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Why You’re A Jerk If You Recline Your Seat

Why You’re A Jerk If You Recline Your Seat

Across the United States, one topic can divide coworkers, friends and even family members: do you have the right to recline your seat? or does putting your seat back into your neighbors’ space make you a passenger with bad manners? It depends on who you really think is to blame. So, consider the seat belt sign on, this can be a bumpy topic to discuss.

First Things First, Airlines Started It

Any conversation about reclining your seat has to start with a short rant about the continually-shrinking legroom in aircraft cabins. In economy, the new standard is around 30 inches of space between the back of one seat and the front of another. Although the aviation industry claims this is enough space to evacuate, there has not been an actual trial of this in an emergency situation.

The tight space is uncomfortable for most passengers–from those of a certain size to those who just don’t want to be caught in the tight space. It can get even worse if the passenger in front of you decides to rock their seat back, making a tight fit even tighter.

You Don’t Have the Right to Recline Your Seat 

Because seats are getting closer and closer together, even the smallest shift can create major problems for the flyer in front. This could range from a minor inconvenience while watching a movie, to making even the smallest of laptops inoperable. Famous consumer advocate Christopher Elliott recently penned an op-ed for USA Today claiming that passengers no longer have the right to recline their seats.

“Two domestic airlines already limit your ability to lean back in economy class,” he writes. “Even if the airline doesn’t make the decision for you, it’s the polite thing to do. And, most important, it’s the right thing to do.” According to Elliott, the ability to recline is just a trick to make passengers think airlines care about comfort. And the age-old adage “Sit back, relax and enjoy your flight” is an invitation to make your flight difficult for others, to, in layman’s terms, be a jerk.

A Short War Story

If you do recline your seat, you risk encountering passengers like the one that a FlyerTalker encountered on board a Cathay Pacific flight between Singapore and Hong Kong when “I reclined my seat about halfway.”

Round One: “Straight away I could feel the person behind me knocking into it, a few times. I ignored it and started watching a movie on the IES. The knocking went on for a while and while it was annoying it was tolerable.

Round Two: “Then the drinks service came and went. Shortly after, a [flight attendant] came up to me to ask me to put my seat up. I asked her why and she said it was because my seat was too close to the passenger’s face (a woman who was traveling with her child and husband). I was incredulous – the seat was not even fully down. I said no politely, and went on watching my movie.”

Round Three: “Another 5 minutes later, another FA came up to the guy next to me and asked him to put his seat up. He said no politely, and this time I asked the FA why the passengers behind us wanted us to put our seats up.

“At this point, the woman behind me shouted at me and said it was because her child (who was behind the guy next to me) was having her meal. She then said we were inconsiderate and rude! I bristled at her tone, and immediately faced her to say that if she only explained that the child was having her meal, we would have done so. The first time I was asked, the reason given was that the seat was too close to her face! (which I think was a silly reason of course).

“At this, she started yelling at me and saying how rude and crazy I was, and told me that I should take business class instead of economy?!”

The Battle Continues: “I ignored her but put my seat up so that she could have more space to feed her child. The guy next to me also put his seat up but did not look pleased. Worse of all, the woman behind kept muttering I was crazy and inconsiderate… at this point, my neighbour turned around, told her to shut up and asked ‘Is this your first time on a plane or what?!’

OK, So Who’s the Jerk in That Situation?

Is the jerk the mom who is struggling to take care of her child in a tense and uncomfortable situtation? Or the FlyerTalker who’s just trying to defend one of the last ways he’s still allowed to make his flight a little more comfortable? Well, author Kastalia Medrano’s counter-opinion in Thrillist brought up a third candidate for the jerk: the airlines.

“If you have no extenuating circumstances in the realm of back problems or physical size, I truly believe your best option is to recognize that we’re all uncomfortable and that we all will, in a couple of hours, be less uncomfortable,” she writes in her opinion piece. “And that therefore maybe your Outrage firepower is best focused on other things. Like calling Congress.” Which seems much better than letting the airline make you feel bad for a problem they created.

So, instead of taking it out on one another and playing “who’s the jerk?” in a situation that’s uncomfortable for everyone, it’s time to pay more attention to legislation designed to make flying in economy less of an uncomfortable (and potentially dangerous) proposition for all.


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View Comments (104)


  1. LukeO9

    November 19, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    If you buy a seat on a flight, and that seat is advertised to recline, but then you find out that you’re not allowed to recline it, shouldn’t you be able to ask for compensation?

  2. Boggie Dog

    November 19, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    My lower back is fused and the upright seat position is just flat out uncomfortable. Just a bit of recline makes the situation so much better, so sorry person behind me, I will slightly recline my seat when I can.

  3. RustyC

    November 19, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    I’m glad the article led with the point that this is fundamentally the doing of the AIRLINES. We’ve seen too many instances in the past where airlines are fine dividing passengers against each other (e.g. frequent flyer program changes, conditions getting worse in general, etc.) if it takes peoples’ attention off the airline.

    There is still not enough awareness that the root of this problem is the seats being designed to recline on an assumption of greater distance between seats than is being provided. It’s also not the first time a manufacturer like Boeing has designed something assuming a luxury standard that few airlines are willing to actually implement.

