Reclining seats on airplanes

Roller

macrumors 68030
Original poster
Jun 25, 2003
2,527
964
Shortly after my wife and I took off on a daytime cross-country flight last week, the two passengers in the row immediately ahead of us reclined their seats fully. They kept them that way the entire time, even though they didn't seem to sleep at any point. One of them even kept the seat reclined during landing, contrary to instructions.

As anyone who has flown coach knows, leg room is at a premium even if the seats in front remain upright. Any degree of tilt makes it very uncomfortable, especially for passengers with long legs. Personally, I never recline my seat unless the one behind me is empty or I'm in a situation where I can do it without bothering the person in back. I'd prefer it if the airlines just removed the capability altogether.

What do you do in this situation? I've tried politely asking the person in front of me not to recline, but I've never had anyone agree.
 
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Gutwrench

Contributor
Jan 2, 2011
3,905
9,021
I'm average height (5'11") so my legs are not bothered by a reclined seat. It does have a small affect on the room near my upper body so I tend to adjust my seat back a little. It's their seat to use as they wish and mine to use as I wish.

Reserve an exit seat.
 

an-other

macrumors 6502
Aug 12, 2011
310
105
Two other options:
  • Bring a newspaper. Reading the newspaper whilst someone is reclining will cause paper/head contact. No one can really complain as you're doing something a normal person would be expected to do on a plane
  • I've only read about this, but I liked the idea. Put some fluid on your hand. Fake a sneezes, and make sure moisture flies into the air.
There are devices you can buy to prevent the seat in front of you from reclining. I'm unaware of any airline that would condone their usage. Some cases of their use have made the news, and airlines could ban you if you ignore requests to remove them.

You could also pull down your tray table and occassionally push down hard against it. It won't solve any issue, but it's a petty way to annoy the person in front of you. It's your call on the karmic impact.

The last thought would be to just ask the person or flight host/hostessfor assistance. There are times this can happen unintentionally, especially if the person in front of you is a bigger person. Just like legroom is tight, so is seat width for some. It's possible a thigh or knee hit the button inadvertently, and the person didn't even realise they've done it.

Airlines are like any other business. They are challenged to make profit and satisify their shareholders. There's virtually no real competition anymore, and it's a seller's market unless you live in a major city. I probably write 10 letters a year to the CEO of the airline I travel. I'd say 3 are positive highlighting a specific person (it's so noticeable when you see an excellent employee) and the rest are feedback for areas of improvement. Hey, you have to do something whilst on the plane, and they ask to "Let me know how we're doing...." in the safety video check.
 
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maflynn

Moderator
Staff member
May 3, 2009
63,851
30,366
Boston
I pay extra for the extra room seats. It sucks that I have to do that but that's the world we live in. They're packing us in more and more and that means less room. Some airlines have done away with reclining seats altogether just to squeeze more people into the plane. I'm not sure that's a good idea as well.
 
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BenTrovato

macrumors 68030
Jun 29, 2012
2,849
1,870
Canada
I never recline.. I find it more uncomfortable in economy to sit reclined vs straight up - even if I want to sleep. When the seat in front of me reclines, it makes me very uncomfortable. I often sit leaned a bit forward so I can see through the window. Often times when the person reclines they end up hitting me in the head, they apologize and never do it again.

If they do recline, they should straighten up at least for beverage/meal service. At that point you can ask the flight attendant to ask the person in front to make the seat upright. The moment they do you can thank them and politely ask them not to again because [insert your very good reason here]. If someone asked me in a nice way not to do something on an airplane, I can't imagine why I wouldn't comply. I'd even offer them $10 haha. Now if they are rude about it, sometimes taller people end up (repeatedly without end) inadvertently kicking the seat in front of them because they are so cramped ;)
 
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zhenya

macrumors 603
Jan 6, 2005
6,360
2,826
You chose to buy a ticket at a reduced price with full knowledge that the airlines allow the seats to recline and that they sell upgrades to seats with more legroom for an additional cost - from paying for an exit row, to economy plus, to business class and beyond. The person in front of you paid for their ticket same as you, with this same knowledge. They are entitled to recline their seat just as you are entitled to purchase a seat with more legroom.
 

C DM

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Oct 17, 2011
47,509
16,011
Seems like some people feel that entitlement is everything...and that basically explains a lot about the world that we live in and have lived in throughout history.
 
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Huntn

macrumors demi-god
May 5, 2008
17,043
16,527
The Misty Mountains
Shortly after my wife and I took off on a daytime cross-country flight last week, the two passengers in the row immediately ahead of us reclined their seats fully. They kept them that way the entire time, even though they didn't seem to sleep at any point. One of them even kept the seat reclined during landing, contrary to instructions.

As anyone who has flown coach knows, leg room is at a premium even if the seats in front remain upright. Any degree of tilt makes it very uncomfortable, especially for passengers with long legs. Personally, I never recline my seat unless the one behind me is empty or I'm in a situation where I can do it without bothering the person in back. I'd prefer it if the airlines just removed the capability altogether.

