Skift Take

Despite the issue of seat recline being a perennial hot-button topic, most passengers seem to be in support of Delta limiting the amount of seat recline on some flights.

Put these flyers into the recline haters’ camp. Recent limitations to seat recline that Delta Air Lines is planning for some flights are being warmly welcomed by many frequent flyers on the carrier.

The Atlanta-based airline announced last week that it would limit the amount of seat recline on some flights by about 50 percent, restricting the ability of passengers to lean back but guaranteeing more working space in front of everyone on the flight. Delta characterizes the move as positive for customers who want to maximize both space in front of them and their productivity, as in when using a laptop. There are mechanical considerations too; as the online aviation website Runway Girl Network points out, seatback screens in Delta’s economy don’t tilt up, which can make the viewing angle difficult for passengers when the seat in front of them is fully reclined.

Seat-recline discussions in the airline industry have typically been a lightning rod for controversy. While some passengers defend their right to lean back, others lament the lack of working space in front of them as knees bump into seatbacks and laptop screens get obstructed.

In this case, however, the move by Delta has largely been met with open arms by frequent travelers, many of whom spend the bulk of their time flying for business.

For some, it’s simply about personal space.

“I think it’s a fine idea,” said Joe Scully, a drone race commentator who frequently travels around the country on Delta headed to events. “I’m almost 6′ 3″. Normally when someone reclines their seat, my blood boils. I feel that the person is invading my space.”

On Twitter, the feedback among well-traveled passengers was similar. “Thank you Delta for using common sense in order to make passengers more comfortable,” tweeted professional speaker and photographer Paul de Burger, when the news broke. “Reclining seats are a menace, especially in economy.”

Others find value in the amount of working space that can now be guaranteed on the flights.

“On the vast majority of domestic flights, I try to work on my laptop.” said David Slotnick, a New York-based Platinum elite SkyMiles member. “It’s hard enough to type while sitting in a coach seat. When the person in front of me reclines, I’m forced to pull the tray table closer to me (if it’s a sliding one), tilt my screen downward, and then slouch in my seat so that I can see it — the latter which is made harder by the reclining person.”

Matt Sloane, CEO of a tech company based out of Atlanta and a Platinum Elite on Delta agrees. “I am not a seat recliner myself,” he said, “but I do regularly use my laptop on the plane. There’s really nothing worse than the seat in front of you coming back so far you can’t even open your laptop screen. I’m in favor of the changes.”

To that point, Delta is being judicious about where it’s rolling out the updates. In its initial test, the carrier is only limiting seat recline on a portion of its Airbus A320 fleet and only on shorter routes that heavily serve business travelers. This test, however, is a canary in the coal mine. If passenger feedback remains overwhelmingly positive, the carrier is open to updating the rest of its domestic fleet with this augmentation.


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Tags: business travel, delta air lines, skymiles

Photo credit: An interior shot of Delta’s A321 aircraft. Delta Air Lines

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