    If they design a new plane fuselage at 9.5 seats across in coach where you could have 9 fairly good ones or 10 narrow, cramped ones, which configuration will the airlines choose? Overwhelmingly the 10 cramped ones. Solution? Don’t give them that choice! Design it to 9 seats across, hold to the industry standard and don’t think you can avoid your share of the blame by pointing fingers at the airline.

    Airbus has been a bit more realistic and is selling a lot of aircraft to ULCCs like Spirit and Frontier, with only the premium seats on the new planes reclining.

  4. FlyinHi30

    November 19, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    The airlines are the jerks. They should not configure seat pitch under 32″. It is inhumane. If a seat’s recline function is operable, the user has full right to utilize it.

  5. GetSetJetSet

    November 19, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    If the seat is built to recline, then you are within your rights to recline it. Everything else is just entitled babies crying because someone did something they didn’t like.

  6. EqualOpp

    November 19, 2019 at 4:24 pm


  7. MileageAddict


    November 19, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    I guess I’m a jerk. I recline that sucker as soon as the wheel leave the ground. Oh well, I’m not changing my ways.

  8. pagophilus

    November 19, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    If the flight is having its meal service, don’t recline. Otherwise, recline, as that is what the seat is built to do. If someone thinks they don’t have enough space, they should recline also.

  9. carlosdca


    November 19, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    If someone in front of you reclines, then you gain the space back by you reclining as well.
    What’s the big deal?

  10. 1kBill

    November 19, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    This article should be titled “Why You’re A Jerk If You Make Up Your Own Rules.”

  11. EdV

    November 19, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    Recline away unless meal service is my motto.

  12. sdsearch

    November 19, 2019 at 7:23 pm

    The airlines that have these problems are stupid. There are such things as “articulated” seats, where reclining pushes your seat bottom forward (and pulling the bottom of your seat back forward as a result), rather the actually reclining into the person in back of you. So in such “articulated” seats almost all of the “pain” of reclining is suffered by the passenger doing the reclining, not the passenger in back of them.

    SOME airlines have these “articulated” seats on SOME airplanes, but IMHO it’s time for ALL airlines to move to having them on ALL airplanes, to resolve this fight between those want to recline and those who are sitting behind them.

    Or, at the very least, one or more airlines should go all out for these, and then they can advertise “no problems on OUR planes with people in front you reclining into YOUR space”, and then see if that makes other airlines follow.

  13. Irpworks

    November 19, 2019 at 7:52 pm

    B.S. Just roundtripped to Costa Rica on UA in economy. Seats reclined in front of me and all around without problems. If tall, buy the plus seating. It’s a jerk who thinks the world should conform to his needs.

  14. woodg

    November 19, 2019 at 8:54 pm

    So, I’m a jerk. Tough. My seat stays upright for take-off and landing and during meal service. Otherwise it’s slightly reclined. It’s fully reclined if I’m sleeping (usually when most of the other passenger are also sleeping) or when the seat in front is fully reclined.

  15. minhaoxue

    November 19, 2019 at 10:04 pm

    I do not recline because I am a considerate person. but, I got tired of flying Econ and only fly Premium Econ or business.

  16. RustyC

    November 20, 2019 at 12:15 am

    Airlines like Frontier and Spirit are at least putting in non-reclining seats (or “pre-reclined,” as they might say) for most of coach, so they are at least not in denial about the problem like the legacies are. Trying to talk about this in terms of “rights” is probably unhelpful, as it’s not in the constitution and it’s doubtful the “right” would be recognized in courts. OTOH, airlines are at the root of the problem and set the stage for it, pitting pax against other pax and saying essentially that they have to work it out for themselves.

    I think the endgame is federally mandated minimum seat pitches, possibly with safety justification but also to cut down on this kind of thing. Right now we have self-regulation and self-regulation by airlines just rewards the bad actors that push the envelope the most. The ULCCs have already led the legacies a long way in the race to the bottom, and with a triopoly among legacies you can’t count on competition as much anymore.

  17. JamesBigglesworth

    November 20, 2019 at 12:28 am

    This discussion is always a good way to sort the jerks from the reasonable people. Yes, you bought your seat and have a right to recline it (except, on most non-US carriers when they *tell* you to put it upright for meal services, etc) but by the same token, you did *not* buy the right to injure other people. And make no mistake, there are people out there (ghods knows there’s threads on FT about it) that will claim that causing injury is not their problem “because they bought the right to recline” unilaterally.

    But that;s the thing: they *didn’t* buy a unilateral and absolute right. They bought a passage on a *shared* transport service. The seats recline. Your *right* to recline exists within the context of that *shared transport*.

    The right to recline is negotiable and depends on situation. It is not absolute: and your right to recline ends at the point where my knees start.

  18. roberino

    November 20, 2019 at 1:03 am

    You buy a ticket for a seat that reclines that is positioned behind another seat that reclines. The person behind you buys a ticket for a seat that is also behind a seat that reclines. This is a known-known when you buy a ticket. I amazes me the number of people that think they personally can change this fact simply because they boarded a flight that day.

