Delta has begun testing whether reducing seat recline will increase customer comfort.
The carrier started the trial last weekend on some of its Airbus A320s and will expand the trial to all 62 A320s over the next two months, spokeswoman Savannah Huddleston wrote in an email.
“Delta has no plans to add seats or reduce space between rows with this test — it’s all about protecting customers’ personal space and minimizing disruptions to multitasking in-flight,” the carrier said in a statement.
During the test, recline in first class has been adjusted from a maximum of 5.4 inches to a maximum of 3.5 inches. Recline in Comfort Plus and in standard economy seats has been reduced from a maximum of four inches to a maximum of two inches.
Huddleston said the A320 is the ideal candidate for the trial both because Delta uses it primarily on flights of less than two hours and because it is popular with business travelers.
Allowing for less recline will preserve more space for working on a laptop or watching videos.
Delta’s A320 aircraft have 30 or 31 inches of space between rows in economy class, 34 inches in Comfort Plus and 36 inches in first class.
Countless air rage incidents have been triggered by people reclining their seats, with some planes diverted and others making emergency landings after fights broke out. In 2015, a man aboard a Southwest Airlines flight allegedly tried to choke a woman in front of him after she reclined too far back for his liking.
One-time presidential hopeful and current Utah senator Mitt Romney was attacked by a passenger on a 2010 flight after he asked the man to move his seat back to the upright position for takeoff. The following year, a United flight was escorted back to Dulles airport in Washington, DC by fighter jets when a fight broke out over a reclined seat. The plane was forced to burn off about $50,000 worth of fuel before it could land.
Gadgets like the Knee Defender, which prevent the seat in front of you from reclining, are not illegal, but have been banned by most airlines. In one incident involving the $22 device, a flight was forced to land after a passenger who couldn’t recline their seat thanks to the Seat Defender being used by the passenger in the next row back threw a cup of water in his face.