Reclining airline seats: Brace for impact!

Random acts of kindness: Keeping airline seats in the upright position

Airplanes and comfy seats rarely belong in the same sentence. But our Luke Burbank thinks he's found the perfect way to ease airplane agony:

I was on a flight recently, when something very unfortunate happened… a tall, tall man sat right in front of me, and I knew it was only a matter of time before he would be committing that unspeakable act of reclining his seat.

Now years ago, this wouldn't have been such a big deal. Flying was a civilized event. The airlines gave us room to stretch out. People wore suits. Hell, they even let you smoke!

Airline seats of old. CBS News

But these days, things have changed. They've shrunk our personal passenger space down to the point where you need to slather yourself up in Crisco just to wedge yourself into your seat.

And forget about choosing exactly where that seat will be. The way it works these days is you buy the ticket, and then they tell you it's another hundred dollars if you want to actually be inside the airplane.

Anyway, as our flight took off, I braced for impact – the impact of the seat in front of me hitting my knees. But when we reached cruising altitude, something amazing happened …. Nothing. By which I mean this very tall man in front of me decided not to recline his seat!  It was a random act of kindness, and one that's stayed with me to this day.

It also got me thinking: why do we recline our seats on the plane? It's not like it makes that much of a difference.

Here's me sitting straight, and here's me reclined (moves back a tiny bit)

Reclining your seat improves your experience by 1% … and ruins the experience of the person behind you by 99%. Economists call this trade-off "Being A Jerk."

Coming face-to-back with an airline seat recliner.  CBS News

I say it's time for a national movement. I know, another one. But just hear me out: if we all agree not to lean our seats back, we can make the world (at least the world of air travel) a slightly better place. 

I'm calling it the "Decline 2 Recline" movement. We're gonna have T-shirts and everything! We were going to have buttons, but they don't let those through security anymore. (Don't get me started.)

Anyway, next time you're on the plane, and you're about to recline your seat, think about the person behind you, and practice a little kindness. You never know: one day, the knees you save may be your own.

More from Luke Burbank: 

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Story produced by Aria Shavelson.