  19. VonRichthofen

    November 20, 2019 at 1:16 am

    Or Just prevent the seat in front of you reclining with you knees and if the pax in front has an issue with it you can ask them politely how far up your legs they would like you to start chopping to give them enough space.

  20. elkhornne

    November 20, 2019 at 2:03 am

    I will always recline slightly due to back issues. If there’s a meal service I will put the seat upright until it’s over. I also agree with Luke09.

  21. emma dog

    November 20, 2019 at 4:06 am

    Click bait.

    Why would FT intentionally post headlines when these threads are routinely closed?

  22. petemitchell

    November 20, 2019 at 4:11 am

    If seats are not supposed to recline, they shouldn’t be able to. #commonsense

  23. kavu

    November 20, 2019 at 4:13 am

    If the seat can be reclined then it is meant to be reclined if the passenger so desires. If the people behind don’t like the seat in front being so close then *they* should be in premium economy or business.

  24. Marathon Man

    November 20, 2019 at 4:19 am

    Stupid article. They make the seats reclinable and they always have been and always should be.

    They decreased legroom and space between rows and width of seats. It is their problem and if they want angry passengers they have to figure out what works. We all know what that is: put it back like it was in say… 1996

  25. D3KingAmerican

    November 20, 2019 at 4:26 am

    I’m reclining my seat. You chose to fly economy with the rest of the cattle. If you don’t like it than buy a first class ticket or pay for economy plus.

  26. pony_trekker

    November 20, 2019 at 4:27 am

    The same people who complain about not being able to recline complain about me hanging my bare feet over their headrest. If airlines didn’t want that to happen they wouldn’t put your face so close to my bare feet.

  27. weero


    November 20, 2019 at 4:31 am

    “utting your seat back into your neighbors’ space”

    It’s not your neighbor’s space, it’s yours. You paid for it. End of story.

    Neighbor has every right in the world to suffer quietly.

  28. bsmits

    November 20, 2019 at 4:33 am

    Recline is a function of the seat advertised (and sold, as a USP or for money in the case of economy comfort). If I have the choice between two flights, one with recline and one without, I’ll take the one with recline, and use it.

  29. ulxima

    November 20, 2019 at 4:35 am

    Is it so difficult to turn back and ask politely if you can recline your seat?
    Is it so difficult to put it upright at meal times and when you leave of for a stroll or a toilet visit?
    Fellow travellers are usually very accommodating so just ask.

  30. DeltaFlyer123

    November 20, 2019 at 4:48 am

    The second paragraph states: “In economy, the new standard is around 30 inches of space between the back of one seat and the front of another.” Oh, would that be wonderful! In fact, the 30 inches is from the front of one seat to the front of the seat immediately behind. That’s what “seat pitch” means.
    In the old days, pre-deregulation, standard pitch was 34 inches in economy and 38 inches in first. There was a brief time, during a recession, when Western Airlines advertised “You get three feet for your two legs . . . Your legs go first class when you pay coach class . . . “, meaning they’ve removed some rows and increased seat pitch in economy,
    (Western Airlines was bought by Delta in the 80’s, that’s how they got the Salt Lake City hub. )

  31. temecularedwing

    November 20, 2019 at 4:55 am

    To those whining about reclining seats: A) Fly inter-island on Hawaiian as the seats do not recline, B) fly Spirit as everyone is already miserable – so I’m told, C) take the train. If I was meant to fly, I’d have wings. if my seat wasn’t meant to recline, it wouldn’t. Cheers.

  32. tromboneboss

    November 20, 2019 at 4:57 am

    The mom was way out of line. Instead of talking to her neighbors she reports them to the flight attendant and try to turn them into the bad guy. Even after the fact she refused to shut up. But I’m not forgetting the poor aircraft design too.

  33. vickeryfolks

    November 20, 2019 at 5:09 am

    I too have back issues and have to rely on my seat to recline. Until seats no longer recline which I pray never happens, I will recline.

  34. vargha

    November 20, 2019 at 5:14 am

    Meh. I recline the seat the 2 inches or so it moves, and then go to sleep. It’s not a big deal. But to some folks it seems, almost everything is.

  35. SemiFreq

    November 20, 2019 at 5:15 am

    If my seat reclines, then it’s my RIGHT! Screw anyone else. Why should I be considerate? I’m never going to have to deal with any of these people again. That’s how I live my life, it’s always about me and I couldn’t care less about others. Think I’ll take my shoes off and put my stocking feet up on the bulkhead too. I’ll just act like Im in my own living room.
    Sound familiar? I end up sitting by these sorts of inconsiderate a$$holes regularly. Does no one ever practice any common consideration these days? Yes, it your seat reclines, you should be able to use it. However, knowing how screwed it is for the person behind you perhaps instead of the full recline, it might be a more considerate choice to only go 1/2 way. Or maybe not for the entire 11 hr flight. A little consideration eases lots of tension and makes for a much more pleasant flight…for everyone. So back to the beginning, it may be your privilege or opportunity but it doesn’t make it right, it just causes problems. Some good solutions here- design for appropriate room or bombard (ugh) gov to force them to do it.

