Delta Reducing Seat Recline On A320s

Filed Under: Delta
In the interest of full disclosure, OMAAT earns a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the below links. These are the best publicly available offers (terms apply) that we have found for each product or service. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, hotel chain, or product manufacturer/service provider, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Please check out our advertiser policy for further details about our partners, and thanks for your support!

Delta is making an interesting change to their Airbus A320 fleet, which is either good or bad, depending on how you look at it.

Delta is reducing seat recline on A320s

As reported by Skift, Delta will be significantly reducing seat recline on 62 Airbus A320 aircraft, most of which typically operate short flights:

  • In economy Delta will be reducing recline from four inches to two inches
  • In first class Delta will be reducing recline from five inches to three and a half inches

The first plane with the reduced recline is flying as of this weekend, and the project should be complete within the next two months. Delta calls this a test, so there’s a chance it will be extended to other planes as well.

Delta’s A320 first class

Why Delta is reducing seat recline

Delta isn’t doing this to add more seats to planes. Actually, their A320s are already dense, with 157 seats.

Rather Delta is doing this because they think it will increase passenger comfort. Delta has long tried to command a revenue premium for being the airline of the business traveler, and the airline has invested in high speed Wi-Fi and personal televisions at every seat throughout much of their fleet.

Earn more Delta miles

The problem is that when you have an economy product with 30″ of pitch, it’s really hard to even open a laptop if the person in front of you is reclining. By reducing the potential to recline, Delta thinks they’ll be creating a better experience for passengers.

As Delta’s director of onboard product and customer experience describes it:

“This is not a push to add seats to the cabin or find a way to reduce the pitch of the seats. It’s about ensuring an optimal experience.”

My take on seat recline

Seat recline is a controversial topic, and many people disagree about whether reclining is a right or a privilege.

Personally I think reclining a seat is a right (which is why the control is at your seat), but you should still be courteous, meaning you should recline slowly, and ideally even turn around and make eye contact with the person behind you.

Bottom line

Personally I don’t use recline at all on daytime domestic flights, so I’m in favor of this change. My priority is always having my laptop open, and even in Delta first class it can be tough to do that when the person in front of you is fully reclined.

So I’m in favor if this change on Delta’s part, though also recognize that others value recline a lot more than me. I certainly wouldn’t appreciate this change on a redeye, though.

What do you make of Delta’s decision to reduce seat recline on some planes — are you for or against it?

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
  1. I personally think this is a positive development. As tight as seat pitches are getting, reclining into somebody’s face is just not viable anymore. The last domestic flight I took was on an AA 737, comparably configured, and the people in front immediately fully reclined their seats. I could barely move my arms! Nobody otherwise fit to fly needs to recline for flights under 3 hours. That is, unless they are using this to reduce seat pitch in the future, which would be awful.

  2. I detest that people recline fully into your lap – absolutely selfish. Having said that, I agree with @Lucky’s standpoint, where one should be able to recline but to do so in a manner respectful to the person behind. It’s said that airlines have to start “forcing” it as we see here. I can also feel another “charge” coming on for seats that recline/don’t recline (I guess it’s a debate which one they should charge for!)

  3. I can’t say if it’s right, but I get the idea. I have as small a laptop as possible and it’s very hard to keep it on the tray. I like recline, but there are times I have forgot to even use it.

    Its clearly very well studied by Delta… whom I avoid as much as possible, as they are sketchy and unethical. But they are informed and sharp traders!

  4. Eh it doesn’t feel that controversial to me on an A320. Like you, on daytime flights I’m constantly working as well and only recline ever so slightly myself, so it’s a change that I personally would appreciate.

  5. Step 1: Limit seat recline on SOME shorter flights. Announce this is an enhancement, and just a test, only on shorter flights.
    Step 2: Aircraft are routinely swapped across different routes, so this will be in effect on any route, not just those scheduled for A320 aircraft, not just short flights. Eventually, this will become the new standard, everywhere.
    Step 3: Announce the test a success.
    Step 4: Reduce all seat pitch across the fleet by an additional 3 inches, because without recline, you need less space. Squeeze in more seats, make more money. Announce it as another enhancement, because it allows the airline to “keep prices low” (note that prices will not be lowered).

    Enhancement complete.

