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Sit Back...and Relax?

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I was one hour into a four-hour flight out of LAX that had been delayed multiple times. Just as the beverage cart was making its way down the aisle, the girl in front of me put her chair all the way back so that the tray was nearly in my lap. I figured a nap sounded like a good idea, so after I finished my drink, I decided to lean my own chair back ever so slightly so that my head would fit snugly in the little nook behind the airplane window. A few more centimeters was all I really needed, and then I could drift off into sleep.

So I pressed the button to recline, and nothing happened. I tried again and applied a little more force against the headrest, and still nothing. Around that time, the flight attendant noticed my head moving back and forth and asked if everything was OK. I replied that it wasn't a big deal, but that my seat wouldn't recline. She looked a little closer, and found that the man behind me had attached a small clamp device to my chair that would prevent me from leaning back at all. When she informed him that the gadget was not allowed on their airline, he became angry and began to raise his voice. I told her to forget about it. It wasn't worth the fight.

I wasn't overly irked by the fact that I couldn't lean back—if he had asked me politely to begin with, I would have remained upright—rather, I was bothered by the fact that he took away my option in the first place. I never recline all the way, but occasionally (depending on where the seat is in relation to windows and such) it's nice to have the option to make a slight adjustment. So I'd like to pose the following questions to LAist readers: When it comes to plane etiquette, where does your personal space end and another's begin? Have you ever had a plane seat confrontation? Should devices like this one be allowed on planes?

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Photo by Random Ideal via Flickr.