Passenger 22C: A Story of Poor Airplane Etiquette

airplane etiquetteOn a recent trip from Vancouver to Amsterdam, I encountered Passenger 22C – better known to me now as Mr. Rude. The wheels of the plane had literally just tucked themselves back in when Mr. Rude, who was sitting directly in front of me, flung his seat fully back and began to bounce around—bashing my knees several times with each bounce. This continued for a while as he flipped and flopped, trying to find a comfortable position in the tiny seat.

There was a point when he turned around and looked at me and I thought “Oh, good, he’s just figured out he’s bashing my knees with his seat!” But, no. Instead, he asked me why his seat couldn’t go back any further! “Because my legs are there,” I told him, assuming this would trigger an apology or at the very least, encourage him to pull the seat up a little.

Again, I was wrong.

Passenger 22C proceeded to push farther back on his seat, determined to make it recline farther, as though he were in a reclining chair in his living room! I leaned toward him and said “You’re hitting my knees again.” He didn’t even acknowledge me – or apologize!

Mid-flight, 22C returned from a bathroom break and as he stood in the aisle, I leaned over and asked him (very politely!) if he could please put his seat upright when he was not occupying it.

“Oh, I forgot,” was all he managed to mumble, as he jumped back into his seat. I wish I had a timer to track how long he sat quietly in his seat. I can say, it was no more than five minutes before he was pushing back on his seat again.

Passenger 22C left his seat reclined for the entire eight-hour flight—bouncing and pushing back against my knees. I was seated in an aisle seat, so my fellow seatmates struggled to get in and out of our row for bathroom breaks. With Passenger 22C’s seat tilted all the way back, there was little room for any maneuvering!

During the long, uncomfortable flight, I didn’t know if I was more upset with Passenger 22C or with myself. Should I have had a word with the flight attendant? Let her know that Passenger 22C’s seat was disrupting my comfort? Could I have been clearer with Passenger 22C – made my case in a way that made him rethink how much his reclined seat was hurting me. Literally. Bashing my legs!

My mind shifted to “karma.” Maybe somewhere, somehow, he would have his comeuppance for the discomfort and lack of sensitivity he had shown me for eight long hours.

Reclining seats have been with us as long as airlines began making human passengers a priority. The reclining seats—along with footrests and in-seat ashtrays – were designed as part of the airlines’ commitment to deluxe accommodations. It was all part of the experience. Back then passengers dressed in three-piece suits and sipped martinis in flight–stretching their long legs one way and tilting their seats the other. Back then, there was ample room to stretch out.

Times have changed.

The right to recline one’s seat is a topic of debate. If the seat goes back, use it, people say. But courtesy has to always come first. Before we lean our seat back, perhaps we can warn the person behind us—or even ask that person if it’s okay. Respect your fellow passengers so that everyone aboard can sit back and enjoy the journey.

What are your airplane etiquette pet peeves? Share with us in the comments below!

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