Flying on British Airways? Prepare for a “gentle recline” in your seat.
That’s the airline’s way of saying it is removing the capacity for seats to recline on new aircraft. It announced this week it will redesign seating on 35 new A320neos and A321neos it is adding to its fleet this year, making it the latest airline to enter what has been called the “airline seat battles.” Companies have continued to shrink legroom and redesign cabins, with larger airlines beginning to resemble budget airlines. “The new aircraft will have brand-new seats set to a gentle recline to ensure everyone in the cabin enjoys a comfortable journey,” a spokesman told the Telegraph. “These changes will also allow us to offer more low fares to customers.”
Reclining seats have become a point of contention for travelers, even causing at least one in-air fight that required the pilot to divert the plane. Allegiant Air
and European airline Ryanair
already offer seats that do not recline, but British Airways is the first nonbudget airline to join the ranks of rigid seating. Will your airline be the next to nix reclining chairs? Not likely, says Brian Sumers, airline reporter at travel analysis site Skift.
“A few other full-service airlines might add pre-reclined seats, but it’s probably not going to become a trend soon,” he said. “Many larger U.S. and European airlines have added seats to planes in recent years, and while they have noticeably shrunken legroom on many planes, they’ve kept recline. British Airways might be an outlier for a while.”
Nonreclining seats are reportedly lighter, which cuts fuel costs and saves the airline money. It also eliminates the debate of whether it is rude to recline a seat into a passenger’s already-small personal space on a flight, Sumers said.
“The argument is that pre-reclined seats are more comfortable for passengers because in an already tight configuration travelers don’t need to worry about another passenger reclining into them,” he said.
Flying is a large source of consumer complaints, with 92% of travelers saying the air-travel experience “leaves a lot to be desired,” a 2017 study from Airfarewatchdog.com found. To recline or not to recline is part of a larger conversation about air travel. A federal court ruled in August 2017 that airlines must address consumer concerns about shrinking seat size after American Airlines planned to reduce legroom in new jetliners to just 29 inches — in line with budget airlines like Frontier and Spirit whose comparable measurement is as small as 28 inches.
After a consumer backlash, American Airlines reconsidered and kept the seat pitch at a minimum of 30 inches. Sumers predicts airlines will continue to shrink legroom space and charge more for bags, including carry-on items.