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jca's avatar

On airline flights, do you recline your seat or do you feel it's rude to do so because it severely limits the legroom of the person behind you?

Asked by jca (28392 points ) 2 weeks ago

I just saw something on the news about an altercation that occurred when a man used a plastic device called a “flight defender” which disallowed the passenger in front of him from reclining her seat. She ended up throwing a glass of water at him and the pilot ultimately had to land the plane and both passengers were removed.

The news program was discussing how when you recline your seat, you are severely limiting the legroom of the passenger behind you. In many cases, the seat in front of you will be right up against your knees. However, those few inches of recline make a big difference in passenger comfort for the flight.

Do you recline your seat on flights, or do you feel it’s rude to do so?

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35 Answers

Pachy's avatar

I almost always glance behind me first to see who’s sitting behind me, then very slowly recline my seat to give him/her a chance to adjust. I don’t consider it rude to recline one’s seat—but I do believe a bit of caution doing so is common courtesy.

majorrich's avatar

I may adjust the seat back a bit to bolt upright.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I read that article, too. Shocking, especially since they were both seated in the Economy Plus section, which provides four more inches of legroom.

The only time I recline the seat is when on a red-eye flight. One time, the guy behind me kept pushing my seat back up when attempting to recline it. When I peeked around the corner, the guy glared at me and said, “I have no leg room back here.” Now, like @Pachy, I first check to see if and who is behind me.

I have no problem if the person in front of me reclines their seat. IMO, it is their right to do so.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Reclining the seat is one of the first things I do when I’m settling into my seat. If the person behind values their legroom that much, they can buy a business class ticket.

picante's avatar

I travel fairly frequently, and my behavior has changed quite a bit over the span of my decades in airplanes. I do think we have shrinking leg room in most economy-class cabins. 20 years ago, I would have thought nothing of reclining fully nor would I have ever given the person in front of me the stink-eye for doing so. I have a very different opinion now. I rarely recline the seat at all; on those rare occasions when I do, I check behind me (as others have noted); and I’m particularly alert to movement in the seat ahead of me. That person’s movements are likely to cause me discomfort at some point.

We should all be good citizens in the aircraft, of course, but I think the airlines need to develop better strategies around this issue. Our shrinking personal space in the cabin is a very real problem.

Pachy's avatar

Gosh, @FireMadeFlesh, I can’t afford business class anymore, so please give me a holler next time you fly and I’ll book a seat not behind you. ;):):-)

jca's avatar

Aren’t all seats supposed to be in the upright position during take off, and until passengers are told otherwise by airline personnel?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@jca It was well into the flight I think. I have long legs, fortunately I don’t fly much, but the reclining seats are rough on my legs.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

The reclining mechanism is present on the seat. That’s all I need to know regarding what is acceptable to do.

I have a rather laid back seating position in my car. The chairs and one of my home’s sofas also have a reclining mechanisms.

Sitting bolt upright is very uncomfortable to me. I recline as soon as is permitted.

If the passenger behind has such a problem with space they need to shell out for First Class.

Postscript:

Anyone that through their behavior causes a airline flight to be delayed or diverted should be drugged into unconsciousness and lashed to their seat.

When I choose to fly over other modes of travel I am in essence buying time. HOW DARE YOU WASTE IT.

jca's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe: In the case I gave, yes, the seat issue was well into the flight. I was referring to in general, the seats are not supposed to be reclined until after take-off (referring to @FireMadeFlesh saying he reclines after settling in).

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Okay, yes, you don’t want to be inclined in the event of a problem. That could get messy.

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

I heard about that story on the NEWS. I’m one of those weird people that never recline my seat on an airplane. I DO think it is rude but sadly it seems no one else does. I have been on nine hour flights with my seat up and my head leaning against the window with a pillow.

Technically people have a right to recline their seats but I still think it is rude to the person behind you. If I can I always pay more for extra leg room if the flight has it. I’m only five foot three but still it is worth it since I never recline.

I have seen some really rude people on flights. taking up all the over head compartments with all their crap without thinking of anyone else is really the thing that drives me nuts!! Especially when I usually have one checked bag and only carry on one regulation size carry on.

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

@picante I wish more people thought like you do.

jca's avatar

@BeenThereSaidThat: Don’t they only allow one carry on bag now and one laptop or ladies’ handbag?

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

There are carry on’s and then there are CARRY ON’S. I have seen people with shopping bags, back packs, coats, laptops, things they bought in the airline shops before boarding, toys for their children and stuff all this in the overhead. They fill the one above their seat and then go to the next compartment. They don’t even care about the dirty looks the other passengers give them.

wildpotato's avatar

I recline my seat. I never thought about how much this would suck for a really tall person behind me before, but then I don’t fly a lot. Now that I am aware of the issue, I’ll still recline but will follow Pachy’s lead and do so very slowly.

