It seems that lately there are more and more stories of violent outbursts, arguments, and ill feeling on airplanes. Many of these arguments stem from leg room associated with reclining seats. This issue seems to spark major debate from many people. Some say its a right to be able to recline, some say that it is problematic.
It's difficult to approach this subject without generalizing, but I will attempt to make my case here. Much of the voices on the internet I have read seem to be in the camp that the recline feature is there so it is a fundamental right. That is a good point, but many people appear to be unable to look at it from the other point of view, people who are tall tend to get hit by this issue far more often.
Now I will be the first to admit, this is far less of an issue on domestic flights. Really I rarely get upset by seat reclining on a domestic flight, the only annoyance in this case tends to be the incredible amount of space you lose with your tray table when someone reclines the seat. I have even had a tray table come close to crushing my computer when someone quickly reclines the seat. Once again though, domestic fights seem to be of little issue for me.
International travel is a big problem though. Being tall myself, I need leg room to stretch out for multiple reasons. The big one is prevention of DVT, I know people who have had DVT issues seriously impact their health for the rest of their life. This is a huge problem and the more the airlines try to pack in people, the more of an issue it become as it is harder for people to move properly and prevent these health issues.
Beyond health issues is basic comfort. The taller you are, the more of an issue the reclining seat become. Personally I am 6'2", on my recent flight to Seoul I had a man in front of me who ignored the flight attendant and kept reclining his seat even on takeoff and landing. The 777-200 has a wonderful metal bar across the back of the seat to support the pocket, this bar came squarely under my kneecap. To avoid that pain, I would shove my feet as far under the seat as possible, the man then proceeded to kick my feet repeatedly even though they were not in his foot space, still unsure how he managed this the entire flight. I was sandwiched between his long recline and his flailing feet.
I must also take this chance to make it known that I did have knee surgery when I was 18, I am fine now but putting my knee in an awkward position for a long period can become painful for me. At one point in the flight I got up to use the restroom and was quickly met with a painful knee that I hadn't felt in nearly 10 years.
This may be less of an issue for people who have shorter legs, but I want people to realize that this is an issue for those of us with longer legs. Don't just automatically write us off as complainers, it can be a big problem for me.
All of this said, this does not justify resorting to violent action at any point. I will always suffer in silence, but some people take the frustration to a physical level, this is never ok, and at no point should this be tolerated. The airlines need to take some action here to provide not only a comfortable environment, but also one that reduces medical risk like DVT.
Rocket Scientist, Travel Junkie, and Ruler of the 4th Moon of Omicron Persei 8