Recently a flight from Newark to Denver was diverted to Chicago because of an in-flight dispute over a contraption called the Knee Defender. This new device stops an airplane seat from reclining. A male passenger used the Knee Defender to stop a female passenger in front from reclining while he was using his laptop. When asked to remove the device, he refused, so the female stood up and soaked him with a cup of water.
I once took a plane ride to a meeting and while in the air attempted to use my laptop. The person in front of me reclined rendering my laptop unusable. I’m 6’ 3” so flying is not comfortable for me in the first place. For starters, the back of the seat which cradles your shoulders and provides support for your head hits me between my shoulder blades. To have some comfort I slouch my shoulders down which pins my knees into the seat in front. If someone reclines, what little space is there disappears. You won’t be surprised that I think the Knee Defender is a good idea.
The FAA has not ruled on this device which makes airlines responsible for setting their own rules. Some have forbidden it and in this case, the man was in the wrong because the flight attendant had asked him to remove it. Still, we tall guys have sympathy for this situation.
This device that diverted a plane brings up an interesting debate on in-flight manners. When you purchase a ticket, does that guarantee you the space behind? Do you have a right to all space three feet or less from your nose? Can you restrict the movement of someone else’s seat? How about the space under their seat – is that yours or theirs? Do priests and pregnant women get special consideration? (Sorry, but I could not resist that.)
I’m wondering what the appropriate Christian response is assuming the front seat passenger is not attempting to baptize the rear seat passenger.
This story reminds me of another flight, from the U.S. to Russia. The aisle passenger reclined his seat as far back as possible. The result was passengers in this row would pull, push, bounce and drive their knees into his seat every time they exited or returned; the behavior seemed to worsen as the 12-hour flight dragged on. Yet the passenger would not take the hint and put his seat upright; he seemed to sleep through it, maybe indignantly.
Getting back to an appropriate Christian response. In this situation, I believe it probably starts with hospitality. Perhaps we should not fight but, rather, respect each person’s right to as comfortable flight as possible. Given the information we know in this news story, perhaps finding middle ground would have kept the plane en route to Denver instead of causing a delay of more than ninety minutes. And after all that, the airline determined not to intervene and both passengers were allowed to continue; I hope they at least changed seats.
Once on a short flight from Boise to Spokane a flight attendant announced that nearly half our plane had tight connecting flights and to please stay seated if our final destination was Spokane. I watched a young family stay seated until everyone on board had the opportunity to leave. Prior to landing, The mother said to her children, “Stay seated, kids, because just like Jesus said, ‘The last will be first and the first last.’” Then she chuckled and said to her husband, “I hope our Final Destination is better than Spokane.”