  6. If it’s a day time 1-3 hour flight, I think all seats should not be able to recline. Space is small enough as it is. Last thing I need is the person recline into my space which forces me to recline my seat into the person sitting behind me.

  7. At least delta didn’t go 10 abreast on their 777s. That itself is already proof that they care for their customers.

  8. Flying is a horrible experience anymore on any airline. Anyone that thinks it’s fine is 4′ tall and also thinks LA traffic isn’t a problem. Leaving for Hawaii today and not looking forward to it. Did not go with family to Mexico a couple of months ago because flying sucks. I’m 6’4″ 220 and do not get my monies worth. Another problem with airlines is carryon is shrinking because they themselves fail to do their job and stopping the people, usually Asian or black women with five carryon bags.

  9. With modern slimline seats it doesn’t matter how much recline the airline allows.
    The average weight of passengers will bend the seat-back into recline anyway.

  10. On an A320, which is just used for short flights, thats not an issue at all. I am actually happy to hear the news

  11. I have back issues and in general find economy seats are inclined too far forward when in upright landing/takeoff position. I recline not to piss off the person behind me but to feel any kind of comfort possible in an economy seat. Not sure how limiting recline would make my experience better.

  12. This is definitely a great enhancement in economy, though I’m not sure how much different it’ll make in first considering there’s already more space for a laptop or anything also you may wish to put on the table

  13. If you don’t want recline, fly Spirit. If you want more space, ride Greyhound.

    Quit whining.

    This doesn’t change the fact that Delta is the slimiest of the “full service” (ha!) airlines.

  14. I personally don’t like recliners for both long or short flights. I pay for my seat (or my space) when the person in front of me reclines it takes my ability to move or get up, it irritates me to no end. Why should my comfort (or lack there of) be taken away from me because of another selfishness. Thank you Delta, all other airlines should do the same.

  15. I am in the window bulkhead seat 90% of the time but still don’t have an urge to recline. I remember one rare international (9 hour) flight where I was not in the bulkhead and the person in front of me reclined and it dug into my knees (I’m 6 feet tall). I called an FA as the recline was unusually generous. They asked the person in front but they refused to reduce the recline. So I sat in the FA’s jump seat for several hours working on my laptop. Not very comfortable but they kept bringing me drinks and I had a lot of legroom. The FA’s were so nice on that flight. 🙂

  16. “Seat recline is a controversial topic, and many people disagree about whether reclining is a right or a privilege”

    Totally eliminate recline, and this whole argument goes away. 😉

  17. What pepople need to remember is that Delta isn’t necessarily doing this for their advantage (ie more seats more revenue) but rather for passenger comfort and I’m sure they would have clearly done their research going into this cause I doubt it’s an easy and cheap thing to do. So while there might be a few negative complaints; overall the majority will appreciate it.

  18. I welcome this. The more space between me and the passenger in front,the better, especially at meal time.

  19. As a Platinum on Delta I am for this. Last week I was on a flight with a number of elites as I could had a Delta Comfort middle seat but I opted to keep my aisle seat. It is tight to open my laptop on an A320 in the first place and work, but sure enough the guy in front of me recline his seat all the way back. So much for work on a 3 1/2 hour flight.

  20. OMG…..please remove the recline FOR ALL SEATS!!! It is such a pain to sit behind some person who immediately jams their seat in a recline position, smashing my laptop in the process. Seriously, eliminate all seat recline!!! Everyone wins!

  21. I have news for you. Economy seats are not very comfortable. Why not just design the seat layout to accommodate seat recline? Makes more sense than forcing someone to be uncomfortable because some want more personal space. The seats recline for a reason. Delta should increase space between rows so this stupid argument would go away.

  22. Regardless it is a positive for Delta. They will get more business travelers with this change, meaning more money. As for the leisure travelers disliking this, I doubt it will change which airline they fly.

  23. Seat recline was never a problem before they reduced space from a standard 34″. So the airlines are the ones that caused this problem in the first place.

  24. Totally agree with Jordan. The airlines keep on adding more and more seats, take away our confort and space and then shift the “reclining” problem to us.
    Like someone said, the reclining button is on our seat, so we should be able to use it.
    The airline is taking your space away, not the person in front of you! Wake up folks!
    And some folks here seem to be oblivious of that and blame the passenger in front who is just trying to have a little confort. That is the saddest part.

