Here's why reclining seats are disappearing from airlines
January 9, 2023
By Joe Hiti, Audacy
According to a recent report from CNN, the decline of the recline has been coming for some time now. The days of all economy class airline seats having the feature is long gone, and part of the reason for the disappearance is the cost of maintenance on the mechanisms and the cost of how much they weigh.
The report shared that most modern and lightweight airplane seats weigh anywhere from 15 to 22 pounds per passenger. By removing the mechanism, you not only remove the need for repairs, but it also reduces the weight, allowing airlines to save money on fuel needed to carry planes.
Another reason, and maybe most relatable point for the average flier, is what the report called the cost of disruption.
With passenger incidents having skyrocketed throughout the last two years, according to the FAA, passengers fighting amongst themselves over reclining seats are not uncommon. In some cases, it could even result in planes needing to divert for safety purposes.
This was seen in August 2021 on an American Airlines flight, when a seat stuck in the recline position resulted in two men fist fighting mid-flight, The New York Post reported.
Reclining etiquette has been heavily covered, with articles from travel blogs like The Points Guy and Travel and Leisure bringing up the topic this year.
But now, etiquette could soon be thrown out the window, as airplane seats are being designed with no recline function. CNN’s report shared that manufacturers started engineering super-lightweight seats in the late 2000s for new aircraft, and part of the reason they were lightweight was due to the recline function being removed.
Looking to market the seats in a better light, they were described as “pre-reclined,” because they have the backrest at an angle between the upright and reclined position.
According to the report, the seats were first picked up by low-cost carriers that would only fly shorter flights and tend to have fewer benefits than big-name airlines.
However, companies like Acro, which was at the forefront of the pre-reclined seat innovation, have shared that using their seats could not only add benefit in weight reduction but also in the number of tickets that could be sold.
For example, Acro’s seat, the Series 3, has removed the recline feature but is designed in a concave “bucket” shape that allows planes to save an extra couple of inches. While those inches could be given to passengers, it could also allow planes like the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 to add an extra row of seating, CNN reported.
And while Acro first started with smaller airlines, the Series 3 has gained attention, including a feature in the 2015 James Bond film “Spectre.”
Acro hasn’t been the only manufacturer to look into designing and producing pre-reclined seats either, as companies like Recaro Aircraft Seating and more are looking to shake up the industry.
“The main advantage is increased living space, as a passenger’s living space is not intruded by recline,” Recaro’s chief executive officer, Mark Hiller, told CNN in an interview. “In addition, the low total cost of ownership -- fewer moveable parts on the seat, improved reliability, and simplified maintenance -- and low weight and cost, with no mechanism, kinematics and so on required.”