  36. drphun

    November 20, 2019 at 5:20 am

    This is so silly. If you don’t like it, petition the airlines to change the seats so they can’t recline but don’t try to be a vigilante. Meanwhile the seats recline because they are supposed to recline. The airlines already have the FA’s announce when the seats are not allowed to be reclined, which is during takeoff and landing. They could as easily announce that seat backs have to remain in the upright position during the entire flight if that is what the airlines wanted.

  37. amex007

    November 20, 2019 at 5:22 am

    If the seat has a recline function and I choose to recline (outside of mealtime) then I will do so. Someone who doesn’t like me reclining can ask to be moved out can go into business class where they won’t have that issue. They can always upgrade to exit route or bulkhead where this isn’t an issue either. I don’t see why my comfort needs to be impacted.

  38. jobuzo

    November 20, 2019 at 5:32 am

    It seems in society today the comfort and feelings of others should be paramount at our own expense. I agree that the polite thing to do is not recline during meal service, but that is it. The seats are narrow and close together, the problem is people want to pay $100 for a seat and have all the afforded comforts of a $200 seat. There are various classes available and if the people don’t want to pay an extra $100 then pay $20-30 for a choice seat or more leg-room. The point is you can’t have lobster if you pay for a hamburger.

  39. Behindthecurtain

    November 20, 2019 at 5:35 am

    I mainly fly my economy on SU and Business on BA.

    I like the SU rules, no recline during meal service, rest of flight you can.

  40. stuckoutside

    November 20, 2019 at 5:36 am

    If my knees are usually about 1/2″ from the seatback (assuming I haven’t had to use up my foot room so that somebody else can stow a steamer trunk over my seat – in which case I’m already touching the seat in front), how is reclining my own seat going to make a jot of difference? all it achieves is to potentially make the person behind me suffer too. And, at 6’2″, I’m just an average height for the country I live in.

  41. jjonathan

    November 20, 2019 at 5:39 am

    There are two culprits here: Airline CEO’s and people like “MileageAddict”. The airlines start the ball rolling with there status-oriented mentality and MileageAddicts keep it going with their superior “I don’t care about you” attitude.
    Air travel continues to get worse each year. People need to revolt and stop flying the worst of the worst (think United & American) and let the airlines know why they are no longer flying on them

  42. SilverJack

    November 20, 2019 at 5:44 am

    Let’s be honest; it is not the airlines fault. People are jerks, they just are. The article title is very true in this case; and judging by the comments people enjoy being jerks. You can try to shift the blame and feel better about the jerk in front of you, but that’s just denial. People will abuse any advantage given to them in an effort to feel they have some control over fellow humans. It’s a power play on a very petty level.
    So let me offer this to those behind the jerk. Drop your tray and push down on it repeatedly. Adjust your vent so it blows hard down on their head ( my personal favorite). Bang on their seat back. Fart if given a chance. Eat something smelly and talk loudly. Let the jerk know they are not going to have a pleasant flight, even if they put their seat back up. After the flight ends, feel free to push them down the aisle or kick their carry-on.
    That’s my credo and I fly a lot. So next time you feel like being a jerk, go ahead and recline. I’m right behind you. And my name is Mayhem.

  43. sallygr

    November 20, 2019 at 5:49 am

    If the person in front of me reclines to the extent that I can’t use my laptop, I’ll recline my seat to the extent that I can. I’m willing to be courteous, but not the sacrificial lamb.

  44. Score8

    November 20, 2019 at 5:52 am

    Maybe the seats are too expensive to make, but weren’t there some econ seats where the recline caused the seat to move forward and thus sacrificed leg room for the reclining passenger. That way there’s at least a trade off.

  45. HomerJay

    November 20, 2019 at 5:59 am

    My lower back problems and peripheral neuropathy require me to use a pillow on the seat and to recline the seat during long flights. Otherwise, my legs and feet tingle and go numb. I buy a seat that reclines and I fully intend to use it that way. End of discussion.

  46. mapu

    November 20, 2019 at 6:11 am

    You have every right to recline your seat. It’s one of the last remaining small conveniences that remain to make a Y flight bearable. It’s polite to wait until meal service is finished, but that’s it. Everything else would be an extremely unreasonable expectation. The most shocking part of the story above, is the complicit behavior of the flight attendants. I would have definitely reported them to the airline.

  47. Danwriter

    November 20, 2019 at 6:21 am

    “Because seats are getting closer and closer together, even the smallest shift can create major problems for the flyer in front. This could range from a minor inconvenience while watching a movie, to making even the smallest of laptops inoperable.”

    The problem described here affects the pax behind, not in front. More great FT writing,knocked out in 10 minutes.

  48. redanman

    November 20, 2019 at 6:23 am

    I recline my seat. I usually sit in MCE, Economy+/premium economy or higher.

    But I do agree that regular seating in economy has reached an untenable point.
    No business class and small pitch and non-recline? – ask Air Berlin how that worked out for them. Oh wait, there is no more Air Berlin. (I’m using Climate Science methodology here)

  49. azmojo

    November 20, 2019 at 6:29 am

    Recline all you want. If the person behind you has a problem, it’s that they bought a seat on the wrong airline or in the wrong class of service. That’s on them. If you want more room, buy Economy plus, Biz, or First class, or another airline with a seat spacing that’s to your liking.

