Delta Air Lines says a move to halve the amount some its seats can recline is aimed at helping people get things done on shorter flights frequented by business travelers.
The airline says the move to reduce the recline on its Airbus A320s is a test and not a prelude to cramming in more seats.
Seats in all 62 A320s in Delta’s fleet will be modified for the test over the next couple of the months.
The A320s typically fly shorter domestic routes of one to two hours that are frequented by business travelers.
The airline is reducing the amount its coach seats can recline from four inches to two inches while business class recline will drop from 5.4 inches to 3.5 inches.
That may be bad news for the people who like to put back their seats and relax but it’s good news for the knees and productivity of the people behind them.
“As part of Delta’s continued efforts to make the in-flight experience more enjoyable, Delta is testing a small change to its A320 aircraft – adjusting the recline throughout to make multitasking easier,’’ a Spokeswoman said.
“Delta has no plans to add seats or reduce space between rows with this test – it’s all about protecting customers’ personal space and minimizing disruptions to multitasking in-flight.”
Delta has 18-inch wide economy seats and 21-inch wide business seats on its A320s but legroom can be tight for those not opting to pay more for the 34-to 36-inch seat Delta+ seats or the 36 inches in “first”.
The airline’s website puts the economy seat pitch at 30- to 31-inches, making the in-seat laptop power superfluous if the person in front decides to fully recline their seat.
It’s not clear how much difference the extra two inches will make in this regard but it will no doubt help reduce one of the big conflict generators in air travel.
The idea is not new: US low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines has had non-reclining seats for a decade and Europe’s Ryanair, Norwegian and easyJet do it on many flights.
British Airways announced in 2018 it was launching on 35 new short-haul aircraft pre-set with “a gentle recline” that could not be adjusted.
Passengers also attempted to take the issue into their own hands a few years back with a product called “knee defender”.
The two plastic clips kept the seat in front locked in place and came with a courtesy card explaining points such as why they were being deployed and how much the person at the back allowed to recline the seat “without banging into my knees”.
It caused conflict between passengers and at one stage a United Airlines flight was forced to divert after an argument broke out between a traveler wanting to recline his seat and another using a knee defender.
The device was ultimately banned on all major US airlines as well as many of those in other jurisdictions.