  25. Very happy to hear this. As long as the airlines keep reducing pitch, I’d like to keep as much of my 31 inches as possible. If they want to keep reclining seats, they should install the type where the base of the seat moves forward, so a person who reclines gives up their own leg space to do so.

  26. This is why I fly JetBlue whenever possible. Minimum 32” pitch, often 33-34”. On any other airline, I just budget for extra legroom seats or buy domestic first class if it’s a reasonable upcharge. Not only does it allow me to get work done on my laptop, but when you’re 6’3” tall every inch counts. The difference between 31” and 34” is the difference between my knees touching and having space to stretch. Plus it’s just less claustrophobic and anxiety provoking.

    I think Delta is onto something though I would never fly in one of their seats with 30” of seat pitch unless it was a one hour flight.

  27. Luckily in the UK they done away with short haul seat recline on the budget airlines a while ago. The main reason being that it caused a lot of aggressive arguments which resulted in violence in some cases. I have never reclined my seat in economy out of respect to the person behind me. Those who do in my opinion deserve what they get. Have I got that wrong?.

  28. I agree with Jordan.

    The airlines created this issue by over the years – bit by bit – moving the rows of seats closer and closer together. I’m old enough to remember when flying in Coach/Economy was a pleasant, comfortable experience – even when flying overseas. These days it’s miserable to be seated on the ‘wrong side’ of the curtain.

    Hey Delta: You’re raking in the dough. Rather than restricting recline, how about removing two or three rows of seats and increasing pitch?

  29. I appreciate that having people in front of you recline is uncomfortable if you have long legs. But for those of us who are short, the angle of the seats and headrests that hit our head instead of our necks, along with seats where we often can’t put our feet flat on the floor, make for miserable flights. It’s just not as obvious as someone who is physically too large for the seats. And, at 5’4″ I’m not unusually short. I can’t tell you how often well meaning people have commented how lucky I am to fit in the seats. Well, I don’t either and limited recline is absolutely miserable whether trying to work or to sleep. Even in first I frequently get off planes with back or neck pain.

  30. I always wish that I could recline more, to specifically inconvenience the passenger behind me. The best is when I’m in an exit row at the end of extra legroom so the seats behind me have nowhere to retreat to when I fucking recline like it’s fucking Passover.

  31. Airlines should just bring back 34″ of pitch like in the good old days, and increase the price accordingly.

    This is what we get for cheap flights.

  32. I saw this the other day on the Atlanta Business Chronicle website. I wanted to jump for joy! I’ve said for years they should just lock economy seats in the upright position. I have long felt that the marginal benefit you gain from reclining is far less than the marginal discomfort caused to those behind the recliner. Since you will always have people who will fall back into your lap as soon as the wheels come off the ground, just lock the seats in place. Over time no one will even notice. Good job, Delta! Proud to see the hometown airline leading again! I hope you expand this to all domestic aircraft.

  33. My gfs uncle use to work for delta i never flown but i say about time they did this cuz i heard ppl complain

  34. Pm1 i would have called the sky Marshall on you. He has dull right to do it and u complained for an upgrade….

  35. Reclining seats on short haul are a nightmare. Those who immediately recline but complain when those in front of them do the same have a special place in my heart.

    Well done Delta

  36. I totally agree with Derek: “I have long felt that the marginal benefit you gain from reclining is far less than the marginal discomfort caused to those behind the recliner. […] Over time no one will even notice.”

  37. The lack of insight in the comments is breathtaking. We argue about this because there is no right answer.

    I rarely recline except for First Class.

    However, like many people I have a spine issue. The weird shape of these airline seats sometimes causes my right arm to have severe pain and lose function

    If this happens, I will recline. Not because I’m some evil selfish person. Because I’m in agony

    Your laptop is not more important than my life. Your work is not more important than mine. I need my arm more than you need your laptop.

    If we are going to play the “I’m so important “ game, My job “out ranks” most people on every plane, and most people on this website. Is that really how we should decide?

    So stop blaming the passengers for 30 inch slimline seats.
    Stop applauding Delta for making our lives miserable

    The solution is obvious
    Space the seats out and make the seat shift forward when it reclines.

