Whiners be damned: A reclined seat is way more comfortable than an upright one, especially on a long flight.
I have been hearing a chorus of people lately claiming that reclining your seat on an airplane is inconsiderate and just plain wrong, and this Dan Kois article in Slate is the last straw:
Obviously, everyone on the plane would be better off if no one reclined; the minor gain in comfort when you tilt your seat back 5 degrees is certainly offset by the discomfort when the person in front of you does the same. But of course someone always will recline her seat, like the people in the first row, or the woman in front of me, whom I hate. (At least we're not in the middle seat. People who recline middle seats are history's greatest monsters.)
Yes, seat recliners are monsters. Kois also calls us sociopaths. I certainly hope you join me in being struck by the complete and utter wrongness of this claim. First of all, the seats recline. They're more comfortable when they recline. Asking people not to recline because it's an inconvenience to the person behind them is the ultimate losing battle.
But there's also a massive factual error here: that everyone is worse off when the seats are reclined. I've done my share of flying, and I say that's nonsense -- objectively so. The worst-case scenario, sitting upright while the person in front of you is reclined, means losing about six inches of clearance between your head and the seat in front of you. You're not using that space, so what's the problem?