Man Fined $400 For Inflight Reclining Seat Fight

reclining seat
Douglas Perkins, WikimediaCommons

One inflight debate which seems to bring strong feelings from both sides is the right to recline your seat (during a flight).

Some people feel that it is rude to recline your seat while others feel that if the seat reclines then it is your right to do so.

While I might not recline during a flight or recline all of the way if I do, I’d have to say that I’ll side with those that feel, if the seat reclines, then I’m allowed to.

For instance, on July 4, Kim, Lucas and I were flying home from Nicaragua. On our flight from Miami back to NYC, out of nowhere the seat in front of me reclined rather fast onto my knees. A second later, the young guy sitting in the seat turned around and asked if I minded.

That was polite of him but what could I say?

While I would’ve preferred if his seat wasn’t fully reclined, who am I to say no it isn’t? The airline allows the seat to recline therefore, this passenger had the right to do so if it made him more comfortable.

I feel that this is a pretty rational way to look at this debate. For those of you that disagree, feel free to make your arguments in the comments below.

I came across a crazy story from Mashable, “Man Fined $400 For Abusive Behavior In Mid-Air Fight Over Reclining Plane Seat“.

According to the article, a 38-year-old man, Shane Matthew Diedrichs “got upset when the passenger in front of him, a doctor, refused to put his seat back in the upright position on a flight from Wellington to Brisbane on Virgin Australia last November“.

What I felt made this story odd was Diedrichs’ reasoning for what he did during the flight. He wasn’t really so upset that the seat was reclined, he became very angry due to how the passenger in front of him rudely responded to his request!

Witnesses on the flight said that Diedrichs “became so agitated that he began pushing, kicking and kneeing the doctor’s seat“.

The doctor claims to have suffered whiplash due to Diedrichs’ behavior.

The judge saw that Diedrichs was remorseful and fined him the equivalent of $400 US for abusive behavior, avoiding being charged for assault.

I don’t know… Rude or not, does this justify Diedrichs assault on the seat of the passenger in front of him?

Find out more about the story from Mashable here.

11 thoughts on “Man Fined $400 For Inflight Reclining Seat Fight

  1. Its simple for me, if the seat I paid for reclines, I have the right to recline. I understand the person behind me may not like that, but I may not like it if the person in front of me reclines their seat either, yet it is their right and I have no say in it. But to intentionally make contact with the seat the recliner sits in with the intention of harassing him or her is assaultive behavior and should not be tolerated. If you expect first class you have to pay for it, not take it out on your fellow passengers. We don’t like being packed like sardines any more than you do.

  2. Reclining during meals are being served is prohibitive. Reclining during the entire flight is an unnecessary limitation for the person behind.

    Since airlines can not educate the passengers… And passengers respect towards others is near to zero I avoid flying coach.

  3. If there’s nobody behind you, it’s perfectly polite to recline at any time. If you’re on an overnight flight, reclining after meal service is understandable. The people that irk me are the “I paid to make your knees ache, so I’m gonna do it” mentality. Selfish, entitled, and mean spirited. I’m 6’5, and I follow these rules, but then I consider it to be a matter of courtesy. Just because someone is rude to you does not justify being rude to another person. If I can squeeze in without hurting the person behind me, then the shorter person in front of me can show the same basic courtesy.

  4. Paul- Well said!

    Tortelon- But maybe reclining for the person that reclined their seat feels that it is necessary? If you could afford to only fly premium cabins, that is awesome. We mainly fly coach.

    Christian- I don’t know- I highly doubt that many recline just to hurt the knees of the person behind them. I wonder if you’ve ever really thought about the rules you speak of? They are your rules & opinions not something that all must follow. My guess is that fights occur over reclining seats because so many have such strong feelings as to what is right/ wrong when it comes to this topic.

    1. You are completely correct. I misspoke. Extremely few people back into your knees just for fun. My issue is with the person who can feel your knees and just doesn’t care. As to my rules, I’ve considered them repeatedly, and good manners aboard a flight is rarely a bad thing.

  5. Christian- Right! Why would someone intentionally try to hurt someone else.
    I completely agree that good manners – all of the time is a good thing whether or not it is on a flight… The thing once again is that the rules you mention are yours and not all might agree with and (obviously) know/ follow them.

  6. Mike- First off there was no fight. I thought it was a good discussion. Although I want to laugh, I’m trying to figure out why you think this is an appropriate comment?

  7. I had this happen to me years ago on a Delta flight from Cape Town to Atlanta. After I reclined, the person behind me repeatedly hit the back of my seat and then tried to push it upright. We nearly came to blows, because I was exhausted after the dinner service and it was a 17 hour flight.

  8. Evil Mitch- Yes you do. But the person in front of you has the right to recline if the seat does just like you can recline if you choose to.

    Yas I- Did the flight attendants have to get involved?

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