'Recline rage' is a knee-jerk reaction best avoided

If a meal is being served, I tap the passenger in front and inquire politely if they could just shift the seat a bit

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The Independent Travel

Travelling long-haul in economy has never been much fun. As you pass Business Class on your way to your meagre seat, it is impossible not to cast an envious glance at what you're about to miss out on. Squeezing into your scant space, you imagine premium passengers slumbering in their flat beds. In Economy the only "luxury" at your disposal is the ability to recline your seat. Recline too far though, and you risk retribution.

That question of how far to move your seat back is a serious one, as recent incidents of "recline rage" have shown.

Debate is still ongoing around the use of a plastic gadget called the Knee Defender which, when attached to the arms of a tray table, prevents the seat in front from reclining. One flier used it on a trip from Newark to Denver this summer, resulting in an argument that culminated with another passenger throwing water over the blocker.

The Knee Defender is usually not involved in incidents of recline rage, but what all episodes have in common is a lack of agreement about who has claim over those miserly few inches of space between rows. The argument from the passenger in front is simple: the airline gives me the seat and the button, so it is my inalienable right to press it. The argument behind is just as simple: the airline gives me this space and you are attempting to annex it, jeopardising the sovereignty of my kneecaps in the process.

Of course, both passengers are right. I've lost count of the number of times I've wanted to lunge over the headrest in front and throttle its occupant, who upon sitting down has thrust the seat back, oblivious to my wellbeing.

To fight this urge before it takes hold, I employ a variety of little tricks. If this is at the beginning of the flight, I just leave my knees stubbornly in place, ignoring the pain. If they challenge me I simply say: "I'm so sorry ... but I am 6ft 2in, and there is nowhere else for my legs to go. Do forgive me."

If a meal is being served, I tap the passenger in front and inquire, ever so politely, if they could just shift the seat a bit.

During sleep time, however, all bets are off. I will recline, gently, ensuring the knees of the person behind are not in the way. And I hope the passenger in front is as courteous.

In the era of low-cost airlines, where the carriers shove as many people as legally possible on to their aircraft, we must remember to treat each other as we wish to be treated.

Oh, and by the way, I'm writing this on board an easyJet flight. Like other low-cost carriers, easyJet has now installed slimline, no-recline seats, which safeguard your knees. To recline or not to recline? In Economy, the debate may soon be redundant.

Richard Quest is an international business correspondent for CNN and presents 'Quest Means Business'

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