I see this Knee Defender thing ending really badly. The device can only be deployed by placing two clips on the tray table arms, so the tray table must be down. Since being allowed to put your tray table down happens at the same time as being allowed to recline, I can just imagine two passengers in a tense standoff during takeoff, one with Knee Defender at the ready and the other waiting to smash their seat back as quickly as possible. Yowch.

downtide's avatar

Nope. Never do. I’m like a cat; I can sleep well enough in any position so I don’t bother.

canidmajor's avatar

Does anyone know if steps were taken against the feuding adults that A) caused an unscheduled stop at a busy airport, potentially increasing risk to all and B) caused the carrier to expend more fuel and perhaps pay an airport penalty or C) nailed them with fines for violating the most basic of For God’s Sake Stop Behaving Like Pissy Toddler laws?

downtide's avatar

I haven’t read anything about the incident but I’m pretty sure that anyone who causes a plane to get diverted gets slapped with charges of some kind. In the UK it would be “disturbing the peace” – a nice catch-all offense that works for nearly anything. Throwing water over someone would at least be a minor assault.

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

From what I read the plane landed, the two people who had the confrontation were escorted off the plane by security and no charges were pressed against them. I don’t know why the flight Stewart could not just separate the two people and continue on with the flight.

Everyone was inconvenienced for just two people. Doesn’t see fair to me.

downtide's avatar

@BeenThereSaidThat no, it seems unfair to me too and I’m very surprised that no charges were filed. I hope they were dropped off at some remote airfield in the middle of nowhere with a very long, very expensive ride back to where they were going.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@downtide The flight started out in Newark, New Jersey (east coast) and was heading to Denver, Colorado. The unruly passengers were dropped off in Chicago, which is about halfway. The articles I’ve read don’t state which Chicago airport though.

@BeenThereSaidThat From what has been in the reports so far, you are right; it doesn’t seem fair to the other passengers, the airline staff, the airline and the airports involved. There could be more to the story than we are privy to at this point.

Maybe this is a way to send a message to all airline passengers about proper travel etiquette. It sure has made the news and evoked plenty of discussion.

jca's avatar

On radio today they said Chicago (O’Hare).

cookieman's avatar

B. I never recline and think it’s rude to do so. I have to resist the urge to give the yahoo in front of me a wet willie when he/she reclines all the way.

I’m a pretty big guy. You recline all the way, and I’m effectively trapped in one position for the whole flight.

trailsillustrated's avatar

I fly from australia to the us. It’s a very long flight. I’m going to recline my seat, since you can. I fly economy, since it’s very expensive. If I get challenged on reclining my seat, said person behind me will not like it.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Pachy It’s all good if you can’t afford business class. I can’t justify it either. But if that’s what someone has paid for, they have no right to complain about the conditions. They entered into a transaction when they bought the flight with the full knowledge of the conditions they would be travelling in.

@picante I agree, shrinking legroom is a huge issue. It is most of the reason why I recline my seat. I’m not exactly a giant at 183cm, and in most planes my knees touch the seat in front. But when I flew in an ageing plane earlier this year (the aircraft was probably right at the end of its serviceable life) I had heaps of space.

fluthernutter's avatar

I don’t think reclining the seat is rude. The issue is with whoever designed the aircraft. I’m just using it the way that it was designed to be used.

Does it suck when the person in front of me reclines? Sure. But I don’t get annoyed with them. I get annoyed with the design of the plane.

The only time I get mad at the person for reclining is when I have my tray out. Everyone is getting food and/or drinks served at the same time. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out if they recline that my drink is going to slosh around.

fluthernutter's avatar

@jca The seat reclines. From a design-perspective, the user is clearly in their right to do so. When the seat is in the upright position, the extra space for the person in the back is on loan.

The reasoning used by the people who make this product is absurd.

“It gives you the chance to be human beings,” says Ira Goldman, the inventor of Knee Defenders.

How about just asking your fellow human being to not recline their seat all the way back? I have the right to recline my seat. But if you give me a good reason not to, I’m not unreasonable. Using something to take the space by force does not “level the field”. You’re just taking what you want without asking like a civilized human being.

It’s like wearing a giant inner tube on a public sidewalk instead of just saying excuse me.

canidmajor's avatar

I wonder why the carriers have not banned this type of product. Whatever side you favor in the recline/don’t recline debate, the device shouldn’t be in use on the aircraft.

fluthernutter's avatar

The writer of that editorial keeps complaining about how the airlines fail to define boundaries. And that the person sitting in the middle should get the armrests because the window and aisle seat have more room. (Should doesn’t necessarily correlate to right to ownership.)

It seems pretty clear to me. It’s all about the buttons. The reclining button says that’s my space to recline. The buttons that control my screen says that’s my armrest.

I don’t understand the confusion.

(This is coming from someone who is often stuck in the middle seat.)

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I don’t recline unless I’m on a long-distance flight and then, if it was going to bother someone behind me, I’d alert them that I was about to recline.

Unless it’s a long-distance flight I don’t think reclining is necessary. There’s so little room in planes these days and someone reclining is seriously unpleasant for the person behind and it often means they can’t work (using the fold down table) etc.

fluthernutter's avatar

Can’t believe planes reroute over such trivial shit.

If I were a terrorist trying to land a plane, I would just buy a set of Knee Defenders.

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