  50. randysea

    November 20, 2019 at 6:38 am

    The SEAT act doesn’t give any hope of “legislation designed to make flying in economy less of an uncomfortable . . . proposition for all.” It is only about minimum evacuation standards. Even then, the FAA is doing little to implement it.

    I think it safe to say that this Congress is unlikely to do anything pro-consumer that might reduce big companies’ profits in the slightest.

  51. JBinVT

    November 20, 2019 at 6:40 am

    Yes, of course the airlines are to blame here…but can’t we all be a little kinder on our fellow passengers for these 4 hours (or whatever)? Would this particular problem have been eased by offering to switch seats so that the mother and child were in the row ahead of the passenger who needed to recline?

  52. Apsis

    November 20, 2019 at 6:44 am

    I find it ironic that the woman complaining about the lack of room said the person in front of her should pay for business class so *she* can have more room.

    It’s pretty simple: it costs airlines money to provide more space, so if you want more space, you have to pay for it. If you want a seat with extra leg room or a seat in front that doesn’t recline, you can get it. If you want to save $300 on a route that traditionally cost $800, that savings needs to come from somewhere.

  53. MRM

    November 20, 2019 at 6:51 am

    I usually ask the person to not recline as much IF it impedes so much I can’t use my tray for my drink, computer, iPad, whatever. If they refuse or respond in a negative fashion, they won’t be enjoying the rest of the flying experience in their fully-reclined position, and that won’t require a word from me. However, that movement they feel on the backside of their chair generally doesn’t stop until the recline is lessened to more amenable levels. It’s CRAZY how people’s over-reclined seats pick up “special vibrations” when they refuse to adjust them…


    November 20, 2019 at 6:51 am

    If the person in front reclines, can’t you solve the issue by reclining?

  55. stickytoffee

    November 20, 2019 at 6:58 am

    Seats that crammed together shouldn’t have a recline option.
    No one has a “right” to make others uncomfortable not for hours long flights.
    Have some consideration for others.

  56. Toukolou

    November 20, 2019 at 7:06 am

    Lol, recline away, as long as you don’t mind the constant knock of my knees on your seatback.

    Just because you can , doesn’t mean you should.

    And to the poster who said it’s okay anytime except dinner service. Why the exception? Perhaps because it would be inconsiderate…?

  57. Toukolou

    November 20, 2019 at 7:06 am

    The title of this story actually sums it up perfectly.

  58. bennyg2

    November 20, 2019 at 7:14 am

    Sit up during your meal. The rest of the time, you can recline, just check to make sure the person behind you doesn’t have their laptop in a precarious position. I nearly had mine crunched on an Air Canada flight because I didn’t realize that the recline of the seat in front of me would squish the table space so much. My fault but it still would be polite to check that you’re not about to damage something by moving back in a tight space.

  59. oldAGE

    November 20, 2019 at 7:17 am

    Interesting article and yes, I do blame the airlines… but then I blame us for allowing it. I think if a sizable adjustment to the world economy occurs, and more flights are flying partially filled, the marketing departments will start doing different things to win back loyal and willing customers. I think a “decent” seat pitch will be one thing they try.

    Before reading this article, I had already hatched my plan. I am traveling ORD-HKG on CX in PE. I tried for a back-row seat but this cabin seems to be packed for some reason. Since we will be “hostages” for 14 hours, I planned on addressing the person behind me and coordinating an acceptable solution. I will give them the option to allow me to fully recline. Since it’s an early afternoon origination, I suspect that including meal service, there will be some work time required. But after a reasonable amount of time, all of us in the “A” row should expect some down and recline time. And this is a 38″ pitch cabin. If only it was a JAL shell seat. Que cera cera.

  60. af fp

    November 20, 2019 at 7:18 am

    As long as my seat can recline, I absolutely …. over the idiot who is behind me. I will recline my seat and let that person’s life be hell forever. This brings me joy. And it is a good opportunity for a nasty confrontation with an entitled flight attendant and an uneducated passenger. I despise both of them so it is great. Your kid cannot eat because of my seat ? Either he is too fat or he is too dumb. You cannot eat yourself and you are having a terrible trip? I could not care les about your misery, My priority in life is me. Get on the next plane. It is my right to recline this seat and you are too useless or fat to manage the space the airline actually gave you. Get out of my space.

    You have a problem with that? Remove the option to recline or remove the seat behind me.

  61. Baracuda618

    November 20, 2019 at 7:27 am

    The seat reclines…my back and neck hurt enormously on a plane…I paid for the seat….I’m reclining the seat. Case closed.

  62. Ripley62

    November 20, 2019 at 7:30 am

    The seats are designed for the upright position only for boarding and deplaning. The recline position is the design and intended inflight position of the seat.

  63. chadbag

    November 20, 2019 at 7:52 am

    During meal service they often ask for the seats to be put up straight. During the meal service this is reasonable. Otherwise, recline away. I am not a small guy, and when the guy in front of me reclines, so do I (if not earlier).

    The real jerks are the airlines who have created the cramped situation.

  64. Global321

    November 20, 2019 at 8:05 am

    A lot of the new seats solve this debate by seat sliding forward when reclining. It is the best solution as everyone’s space is their space.

