Is blowing your air nozzle at someone a right or a privilege?

One topic related to airplane etiquette that will generate an endless amount of controversy is whether reclining your seat on an airplane is a right or a privilege. My stance has always been that it’s a right, though I believe common courtesy should be exercised. In other words, if the person in front of you is reclining their seat you can reasonably ask them if they wouldn’t mind reclining less. If they don’t want to, though, that’s within their right in my opinion. The decision to recline is within the control of the person that has the recline button.

Of course many disagree with me, though I’ll add the disclaimer that I don’t recline in coach out of courtesy, and in first class I’ll always look back when reclining to make sure it’s okay with the person seated behind me. I usually choose the last row of first class for exactly this reason, so I don’t have to annoy anyone when I recline my seat. It’s also a reason I love American’s new slimline “shell” type domestic first class seats, because instead of reclining into the person behind you your seat just moves forward.

But then there’s this FlyerTalk thread, about a guy on a US Airways flight from Charlotte to Los Angeles in first class. After takeoff he started working and reclined his seat, and as a result the lady seated behind him (in the last row of first class) put her air vent on him instead of asking if he wouldn’t mind reclining a bit less. Eventually the flight attendant got called and threats were made. Read the thread because it’s quite entertaining. Though this raises an interesting question.

Is blowing your air nozzle at someone else a right or a privilege? My logic above is that seat recline is a right partly because the ability to control recline rests with the person reclining. Similarly, the ability to point the air nozzle rests with the person seated behind him, so isn’t it her right to blow her air nozzle wherever she wants to?

Further, in both cases the person not in control is being inconvenienced (in the case of the air nozzle it’s with unwanted air, and in the case of seat recline it’s with less personal space).

The only difference I can tell is that reclining your seat isn’t necessarily malicious, while blowing your air nozzle at someone is. Then again, some people might just consider blowing an air nozzle at someone a (passive aggressive) form of communication.

Regardless, it’s an entertaining read. Even more entertaining in the US Airways forum on FlyerTalk today is this thread:
Two old, fat, slow men working first class – what would you do?

Filed Under: Travel
  1. It’s not anyone’s right to do something with the sole purpose of making other people angry. I have a right to recline for comfort, but not because I don’t like the person behind me. So the woman in the post definitely has no right to point her nozzle at someone to punish them for something, but it may be appropriate if, for example, you’re trying to redirect their odor in another direction.

  2. If I had a flashlight on a plane, it wouldn’t be my right to shine it in someone else’s eyes. Same with a reading light. Same with the air nozzle.

    Passive aggressiveness is lame. It’s not OK.

  3. My first thought was that these people were on a flight to/from SEA.

    I might have raised my seat a bit to be accomodating, but I still have the right to recline. The passenger behind is still in F and still has far more space than the cattle in the back.

  4. Seriously, this is absurd? Without getting into the seat recline debate… there isn’t any question here. If you’re not using your own air vent, then close it. No one has any business whatsoever pointing it at another person uninvited.

  5. Reminds me of a trip I took in the back of the plane. Right at take off on a 5 hr flight the guy in front put back his seat as far back as possible. No space for dinner, work (fume). In a feeble passive aggressive way I turned on the vent which blew on him. After a while he made some motion (not mention) of this to which I replied “well, it’s my air and you are sitting in my seat”. Not a situation I am happy about, but I am sure we both thought we were right.

  6. To clarify, folks, I’m not actually taking a side and suggesting it’s a right. I’m just referencing the thread where the flight attendant seems to suggest that she has as much of a right to blow her air nozzle at him as he has a right to recline his seat into her.

  7. Someone pointed the nozzle at me recently in F. I just reached up and turn off the nozzle and that was the end of it.

  8. You’re right, the “Two old, fat, slow men working first class – what would you do?” thread was a treat!

  9. The right answer to the thread is that all parties should apply common sense. Maybe a bit much to ask on FT.

  10. Oh my god, why can’t people just not be douchebags on a plane?

    Seriously, I think a lot of the problems on board could be fixed if the back of every boarding pass, in addition to the “no blowing things up, mmkay?!” (as if that’s going to stop anyone. “Oh, I homebrewed this plastic explosive, but the boarding card says no?! Okay!”) advice, said “BEING A DOUCHEBAG IS PROHIBITED BY FEDERAL LAW”.

    Like those DEATH PENALTY FOR DRUG TRAFFICKERS IN SINGAPORE notices that always make me check to think how many Sudafed I’m bringing into the country.

    Just imagine…”excuse me, sir, under federal regulations I am handing you a ‘Stop Being A Douchebag’ card. You are required by law to cease being a douchebag or face further penalty for disobeying crew instructions”.

    Or even replace the “no smoking” signs with “no being a douchebag” signs. (I’ll leave you to imagine the pictogram for that. You’re welcome.) Then all you have to do is point at the sign.

    “Sir, the ‘no being a douchebag sign’ is lit. I’m sorry, but you will have to bring your seat forward so this lady can eat her paltry dinner.”

    See? You wouldn’t even need to legislate for it, because it’s all under the existing “comply with lighted signs and crew member instructions” regs.

    If #avgeeks ran the world, you guys, if #avgeeks ran the world…

  11. My seat mate on a flight over the weekend turned off my air vent because he didn’t want to breathe “unfiltered, cough and sneeze contaminated air”. “If one person coughs everyone just sucks it down” He attempted to turn off my vent twice along with the guy on the aisle though I finally told him to back off.

  12. I don’t understand if the seat reclines and you wish to, then do so as long as its not abrupt movement, the seats are build to recline. I always recline slowly and never have an issue especially in first class. If anyone is to blame blame the airline!

  13. I don’t understand why the flight attendant didn’t just turn off the air vent. It’s first class right? so how could him reclining his seat make it end up in her lap? Surely there’s more than enough room.

    PS – if reclining your seat in first means your in the lap of someone behind you, god help if you did it in cattle class – would you be in the lap of the person behind the person behind you??! (while there on the floor under your seat!)

  14. I too don’t recline in coach. I know I’d always appreciate it if the person in front of me didn’t recline, and honestly I don’t see too much benefit by the limited coach recline anyway.

  15. I would have thanked her and asked her to make sure it is pointed towards me as much as possible. I like the air vents when I travel, at least they give the illusion of fresh air. One of my pet peeves when traveling European Airliners like AF or Lufthansa in Business is lack of air vents.

  16. Is this guy serious? What a wanker…

    All it would have taken was losing an inch or two of recline, and saying “I’m sorry, I can’t really work unless my seat’s back a little bit. Why don’t I give you a little bit more space, and next time I’m making you uncomfortable, maybe you can let me know straight away. It’s probably a bit easier to understand than figuring out why you have your air vent in my face.”

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