Ridiculous edit appears in newspaper’s response to “Can I recline my seat” question

I was flipping through the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday this week and came across the title, “Can’t recline on plane†under the ‘Ask Amy’ column. Anything airline, hotel or travel industry related always gets me to stop and read the article, and this one had me running to my computer to send in a retaliatory response & complaint.

The reader, Sleepless in Chicago, asked the columnist for advice on reclining your seat on an airplane. Sleepless had apparently returned from an international trip where the person behind “didn’t allow†him/her to recline, and it was apparently not the first time it has happened. Sleepless goes on to explain that s(he) has always employed proper etiquette when attempting to recline in that s(he) is conscious during meal times to avoid reclining, makes the courtesy “look back†to see if the person behind is using a laptop, slowly reclines back at other times, etc. The reader’s final question to Amy was “If the chairs shouldn’t be reclined, why do the airlines have them?†Here is the response printed in the paper:

a close-up of a newspaper

You can probably understand my shock. What? The spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) really said that? Totally ridiculous in my opinion. I tend to do my due diligence before firing off retaliatory responses, and I’m glad I did in this case. Here is a link to the full response given by Corey Caldwell, the AFA spokeswoman, which makes a lot more sense when read in the full context. She correctly identifies it as a right of passengers to recline their seat, but with the utmost courtesy given to the situation. The “not in the aircraft’s design†and “pinning in the seat†statements I still have mild issues with, but when the response is read in its entirety, it’s satisfactory.

Seat manufacturers are effectively making this a non-issue going forward with seats being redesigned to slide forward within their shell, such as seen in the ANA 787 video. Even today many of American’s newer 737-800s feature a similar functionality, and other airlines are installing these new age pseudo-recliners in economy.

I know I make my own share of mistakes when writing, but shame on the Los Angeles Times for their incredibly poor edit of the full response. I wonder how many people are now taking it as gospel and spreading the AFA’s “advice†to absolutely not recline airplane seats?



  1. I actually agree with the edited version. Reclining seats tends to be a very rude thing to do, unless it’s a child or small person behind you. Just because the seat is technically able to recline in no way, shape, or form makes it polite or, in many cases, acceptable to do so. Your car has a capability to go 180 miles an hour – but it’s unacceptable to do that. Seats, excepting first/business class and perhaps longhaul designs, should be created without recline capability to legislate for rude people who choose to do it anyway.

  2. @James: Point well taken. Thanks for chiming in, but I respectively disagree. Reclining a seat is a “right” given the fact you have the button, but I believe you should be courteous about it and acknowledge the person behind you. Thanks for your comment.

  3. James: I am 6’1″ with long legs. It doesn’t bother me at all if the person in front of me reclines. That’s what the button is for. Perhaps the polite thing to do is if the person in front of you wants to recline, to allow it.

  4. I can’t believe there are people who think you shouldn’t be able to recline your seat. I almost always recline my seat at least a bit, I don’t care who is behind me, but I do practice due diligence when reclining. If someone prevents you from reclining call the F/A and if they do nothing tell the person you might recline at any time, and then in a few minutes smash your chair back making sure they can’t stop you.

  5. I’m 6’5″ and I’m gonna (gently) recline my seat the instant I can. I couldn’t care less if someone behind me doesn’t like it.

    @James “Just because a car can go 180 MPH . . . ” Please refer to the dictionary under “non sequitur”. You’ll find your post there to help people understand what an irrelevant, illogical and pointless comparison looks like.

    • The original poster, Darren, and Mike are interestingly the only ones to actually answer without emotion – which makes me think there’s actually something that stirs passion in this discussion.

      Quark, Kris, Matthew – if I happen to be in coach and you sit in back of me, enjoy the countenance of civility.

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