What do you do in this situation? I've tried politely asking the person in front of me not to recline, but I've never had anyone agree.
The real issue is sardine seating. Reclined seating is more comfortable in most circumstances for most people. The only solution is to figure a way to force the airlines to provide more leg room in coach.
 

zhenya

macrumors 603
Jan 6, 2005
6,360
2,826
The real issue is sardine seating. Reclined seating is more comfortable in most circumstances for most people. The only solution is to figure a way to force the airlines to provide more leg room in coach.
The answer there is simple. Pay more for your ticket. Airlines are packing people in like sardines because consumers demand the lowest possible fares.
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
45,459
30,712
The Far Horizon
I travel a lot and this is an interesting issue.

From what I can see, there is a sort of balance between one's right to recline, and some possible consideration for the impact of this on others. Depending on circumstances, - such as who or what is behind me - I will not recline fully; and certainly, while eating, sitting in an economy seat while the person in front of you has fully reclined is something of a nuisance, and it is acceptable to ask them to raise their seat somewhat while the meal is in the process of being served.

If the option exists, I will travel Economy Plus, or Business Class, or seek seats in a part of the plane which may be less likely to be crowded (which tends to be the rear).

However, some people seem to feel that the entire space in their vicinity is theirs to be colonised. A little mutual respect and some small courtesy can go a long way to making travel a lot more bearable for everyone.
 
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goudok

macrumors regular
Aug 14, 2012
135
23
I paid for a seat i am reclining. In fact i flew cross country this past sunday and my seat did not recline i complained and got moved to another seat with more leg room and fully reclyning seat.
I don't understand how you can tell someone not to recline when they paid for a seat, that is inconsiderate of you.
 

Gutwrench

Contributor
Jan 2, 2011
3,905
9,021
If the seat has the ability to recline an inch or two then the person in front of me can recline.

The anti-reclining nazis (and there aren't really many of them) issue is with the airlines (and their own selfishness) then, not other passengers. My god people get bent out of shape over the smallest things...my annoyance with this thread topic excluded of course.
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
45,459
30,712
The Far Horizon
Well, perhaps this reflects the cultural values of the society it comes from, a world where some notion of the 'rights of the individual', and the 'right of the company to make profits' trump all other rights. Perhaps, too, it is because the cradle of the whole idea of cutting costs, and service, and - of course - reducing the cost of fares in the airline industry - is also an idea born in the US.

However, I am European, not American, and I do think that an awareness of the existence of others, and the fact that they may be due some consideration, helps ameliorate matters considerably. While I am not against reclining (I recline, and sleep, and read, and listen to music a lot on flights), I also think it a lot more pleasant if you acknowledge the possible needs of others, and they, in turn, choose to pay some slight heed to yours.

Once, on a crowded cross continental flight, I was requested to consider moving, and agreed to move from my (very nice) seat to a less comfortable one in order to facilitate a family who wished to sit together. At the end of the day, it somewhat inconvenienced me, and hugely facilitated them.
 
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Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
45,459
30,712
The Far Horizon
If the seat has the ability to recline an inch or two then the person in front of me can recline.

The anti-reclining nazis (and there aren't really many of them) issue is with the airlines (and their own selfishness) then, not other passengers. My god people get bent out of shape over the smallest things...my annoyance with this thread topic excluded of course.
Of course it is, as the desire of the airline industry for profit seems to outweigh all else, ( a choice applauded by passengers, unfortunately) and some airlines seem to take an almost savage pleasure in making flights as uncomfortable and as unpleasant as possible for passengers.

However, the issue of selfishness cuts both ways, as a reclined seat can make movement into and out of the seat behind a challenging task.

If the option exists, I prefer to spend a bit extra on a seat (unless it is very much short haul) in order to be a bit more comfortable.
 

D.T.

macrumors G3
Sep 15, 2011
8,919
6,734
Vilano Beach, FL
I usually recline my seat, since usually the person in front of me reclines their's.
Yeah, I'd generally prefer not to recline, but once the person in front of me does, I do too (usually the same amount).

I _at_least_ do a quick check behind me to make sure I'm not going to smash a head, notebook, spill a hot cup of coffee, etc. Just because I "paid for a reclining" seat doesn't mean I have to be a complete asshat about it ...
 
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hallux

macrumors 68030
Apr 25, 2012
2,774
485
Once, on a crowded cross continental flight, I was requested to consider moving, and agreed to move from my (very nice) seat to a less comfortable one in order to facilitate a family who wished to sit together. At the end of the day, it somewhat inconvenienced me, and hugely facilitated them.
I have a hard time understanding how this even needed to happen. The family should have been booked to sit together from the get-go, the airlines REALLY need to step it up there. This happened to my brother last year when he flew with his family, I don't recall if he got it revised before the flight or if it had to be resolved on board.

As for the original recline question. When I went to Mexico 2 months ago, I left my seat upright. That position was more comfortable for what I wanted to do during the flight (watch a movie I had cached on my tablet).

I agree that this is all a result of people wanting the lowest fares possible, but the airline also has to consider safety. The planes are certified for a maximum weight and also a maximum number of people that can egress within 60 or 90 seconds in an emergency. Pack too many more on some of these planes and you really start to hit those limits.

I will say that the MD-80 I was on was CRAMPED (milk run to Atlanta during commute/shuttle time), the 737 felt more roomy but it also was half-full.