Just Plane Wrong

Dear Annabel Manners,

My friend recently sent me a link to a new gadget for those traveling by airplane called “The Knee Defender.” The device enables you to “lock” the seat in front of you, effectively preventing that passenger from reclining.

My friend, disgruntled that airlines have reduced leg room to increase capacity, thinks it’s perfectly fair. I disagree, on the notion that you’re taking away another person’s right — if not God-given, at least purchased — to recline.

For the record, I am 5’10 and my friend is 6’2.

Long-Legged in Los Angeles
Dear LL in L.A.,
I’m siding with you on this one. Talk about a sneaky maneuver!
Since too many planes are shabby and outdated, the would-be reclining passenger will probably just assume his or her seat is broken.
Theoretically, your friend could lock the seat in front of him, then choose to recline himself, all without having a conversation with any of his fellow passengers.
In terms of ethics and etiquette, the tall traveler has two options:
1. Buy business class or exit row seats, or
2. Wait until the person in front of him reclines, then politely ask that he or she refrain.
Here’s how to go about it:
“I’m so sorry to bother you, but I’m over six feet tall. If you tip your seat back, my knees will be smooshed all the way to [destination]. Would you mind not reclining all the way back?”
Most reasonable people will meet you in the middle and recline, say, half the distance. But if they insist on leaning  back, there’s really nothing a tall person can do except spend more money on seats.
My issue with the Knee Defender is that it takes the other passenger out of the equation.
Tall or short, thick or thin, air travel is vexing, and we’re all in it together.
Graciously yours,
Got an etiquette question? Send it to annabel@annabelmanners.com
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