  65. lewinr

    November 20, 2019 at 8:23 am

    my back hurts if I cannot recline my sit. I wont buy a ticket on an airline that doesnt permit recline. I dont recline it during meal service, and I usually warn the person behind me when I’m about the recline it (if they’re not asleep already anyway).

  66. CEB

    November 20, 2019 at 8:33 am

    The number one jerk in this discussion is Christopher Elliott, who provides no viable solutions and simply points blame in multiple directions.

    The number two jerk is us, and I mean all of us! We can blame the airlines all we wish, but the fact is that we passengers are getting what we demanded, i.e. the lowest possible flight costs. That means putting as many seats on a plane as possible so as to minimize operating costs and ensure the airlines can remain in business and reasonably profitable. And before I get flamed about the airlines ‘making billions” in profits i will remind everyone of two things. First the airlines lost money for many years before finally becoming profitable only about 10-15 years ago. And second, the average gross margin for the major US airlines is only 9% and their average net margin (their actual profit to the owners) is between 1 & 2 %, even lower than the average net margin for a grocery store! In order to maintain those slim margins the airlines need to fly at an average of an 80% load factor and we all know that while some flights are very full many others are very light.

    We also need to keep in mind that bigger airplanes, while offering more room for more seats also cost more to operate. So bigger aircraft still require pretty tight seating arrangements to ensure a financially viable service at the prices that most travelers are. willing to pay.

    So how do we solve the problem?
    1. Stop trying to find someone to blame for everything, accept accountability and responsibility for what we do to ourselves!
    2. If we want more space, realize that we have to be willing to pay for it.

    Personally, that is my path. I am more than willing to pay for premium economy or economy plus on relatively short flights (5 hours). Of course, that is just me. But I do get disgusted with all the whining and finger pointing in the blame game. We all need to grow up and accept responsibility and accountability whetehr it be airplane seats, health care or politics.

  67. canyonleo


    November 20, 2019 at 9:01 am

    Not sure why the above comments all focus on “your right to recline”. The subject is “are you a jerk”, or in other words, while it might be your right is it just rude.

    Yes it is. It’s just rude, given how airlines have configured economy (pitch) – AND ESPECIALLY IF THE PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU HASN’T RECLINED (IMO, if the person in front has reclined, then one often needs to recline and it’s then not rude).

    You have the right to eat raw onions, fart the entire flight, not shower for many weeks and stink up the plane… but as the article hints at, you’re being a jerk.

  68. Jackie_414

    November 20, 2019 at 9:15 am

    Get a life!

  69. lax01

    November 20, 2019 at 9:17 am

    Sorry, reclining is for jerks….period.

  70. Benster

    November 20, 2019 at 9:20 am

    I have back issues with my L4 and L5 from a skiing accident 30 years ago. I CANNOT sit in one position for more than 20-30 minutes. Changing my sitting position is absolutely crucial. If they take this option away, look for me, and thousands of others with back issues “loitering” in the aisle on every flight.

  71. kabroui

    November 20, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Blaming the airlines is a straw man argument. Who, pray tell, has for the last 20 years, searched for and bought the absolute cheapest ticket they could possibly buy? What did you expect the airlines to do?

  72. SamirD

    November 20, 2019 at 11:13 am

    The jerk is the mom with the ‘special snowflake’ child. Travelling on a plane with children is going to be a pain as a parent–just be ready for that–because planes are not designed for kids, but for adults. And the ‘special snowflake’ moms are the worst people on the planet as I’ve dealt with them on more than one occasion and situation (hint, they love trespassing and committing other crimes in the name ‘my baby’.)

    Do I get to yell at you when your child won’t shut up or keeps kicking my seat? It’s a two way street where everyone does the best they can in the time we’re all squished together.

    For the armrest hoggers, seat kickers, and other annoying people who could care less about being even remotely social, I have my own techniques to deal with them that involves some crop dusting, haha.

  73. SoydeSD

    November 20, 2019 at 11:55 am

    My preference is to keep my seat in an upright position. More comfortable for me. I won’t deny or complain if the passenger ahead of me reclines his or her seat, just so long as they don’t complain if a I get a case of a jimmy-leg, or I have to grab their headrest to get out of my seat to use the bathroom or access my carry-on bag in the overhead.

  74. Morgacj2004

    November 20, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    This is an aircraft design / airline issue not a passenger issue. The airlines and manufacturers created this mess due to their greed. Now they are dealing with the fallout. Use common sense when reclining. I do not do so during meal and or beverage service. The rest of the time is fair game!

  75. Kremmen

    November 20, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    Inaccurate clickbait headline. Stupid article.
    Reclining is more comfortable. If the person behind wants more room, they can recline too.
    The only people who are jerks are the ones who keep moving their seat backwards and forwards. The person behind you with a laptop doesn’t want it being hit every 5 minutes. Work out where your seat back is most comfortable and leave it there!

  76. iflyjetz

    November 20, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    Don’t like the person in front of you to recline? Fly Spirit, Frontier, or Allegiant. Their seats do not recline.
    Not enough room for you? Buy an economy plus upgrade.

    I will always recline my seat when able because it’s more comfortable for me. I have never complained about the person in front of me reclining their seat (I’m 6’1″). It’s just not an issue for most of us.
    If you’re one of the few who have a problem with the seat reclining in front of you – taking up less than 2 inches of space at your eye level – then you’re a selfish jerk. At the knee level, the person reclining their seat takes up less than a quarter inch of knee space.

  77. Kim Amey

    November 20, 2019 at 3:08 pm

    I always feel awkward reclining my seat although there’s no reason why I should. I don’t do it during meal service but I don’t find it a problem if the passenger in front does whilst I’m eating.

  78. allenaustralia

    November 20, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    No wonder the rest of the world cringes when a person from the USA boards a plane, comes into a restaurant or boards a cruise outside the USA.

    The delusional self entitled manner is unbelievable.

    Lesson that people can learn from the USA can learn:

    1. USA airlines are budget airlines. If you do not get free decent meal on an airline it is budget – end of story.
    2. Since USA airlines are budget airlines – what do you expect from a budget airlines?
    3. As flight attendants are so old in the USA, in the event of an emergency your life will be but at risk by having to help the flight attendants in their 70s.
    4. The seat includes.the ability to recline a seat (except during meals.
    5. If you a fat obese person – buy 2 seats or fly business. You have no right for your fat to overflow into my seat. Why because I paid for my seat also and have right to my seat.
    6. Remember that the rest of world does not give a toss what anyone from the USA thinks

  79. IBobi


    November 20, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    I recline. My back hurts if I don’t. End of discussion for me.

  80. freqflyer12

    November 20, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    It really bugs me when articles like this come out, especially with this kind of headline, and start making people question their behavior. No wonder millennials are so confused. All the mixed messages. I’m old school. If i pay for a seat, I am going to do with it pretty much as I want. If I am now considered a jerk, then so be it! Regardless of what the airlines do with legroom, measurements, dimensions……’s my seat for the trip. And if people have gotten too thin-skinned and sensitive to handle that anymore, tough nuts! Get out and walk!

  81. cmd320

    November 20, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    If you have a problem with the space available after the customer in front of you has reclined, you should book an exit row, bulkhead, or premium cabin seat. Otherwise, you’re getting what you paid for.

  82. AAguy1979

    November 20, 2019 at 6:45 pm

    I really don’t get it… the marginal comfort of those few degrees of recline isn’t worth the claustrophobia it causes the person behind you. On a red eye, after the meal service is tolerable. But there’s absolutely no reason to it on a flight of less than a few hours. It makes the recliner a selfish jerk. Period.

  83. c502cid

    November 20, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    Recline away, but is it so hard to put it up when you lean forward to work on your laptop for 2 hours?

    It’s my right to drum on my tray table, it’s my space, and if you don’t like it you are a jerk. I also can control my air vent, I have sinus issues and if the air isn’t circulating just so it hits your head, I have issues… me me me.
    Please have the airlines have the waaaammmmbulance waiting when I land.

  84. sar7cee

    November 21, 2019 at 1:35 am

    One of the blessings of flying with Ryanair and easyJet is that the seats don’t recline and there are none of these problems.

  85. mikem004

    November 21, 2019 at 2:27 am

    A gentleman never reclines.

  86. man4business

    November 21, 2019 at 5:04 am

    @MileageAddict, Is it written somewhere that you can’t grunt or fart? then you probably do it on the plane, because your comfort is the most important factor for you.

  87. cairns

    November 21, 2019 at 5:57 am

    “The right to recline is negotiable and depends on situation. It is not absolute: and your right to recline ends at the point where my knees start.”

    Wrong. Your knees are your problem. If you dob’t like it upgrade or stay home.

  88. DCAFly

    November 21, 2019 at 8:08 am

    I have a herniated disc at L4-L5 and a bulging one at T8-9 (somewhere near there). I don’t find any difference in comfort when I recline, what – the 5 degrees you get with an airline seat recline?

    All I can say is that – seat recline or not – I hope I never get on a plane or have to deal with most of the people commenting in this thread (yes, I know everyone, the feeling is mutual).

  89. chipmaster

    November 21, 2019 at 8:48 am

    Hot button for use economy road warriors, right up there with who gets the armrest and what happens when a POS encroaches on my personal space, LOL.

    If a seat reclines then isn’t my right to recline? Agree as to common courtesy during meals to give that few cubic inches of space to those wonderful economy meals boxes. On most foreign carriers I think they actually announce during meal service to put the seat up and the FA comes around and makes it almost mandatory, but rest of the time your choice.

    Of course exit rows for safety require restriction, if safety is the issue, shouldn’t we regulate and test how POS can impact safety?

  90. rstruthe

    November 21, 2019 at 9:01 am

    If my seat can recline, then I have every right to. I paid for that right. I have no issue if the person in front of me that paid for the right to recline their seat, reclines there seat.

    If you don’t want the person in front of you reclining you have some options, pay for an emergency exit aisle, pay for bulk head isle, pay for business class seat. End of story.

  91. Dalo

    November 21, 2019 at 10:23 am

    The space taken by my reclining seat is real estate I have purchased. If the victims of seat reclining are suffering too greatly I suggest THEY can be the ones to fly business class .

