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- Should you recline your plane seat? It’s a question many people have about flying etiquette.
- In my opinion, you paid for your seat – so you should get to recline.
- That said, I’m all about reclining respectfully, meaning that you should take a little courtesy peek to see who is behind you. And, if you choose to recline, do it slowly, and maybe not all the way.
- Whether you should recline also depends on the time of day you’re traveling and the length of your flight.
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Despite constantly reading about people fighting over armrests, window shades, knee defenders, and generally being absolutely horrible on planes, I’m lucky that I haven’t witnessed such an argument in the air.
And while I should be hardened by the constant barrage of stories like these, a recent report about an American Airlines passenger who was met with backlash after filming the person behind her punching her seat when she reclined really got under my skin.
Are we still divided over this? Here’s my take:
You paid for your plane seat, so you should get to recline. However – and this is a big caveat – you should recline respectfully.
This means not just shooting back all the way without a second thought, slamming into the knees/laptop/drink of the person behind you, but maybe taking a peek to see if they are 6’5″ and already barely have any legroom.
If they have some space, then you could subtly introduce the idea that you are reclining by doing it slowly, and not all the way – unless you’re on a red-eye or late-night flight where everyone is trying to sleep.
- Paul Hanna/Reuters
Some airlines already take measures to stop passengers from recklessly reclining by limiting how far back their seats can go, but perhaps there could be restrictions on shorter flights
These days, airlines are doing away with so many “perks” that made flying somewhat comfortable. Seats have gotten smaller, legroom is shrinking, “free” food has become a rarity, and seat assignments on many flights now cost extra. If reclining isn’t OK, why is it still an option on most flights?
Maybe not allowing any reclining on shorter flights would be the best way to end this argument once and for all. Any seat in economy on a flight that’s three hours or less should, in my opinion, be permanently fused into its full upright position. In fact, some carriers like American Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines already limit reclining to two inches in coach, with Delta following suit. Spirit and Allegiant seats don’t recline at all.
Admittedly, yes, I get annoyed when someone reclines in front of me and encroaches into what little space I have (even though I’m barely 5’4″) and makes it so that the movie on my TV screen is only inches from my eyeballs, but such is air travel.
Just as I believe that there’s a way to recline politely, I think there’s a way for the person seated behind a recliner to make their discontent clear respectfully
If someone behind me was truly uncomfortable, I would hope they could just politely tap me on the shoulder and reason with me, the way I assume they would in any situation outside of air travel.
Yes, the golden age of air travel may be over, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to punch the seat in front of them like an irate toddler.
It’s on us to work together to survive the many hours we spend sharing a cramped and enclosed space, and we can start by showing each other the same base level of respect we would literally anywhere else besides a plane. Just because air travel makes us feel as though we’re being treated like animals doesn’t mean we have to act like them.
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