🛫 How airline seating explains legal battles over ownership 

Here’s a fun one for your Wednesday, courtesy of a Slate Q&A featuring Dahlia Lithwick and law professor Michael Heller: What are the legal ramifications of seat reclining on airplanes? 

  • You’re either one of two people: Somebody who reclines on planes because the option is available, or someone who gets furious when the person in front of you leans back and makes it very difficult for you to do anything on your laptop.

  • The fight is about space: There’s a limited amount of it on airplanes, and both the reclining passenger and the person sitting behind the reclining passenger can argue they have a claim to the disputed space.  

But here’s the kicker

As Heller explains, “that little conflict on the airplane seat is not just an accident, it turns out. It’s deliberately engineered by the airlines so they can sell that same space twice.”

  • There are all kinds of similar examples in the world. Typically, people interact politely and solve their problems, so we don’t tend to see them as legal ownership disputes. 

The Verdict

Read the full Q&A or listen to the podcast to learn more about other fascinating legal questions over ownership.