they should allow for the space. If they insist on ramming more and more rows of seats on to planes they should remove the function. Simple.

However, just because you're allowed to do something doesn't mean you should. There is no law against stinking. We could all just stop showering and torture people with our odour. Considerate humans don't stink, or recline.

Unfortunately, there are bad eggs out there who don't care. As a result some American passengers are fighting back with anti-recline clips. The Knee Defender is a device you can order online. You simply attach the two plastic clips to the arms of your tray table. Stopping the creeping evil in its tracks.

There are a couple of problems with the Knee Defender. Firstly, they may land you in custody for modifying an aircraft in flight. Secondly they can cause an equal and opposite reaction.

On a recent flight between Newark and Denver a passenger fastened a Knee Defender to his tray table. When the passenger in front couldn't recline she retaliated by throwing water in the fastener's face. A fight broke out and the plane made an emergency landing in Chicago where both passengers were arrested.

Clipping is an extreme measure. But so is reclining. If for some medical reason you must recline on a domestic flight, try asking the person behind you if it's okay. Be nice.

Recliners aren't breaking any rules. But know this. You are making an enemy of the person behind you. Nice people like me who help old ladies across the street.

In life you can choose to be selfish or considerate. It's up to you. But recline in my face and prepare to be poked in the back of the seat.

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