VIDEO: Ever Get Into a Fight Over Airplane Seats?


In the past week, there have been three separate instances where a flight had to land early, because passengers got into arguments over reclining seats. In one instance, a man got a cup of water thrown in his face; in another, a woman was so offended that she screamed for the flight to land immediately... and they did!

With airlines shoving more and more people into smaller and smaller spaces, is this the new normal for flights? Should we expect at least one altercation per flight? In this brief — yet lively — video, our experts discuss how they deal with personal space violations on airplanes.

What about you, readers? How do you deal with personal space violations on a flight? Have you ever got into an amusing altercation? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

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Dan Leadbetter
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@nimer - The bottom line is that airlines are charging more and giving us less. There isn't much a choice when all airlines are doing the same thing. This is why we need government regulations to prevent businesses from cheating consumers.
If you want more space, BUY A SEAT THAT HAS ENOUGH SPACE for you. Seats do come in those sizes. They are called Premium Economy, Business Class and First Class. If you're too cheap to pay to protect your knees, don't blame everyone around you.

You do have the right to recline the reclining seat you paid for. I have had someone do what Lewis did. I called the flight attendant and she told him to move his knees to the side and that if he couldn't do so, he would need to purchase a seat in premium economy or business class.

And this is also the airline's policy as noted by a flight attendant on FlyerTalk:
@eastside_golfer, very valid points. I was wondering about that myself; its a violation of FAA, it must be a regular seat. But even those only go back a couple of inches, unless the seat is broken; in which case the airline is required to keep it empty for safety reasons.

@weiliwang; I have my complaints about airlines but I wont' say they are the bad guys; just like any other business, they need to protect their margins to keep thousands of people employeed and shareowners happy; I don't see this being any different than any other business (unless you feel all business are bad). You have a choice in carriers
Not sure what kind of aircraft parry1 was on but in all my years of flying, the seats in the row in front of exit do not recline. That's so that the exit row remains as open as possible for emergencies. I've also never had a seat recline more than a few inches so how that ends up in someone's lap, I don't know. In any event, if I felt feet on the back of my seat.... ding, ding... the call button and let the flight attendant referee.
Let's not lose focus on who the real bad guys are.

There is nothing airlines would love more than to have passengers blame each other. However, it's the airlines who are making our seats smaller and tighter while charging more and more for them.

Had this "parry1" lady confronted me as she had this other guy, I would've ignored her, if not call the flight attendant and report her harassment. It's no one's problem but yours if you don't have enough space or time to do your work. Also you somehow feel it's right to physically touch his seat by putting your feet on it but it's wrong for his seat to be in your "space"?
I am a short woman and several years ago a rather tall man fully extended his seat into my lap. As I was seated in an emergency row and this was a cross country flight I decided I had to confront my fellow traveller and remedy the situation. I got up and walked around to his seat and introduced myself. "Frankly, I don't know you well enough to feel comfortable to have your head in my lap." As he started to make noise I told him that I was very embarrassed by the situation and that his wife/daughter/mother should not have to endure having strange men's heads in their laps either! I also mentioned that I was on a business trip and expected to complete work on my computer. He apologized and moved his seat forward but the seat slanted backwards into my space. Fortunately there was turbulence and we were required to move our seats forward. After that, I kept my feet on the back of his seat and had a lovely flight.
I think airlines should ban 'knee defender', and should enforce it just like they ban smoking. It's a fact of life the person in front of you will recline and you will recline too, so get over it people.

If you are not comfortable in economy seat, shell out the extra $$$ and go for exit seats, it's not the fault of the person in front of you. But in a typical American matter, we want first class service and space and pay $50 per flight.

Talk about entitlement
I would pay an extra few dollars if it meant some extra leg room...hopefully airlines start to learn that treating flyers as cattle will eventually bite them in the you know where!
As so many have pointed out in this debate, the main fault is a combination of airline & customer penny pinching. Customers want to fly at bus fare rates & airlines are cramming in as many seats as possible to compensate for lower revenue.

Most of my flights are on my own dime and international, typically from 6 to 14 hours non-stop, so I specifically choose foreign airlines that offer more legroom in economy & often much nicer service than our American carriers. When I do have to fly domestically I try to choose JetBlue or Virgin America. Some domestic airlines offer some economy seats with more legroom (e.g., United's "Economy Plus") for a slightly higher cost. If you are big guy, I can't imagine why you wouldn't try to snag one of those seats.

For flights under 2 hours I try not to recline as long as the person in front of me doesn't move his/her seat into my face. For longer flights, I might recline but do so slowly & not all the way.