    This way any recliner gives up their leg room to recline.

  38. A genuine medical reason is of course different. Perhaps a row of properly designed reclining seats which are bookable would make sense.

    Unfortunately many just want to maximise their own space at the expense of others

  39. Do we only care about those passengrs with laptops ?? Delta is always more expensive in economy than the other carriers. But I pay it because of the comfort. If you take away recline, the comfort factor is gone and Oll have to reconsider switching back to AA with their tighter yet cheaper fares.

  40. @Jerry that’s oversimplifying it a bit. A lot of commenters have actually made the same mistake. Delta isn’t removing recline, it’s simply reducing it. I doubt most people who know about the decrease before getting on the plane will even notice a different. Additionally, it’s not just laptops that are endangered by people reclining – having a seat back down right in front of your face significantly decreases perceived space and makes people feel very uncomfortable. Apart from that, in absolute terms, I personally don’t care about the slight airfare premium on Delta and airlines like it, and in fact I consider this recline decrease a bonus to comfort as I never recline and find it very unpleasant when the passenger in front of me does. And yes, I’d much rather pay an extra $20 instead of the $5000 it would cost to replace my laptop after some jackass slams his seat back on top of it. Which someone has fine to me once already, except I managed to raise both my hands and physically stop his seat. Had I not done that the laptop would have been toast)

  41. *correction – ‘I doubt most people who DON’T know about the change before getting on the plane will even notice a difference’

  42. Apologies if this point has already been made but I haven’t read through all the comments.
    As a UK based traveller, many of our short haul flights are with Easyjet or Ryanair. Neither of these recline and it’s an absolute blessing. The space available on both airlines is absolutely fine for 1-4 hours but this view would seriously change if I had someone’s seat in my face!

  43. I think airlines need to take a stand one way or another on seat recline. Reducing recline and explicitly informing passengers to expect that it’s allowed would do the trick. Or ban reclining at certain hours, or on certain flights, or all together. Just make a decision.

    I reclined on a BA flight from CPH – LHR and the dude behind me lost his mind. He wasn’t using a laptop and the seat wasn’t touching his knees.

    He was very very upset.

  44. How do people never recline?

    I can see not reclining until after the meal, but for 5-8hrs straight?

  45. No plane configured without flatbeds should be able to recline in any class. I pay for first seats to be able to stretch my legs and work. I can’t do it on any airline if the person in front reclines.

  46. If you wan to recline, just scoot your butt forward in the seat. Put a pillow or rolled blanket behind you (optional). Same effect.

    What I don’t understand is why they don’t design the recline feature to be created by scooting the seat forward leaving the headrest in the same general position. Thereby creating the recline using the traveler’s own space.

  47. I agree with those that believe with a 30″ pinch the seats should simply not recline at all like Ryan Air and Easyjet. I was on an Air China flight from LAX to PEK and the guy in front of me reclined his seat when I went to the bathroom. I am 6’1″ and I could not even get into my seat. I pushed his seat forward while he was sleeping – yeah I know it was rude but I really wanted to sit down. He called the flight attendant to complain and she just looked at me and the total lack of legroom and ignored his complaints. I’m sure they get lots of these complaints and would more than welcome a better designed seat that either did not recline or did not reduce the legroom of the person behind.

  48. They shouldn’t be making the change in first class. 3 days ago we were in first class on a Delta A320. It was a 4 hour flight and we reclined our seats and slept for about 2 hours. Comfort should be more important than laptops.

  49. If you have a medical condition that requires reclining your seat, then book a non-economy seat that gives you more recline.

    Problem solved.

  50. Of course, the only correct answer is for the airlines to return seat pitch to a more reasonable distance. Barring that, preventing recline is the next best thing. I’m 6’3″ and am already touching the back of the seat in front of me with my knees. When you recline, you’re killing me and I cannot do anything about it.

    For all of the “just pay more for a higher class ticket with more room” statements, I cannot. Most of my flights are for business and the company’s contracts and policies do not allow me to book anything other than economy. Luckily I often get upgraded due to status, I cannot count on that.

  51. I’m good with this change. Almost had my laptop crushed numerous times by sudden seat recliners. Also, on several trips I could not open my 14 inch laptop.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *