There is a battle going on in passenger airplanes all over the country between passengers who think they have a right to recline their seat and the people in the seats behind them. The story broke last week when a man installed a new invention, The Knee Defender, to prevent a woman from reclining her seat. The airline attendant asked him to remove it, and he refused – presumably insisting on his right to not be encroached upon.
It’s now an interesting question: who has the right to the 12 inches of space. Josh Barro argues that the right goes to the person who controls the reclining function, because use of the reclining function was part of the purchase. He further argues that passengers to have to pay the person in front a fee to have them refrain from reclining. However, you might think that the person behind the potential recliner has purchased access to the space behind the seat. They would also have presumably purchased a right to the use the seat tray as they see fit. It’s also conceivable that the airlines have simply oversold the space, and have created a situation where there are incompatible claims on the same space. Damon Darlin argues (contra Barro) that the Knee Defender is a good thing because it evens the negotiation playing. Instead of being slammed into by the person with the advantage (the recliner), both sides are on equal negotiating ground.
Now, even philosophers are weighing in.
What do you think? Do seat recliners have the right to recline, or do the people behind the seats have the right to their leg room? Is it permissible to use The Knee Defender to stop a recliner?