  92. motty

    November 21, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    Finding someone to blame seems to be a knee jerk reaction of some people nowadays. The ever shrinking airline seat is a result of the flying public’s preferences – who prioritize price over comfort. For many years airlines who shrunk seats and reduced prices were more successful, which resulted in the entire industry to gravitate that way. There are many options to pay more and get more space, like preferred seats, premier economy and business class. Passengers who need the space can pay more.
    So who’s the jerk? I think it’s the author of this article who is looking for someone to blame – when this is the optimal trade-off for all the participants.

  93. Rebelyell

    November 21, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    When you board a plane the seats are pitched forward in a crash-landing position which is extremely uncomfortable. Following takeoff, all seats on the plane, every single one, should be reclined; the effect on legroom is minimal. The idea that everyone should be forced to sit bolt upright because of some weirdo is ridiculous.

  94. Sydneyberlin

    November 21, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    This old recline game- one jerk up the front starts that nonsense and then the entire plane, one after another, also has to go into this shitty half-reclined position. Just yet another reason why I avoid flying in Economy like the plague these days!

  95. andrewku

    November 22, 2019 at 8:08 pm

    I would recline. I paid for it. If someone wants to pay me enough to be uncomfortable and sit up right that would be ok for me. Otherwise shut up or pay up and just get a first class or business class ticket.

    Ths passenger in the back was rude.

  96. GlobalMatt

    November 24, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    Once again, people trying to change the direction of the wind instead of adjusting their sails. If they don’t want someone reclining their seat into their “face” book a flight upfront on a wide body if available, or drive or fly private instead. Take a train or bus even! Can’t do (don’t want to do) either of those? It’s not somebody else’s problem.

  97. mvoight

    November 25, 2019 at 10:00 am

    1. The seat installed by the airlines is made to recline. They could have ordered non-reclining seats. So, that means people expect to reclient
    2. There are ways to avoid having a problem with the seat in front of you reclining (sit in an exit row, fly a carrier with non-reclining seats, buy business class, go by bus, etc)
    3. People complain about the spacing between rows, but refuse to pay any premium for more. There is no free lunch……
    American Airlines tried More Room Throughout Coach a a few years back, where all seats had more legroom. AA tried to charge slightly more for flights compared to other carriers.
    AA found there were not enough people willing to pay a small price difference for all seats to have more leg room, which is why they now offer “Main Cabin Extra”, in order for a smaller number of people to pay a larger premium for those seats. I suspect the vast majority of people in those seats are elite, who are not paying the premium, or people given those seats when the plane is full and there are not enough non-MCE seats. Additionally, those people lucky enough to not choose those seats, but still get them, then become entitled to free alcoholic drinks. Due to the inability to get enough people to pay the premium, AA is cutting back on the percentage of seats that are MCE. The moral of the story is the vast majority of passengers shop by price and not by space.

  98. Cedar Jet

    November 29, 2019 at 2:45 am

    You chose Economy Class…why the hell is that the fault of the person who wants to recline? Its bad enough its economy class all squashed up..the least you can offer the pax is ability to recline. You booked the cheapest level of service and amenity – thats just what it is. get over it.

  99. cmd320

    November 30, 2019 at 8:04 am

    Seats are meant to be reclined. If you don’t fit, pay for more legroom.

  100. IsleSeat

    December 1, 2019 at 10:44 am

    we are living in an entitlement based society it seems

  101. Fizzer

    December 3, 2019 at 8:21 am

    All the folks who say if the seat ahead reclines just recline out of the way have forgotten that the back row seats cannot do so as the bulkhead behind prevents it. If you recline that you are at the very least inconsiderate of others AKA a jerk.

  102. Tailgater

    December 7, 2019 at 9:33 am

    I wish seat reclines were not even available. It’s already cramped in economy without person in front wanting to recline the seat in front so that the screen is practically in your face. I prefer sitting up while I read, watch entertainment. Even when the person in front of me reclines, I won’t subsequently recline my seat since I know that MANY

  103. Tailgater

    December 7, 2019 at 9:43 am

    I wish seat reclines were not even available. It’s already cramped in economy without person in front wanting to recline the seat in front so that the screen is practically in your face. I prefer sitting up while I read, watch entertainment. Even when the person in front of me reclines, I won’t subsequently recline my seat since I know that MANY feel the same way. Reminds me of the people who will stand the entire time, say, during a concert. Consequently, persons in rows behind now have obstructed view unless they, too, now stand as well which precludes the whole idea of even having seating for the event. But, there’s really no solution re the airline configuration. At least, by me not reclining even though person in front is doing it, I am being the most courteous one since I’m affording the person in back of me maximum seat area space, especially if reclining in the seat behind me while my seat is not. What is particularly disturbing is when person in front doesn’t even return the seat to upright during meal service. That just shows the person is now being discourteous and or maybe just ignorant. .

    Leave a Reply

  104. jpschoubert

    December 10, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    Why I don’t fly commercial any more…jk
    Also over the years it has always worked if you dont want the person in front to recline, just say once boarded, “hey can you do me a favor and if you do recline just to let me know, I will be on my laptop”..Very high rate of success that they do not recline. You’ve also engaged them in a cordial dialogue should they recline during the meal, you can ask them to pull back up.
    And if this does not work, you always have the Knee Defender!!

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