It’s no longer safe to recline your airplane seat
Then on Sunday night, on a Delta flight from New York to West Palm Beach, Florida, a woman resting her head on a tray table got upset when the passenger in front of her reclined his seat, hitting her in the head. That plane was diverted to Jacksonville, Florida.
The passengers on both the United and Delta flights were already sitting in premium coach sections that have 4 inches of extra legroom.
There were 14,903 flight diversions by U.S. airlines in the 12-month period ending in June, according to an Associated Press analysis of Department of Transportation reports. That means, 41 flights a day, on average, make unscheduled landings at other airports.
The government doesn’t break out the reason for diversions, but industry experts say the vast majority occur because of bad weather or mechanical problems. And diversions remain a tiny portion of the 6 million annual flights in the U.S. — less than a quarter of a percentage point.
The decision to divert is up to the pilot. Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant says the crew must determine if the person is going to cause harm to others or has terrorist intentions.
It can cost an airline $6,000 an hour, plus airport landing fees, to divert the standard domestic jet, according to independent airline analyst Robert Mann.
"These costs are among the reasons why airlines ought to be arbitrating these in-flight issues instead of diverting, not to mention the significant inconvenience to all customers and possible disruption of onward connections," Mann says.
Ben Baldanza, CEO of Spirit Airlines, says that if airlines install seats that can recline, passengers should have the right to recline. Of course, Spirit and Allegiant Air are the only U.S. airlines to install seats that don’t recline.
"People should lose the emotion," Baldanza says. "We’ve never had to divert because of legroom issues."