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Stop the insanity of reclining airplane seats

By Maria Cardona
September 4, 2014 -- Updated 0147 GMT (0947 HKT)
What are the most annoying habits on airplanes? A series of seat recline skirmishes has passengers talking about the aggravations of air travel. Click through the gallery of 20 top irritants. What are the most annoying habits on airplanes? A series of seat recline skirmishes has passengers talking about the aggravations of air travel. Click through the gallery of 20 top irritants.
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20 rudest things people do on planes
20. Abusing overhead bin space
19. Taking ages to choose a movie
18. Compulsive leg-shaking
17. Boarding ahead of group number
16. Babies crying
15. Getting huffy when you leave seat
14. Yacking on cell phone
13. Bringing aboard stinky food
12. Loud talking
11. Establishing armrest hegemony
10. Poaching shared middle seat
9. Coughing, sneezing, germ sharing
8. Playing games with sound on
7. Wielding huge suitcases as carry-ons
6. People behind trying to disembark first
5. Cutting fingernails
4. Baring feet
3. Hogging toilets
2. Reclining seat
1. Kicking seat-back
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Maria Cardona: 3 planes recently diverted when passengers fought over reclining seats
  • She says the way to save us from our out-of-control uncivil behavior? Ban reclining seats
  • Let people play for reclining seats. But they can't grouse when seat in front reclines, she says
  • Cardona: Survey says most travelers would support a ban. If you wouldn't? Fly first class

Editor's note: Maria Cardona is a political commentator for CNN, a Democratic strategist and principal at the Dewey Square Group. She is a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton and was communications director for the Democratic National Committee. She also is a former communications director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- We have now witnessed the third instance in only nine days of a flight being diverted from its original destination because someone leaned her seat back and someone objected.

Has it come to this? Do we really need air marshals on flights now to intervene between people in front who (in this most recent case) want to get comfy and knit, and people behind who want to put their heads down on a tray table to nap?

Maria Cardona
Maria Cardona

While both passengers in each of the three cases had reasonable arguments on their side -- recliners felt they had every right to recline, and the people behind them felt their personal space was being violated -- does their inability to work it out not seem like just another example of a society where civility is declining?

There is a simple solution to save us from our worst selves: Get rid of reclining seats.

If we are all compelled to sit upright for a flight's duration, the issue of invading already infinitesimal personal space simply goes away.

This device caused an in-flight fight

What about your comfort you might ask? After all, in the breathless drive to obtain cheaper and cheaper fares, passengers are willing to give up much for a cheap flight. But must they endure even more?

Consider: The seats on budget conscious airliners like Spirit and Allegiant don't recline, and these airlines don't suffer disruptions from angry passengers about to brawl. And their bottom lines aren't exactly suffering.

Opinion: Don't ban reclining seats, ban jerks on planes

Too drastic? OK, there can be a middle ground, like asking fliers to pay more for reclining seats, which can be the same ones that have more legroom. Passengers already pay more for that, so it would work out quite nicely. One caveat: Passengers in these seats will have to know that the seats in front of them may recline into their capacious legroom space.

There will be an uproar, you say, from passengers if airliners ban reclining seats? Not likely. A recent survey of 1,000 air travelers by travel search engine Skyscanner showed a whopping 91% would support banning reclining seats on short-distance flights. Some 43% percent even supported a reclining seat ban on long-haul flights.

Airlines phasing out seat-back screens

And flight crews tired of breaking up fights would enthusiastically embrace such bans.

Folks, let's all go buy extra neck pillows, not Knee Defenders.

Let's save civility, cut down on diverted flights to places no one paid for to be, and simply increase our sanity. And if reclining comfort is still something you do not want to compromise on -- even if you are willing to impose on the comfort of your fellow passengers -- there is another solution for you: fly first class.

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