Forgive me for any typos and errors for this posting. I’m typing this on a screen that is almost vertical so I can barely see it. it’s coach class on Philippines Airlines and of course I’m wedged behind the only person on the plane who seems to have spent the entire flight with her seat reclined. It’s ugly. I don’t have a tape measure but I estimate there’s about 12” of space between my armrest and her head. Fantasies of removing said armrest and whacking said head with it have not gone unnursed. But it also gave me to thinking that airlines could perhaps harness their inflight technology to make this part of coach-class travel a bit more bearable: inflight interpassenger communication and negotiation facilities.
It would work something like this. The armrest console and onboard inflight entertainment screen would allow users to send messages to people in contiguous seats, effectively negotiating with them over issues such as seat reclination, bathroom or exercise breaks, cross-seat food-tray handling etc. If nothing else, this could be a courtesy: The woman in front, for example, could inform me she was intending to take a nap in 15 minutes and give me time to plan my computer time more effectively. I could then signal to the people sitting between me and the gangway that at 6.07 PM local time I would like to go to the restroom, allowing them to plan their video watching, or whatever they happen to be doing. They could counter with a proposal that I delay said visit until 6.24 PM local time, to coincide with their beer foray, so we could all leave our seats at the same time. All this information could be accessed by the gantry allowing them to plan their own activities. The whole aircraft could spend the first 30 minutes in the air — before the palliative beverages arrive — negotiating with their fellow passengers and giving each other a bit of warning before they do something drastic. If nothing else it would relieve that post-takeoff, pre-inflight drink ennui.
I have no idea whether this might work, but it certainly makes me feel a bit better about this woman in front, who is now doing that really annoying thing of keeping her seat reclined while at the same time sitting up straight and gazing vapidly around the cabin. She’s probably wondering whether to climb across her fellow passengers to go to the bathroom. Roll on, Inflight Entertainment And Passenger Planning.