Are you a recliner or a legroomer? In the zero-sum battle for flying comfort, everyone has to choose.
Well, maybe not everyone. For five times the price, you can still purchase a precious few inches in first class. But for the rest of us, flying equals narrow rows, crowded planes and a simmering hostility over seating angle that's breaking into open warfare.
On Wednesday, an American Airlines Miami-to-Paris flight was diverted to Boston after a fight broke out between a leaning woman and the cramped man behind her. Last Sunday, a Newark-to-Denver trip on United made an unscheduled stop in Chicago so the crew could eject a man with a Knee Defender and a woman who threw water in his face.
The Knee Defender, an ingenious and provocative little gadget invented by 6-foot-3 Ira Goldman, stops the passenger in front of you from tilting back, bruising your knees, spilling your coffee, triggering your claustrophobia and leaving you jealous at the comparative comfort enjoyed by Volkswagen clowns. So of course, most airlines have already banned the Knee Defender.
Apparently, the rising fares, disgruntled attendants, dinky snacks and gouging fees for everything but a trip to the lavatory weren't enough to signal how airline executives really feel about the human cargo. Can high-flying pay toilets be far behind?
Really, there are only three choices here.
The airlines can jam fewer rows in the planes, which seems unlikely. They can disable the recline buttons, which is probably what's next.
Or they can give up seats entirely, turning all flights into standing-room-only trips. But don't worry. For an extra $50, you can reserve a spot near a pole.