Delta Air Lines is reducing how much seats will recline on some planes

Delta Air Lines is testing whether reducing the recline of passenger seats on its fleet of A320s will help protect the personal space of fliers. The amount of recline is being reduced about two inches on all seats of 62 planes.
(Shawn Davie/ Delta Air Lines)

Next time you board a Delta Air Lines flight and try to stretch out and relax, you may find your seat won’t recline as much as before.

The Atlanta carrier is reducing the recline on all seats on its entire A320 fleet in a test to see if limiting how much your seat will lean back into the personal space of the flier behind you will make the flight more enjoyable for everyone.

Although other airlines have restricted seat recline to squeeze more seats into each plane, Delta said the test is not intended to do that.

“Delta has no plans to add seats or reduce space between rows with this test,” Delta spokeswoman Savannah Huddleston said. “It’s all about protecting customers’ personal space and minimizing disruptions to multitasking in-flight.”


Delta flies 62 A320 planes, about 7% of its fleet of about 900 planes. The A320 is primarily used on short- and medium-haul flights of one or two hours, according to the carrier.

Seats in the main cabin section and Delta Comfort Plus section previously reclined 4 inches but during the test will recline only 2 inches. Seats in the first-class section previously reclined 5.4 inches, but that will be reduced to 3.5 inches as part of the test. The legroom between seats won’t change.

The test was not prompted by any complaint or incident, Huddleston said, adding that the airline has not discussed whether to expand the test to other planes in the fleet. It will take the airline about two months to reduce the recline on the seats of all the A320 planes, she said.

Reclining seats were the subject of at least three disputes and scuffles on planes in 2014, including two that forced flights to divert to nearby airports.

The onboard feuds came after airlines began squeezing seats closer together to fit more passengers into each plane and maximize profits. With seats closer together, a reclining seat is more likely to get into another passenger’s personal space.

One entrepreneur even took advantage of the industry trend by inventing a device that prevents airline seats from reclining into the lap of the flier behind it. But his device was the subject of a onboard tiff in 2014 that forced a United Airlines flight from Newark, N.J., to Denver to divert to Chicago.

In 2010, Spirit Airlines introduced “pre-reclined” seats that are already reclined 3 inches and cannot be adjusted beyond that. Spirit said the airline was able to fit 33 more passengers in the “pre-reclined” seats in the airline’s Airbus A320 than in an older Airbus model with conventional reclining seats.


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