Airplane Etiquette: Is It Rude To Recline Your Seat?


Airline seats - should you recline? Airplane etiquette

Have you been on a flight and someone in front of you reclined their seat at an inopportune moment? How did you react? What is the official airplane etiquette?

You may have seen the recent viral video of the petulant male passenger who punched the back of a woman’s seat because she dared to recline. The unfortunate passenger who got her seat punched is being interviewed here.

Here’s the thing, a passenger has the right to recline their seat. However, there are ways travelers can go about exercising their right without being complete jerks about it.

Do you think it’s rude to recline?

Depending on how it’s handled it can be totally appropriate or completely rude. Your seat is made to recline for a reason. However, problems arise when people don’t take into consideration the person sitting behind them. Here are a few of things you can do to not be completely jerky to passengers behind you. 

Airplane Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts of Reclining Your Airline Seat

  1. Don’t recline during food service. EVER.
  2. Look back before you recline your seat.
  3. Only recline your seat a smidge.
  4. During super long flights, think about not having your seat reclined the whole flight.
  5. Don’t recline.

in flight meal

1. Don’t recline during food service

How would you feel if you wanted to eat and the person in front of you has their seat in your lap? The seats in coach are already super cramped, please don’t make it worse for your fellow passengers by encroaching on the already small space they have to eat.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, would you want someone’s seat in your face as you’re eating? Of course, you wouldn’t.  Remember what that would feel like and don’t do it to another person.

2. Before you recline check the seat behind you

Isn’t this easy for you to do? Simply look behind you and make sure the person doesn’t have their head or computer or anything else on the tray table BEFORE you lean back. How many times have people been using one of their devices and someone rudely pushed their seat all the way back? This happens often and devices have been crushed and cracked. PLEASE don’t be that person that gives not one iota about others.

 Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

If they are using the tray table a simple, “Hey I’m going to recline my seat. I just want to give you a heads up” does the trick. Simple, right? I don’t believe in asking for permission for something you have the right to do, but it is kind to let them know you are about to do it. You can’t be responsible for how they react but at least you gave them ample warning. 

Want more helpful tips on flying? Check out this post on how to not lose your mind fly when flying with kids 

3. Only recline your seat a smidge.

Most seats in coach don’t recline a tremendous amount. However, sometimes all you need is just a tiny bit of extra space to get comfortable. After you have throughly disinfected your seat, pulled out your blanket and your headphones, you may find you won’t need to recline your seat the whole way. Having the right essentials can make the difference in your comfort level.

One way I make sure to make sure my seat is disinfected is by using NiceSeats. Use code RONITRAVELGURU to get 25% off your order!

Airplane etiquette for airplane seats - Woman sitting on a plane

4. During super long flights, think about not having your seat reclined for the whole flight.

You aren’t obliged to not recline but giving the person behind you a break is the nice thing to do. If you were on a 10-hour flight, wouldn’t you be grateful if the person in front of you didn’t have their seat all the way back the whole time?

No one is saying you have to sit with your seat straight up the whole time. That isn’t a reasonable request. However, do you get up to walk around or go to the bathroom? Could you pull your seat up when you get up so the person behind you can have a bit of a reprieve? It’s a simple matter of airplane etiquette!

You’ll want to check out my 10 Red Eye Flight Survival & Etiquette Tips to make your flight as comfortable as possible too.

5. Don’t recline

When a flight is only a few hours long, I don’t recline my seat. Of course, I have the right to but I can go a few hours without moving my seat back a few inches. It doesn’t hurt me and because I almost always have a travel pillow with me when I fly, I’m still comfortable. If you can, try leaving your seat erect. The person behind you will appreciate it.

These are simple suggestions and being courteous can go far when traveling, don’t you think?

What do you think? Do you recline? What are your airplane etiquette pet peeves?

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One Comment

  1. I absolutely agree that on shorter flights it’s not needed at all to recline one’s seat. Of course, if it’s a long-haul flight it’s sort of impossible to go the whole flight without reclining the seat, but for such situations I think your tips are perfect!

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