Airplane Seat Etiquette

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You know the feeling. The plane has just reached cruising altitude, you’re about to whip out your laptop, and bam… the person in front of you reclines their seat all the way back and effectively reduces your personal space by about 20%. I’d estimate it only happens to me on maybe one out of every five flights, but when it does, it can really ruin the chance to get any work done.

This weekend, on an Alaska Airlines flight back from the Future of Web Apps conference, I found myself in an extremely tight row and the guy in front of me reclined his seat all the way back before the plane had even finished its climb. Great. This was a sub two-hour flight and it wasn’t even at night so why the need to assume the position like this? I lowered my tray and placed my compact 12-inch Powerbook on it thinking I could at least get some work done, but upon opening the lid, I found that it was physically impossible to place the laptop in any open position and type on it at the same time. This is a tiny laptop and it was hanging halfway off the front of the tray and into my abdomen. Unbelievable. I know I’ve been in a similar situation before and it wasn’t this bad so I assume Alaska has eliminated some legroom or I was just in a really bad row. The distance from the front of my headrest to the back of the other person’s headrest was only about 20 inches.

The situation continued to irritate me throughout the flight. The guy in front of me was even leaning forward for most of the flight! His only saving grace was that he looked a little bit like Stan. I actually pretended he was Stan for the duration of the flight in order to reduce my anger towards him.

Other things I did during the flight:

  • Used my tray as a drumset for a minute
  • Issued random kneejerks into the seatback just to interrupt his train of thought, whatever it was
  • Whipped out my camera and took a few pictures (with the autofocus assist light on “high”) from right above his head

(Update: Yes, yes, I know this doesn’t really help the situation.)

All in all, I’m not sure any of this had much effect, but it really got me thinking about proper airplane seat etiquette. I personally only recline my seat under two circumstances:

  1. If the flight is over 5 or 6 hours and the person behind me isn’t Jeff Veen or Tom Watson size
  2. If there is nobody or a small child behind me

Old guy (right): leaning back with the seat upright… good. Jason Santa Maria lookalike (left): leaning forward with the seat reclined… bad.In other words, I only recline my seat if it does me a material amount of good and it doesn’t do anyone else a material amount of bad. I had a debate in the office with someone else about this and he felt the opposite. He said “when someone in front of me reclines, I recline also”. To me, this is like child abuse. Someone else does it to you so you just continue the cycle of abuse. Bad.

I suppose the ideal thing to do would be to just ask the person in front of you to kindly move their seat back upright, but as average sized 5′ 11″ guy, what are my grounds for expecting this courtesy?

In the midst of my ruminations, I remembered a product I’d heard about several years ago which actually prevents airplane seats from reclining: The Knee Defender. I remember thinking at the time that it seemed like kind of an inconsiderate device to use, but I’m changing my attitude about that now. I’m buying one, although I will only use it on appropriately short flights and only if I’m in a tight row. There are really only two drawbacks to the device as I see it:

  1. They must be applied with the tray down and before any reclining takes place (wouldn’t have worked on my flight because the Stan lookalike was so trigger happy with his recline button).
  2. They are kind of conspicuous so the flight attendants might notice and the people next to you might give you weird looks and/or think you’re a jerk.

What is everyone else’s policy towards seat reclining? Am I alone in my conscious restraint of the recline button?

Interesting note: On the Knee Defender page, there is a quote from the Washington Post that says “If the guy won’t compromise, whip out your Knee Defender.” I don’t see how this would work since the attempted “compromise” would appear to occur after the seat is already reclined and thus not subject to the Knee Defender. C’mon Washington Post… do some actual reporting! :)

287 comments on “Airplane Seat Etiquette”. Leave your own?
  1. The flight back to Utah from the Future of Web Apps Summit was a little better for me, the person in front of me never reclined. However, I do have this problem frequently on the bus. I take a 45 minute bus ride each day, and it makes me absolutely irate when I’m on the bus working on my laptop, and then someone sits in front of me and reclines all the way. I can’t believe how often it happens. Most of the time my reaction is to barrage the back of his seat with random kneeing into the back of his seat and/or move if another seat is available.

  2. Priit says:

    You wanted to work. I usualy like to sleep on a plane, but I cannot without reclining the seat first (actually even sitting straight around two hours is uncomfortable for me).

    Taking into account that reclining the seat is allowed and perfecly legal :-), I would like to know why your desire to work overcomes my desire to sleep?

  3. Mike D. says:

    Priit: That is a good question and I have a good answer —

    1. I physically cannot work with the seat back in front of me reclined. It’s not that it’s difficult. It’s not possible (at least on this plane).

    2. I find it hard to believe that a roughly 15 degree difference in the angle of your back is the difference between being able to sleep awesomely and not being able to sleep at all. Maybe I’m wrong… I can’t sleep on planes anyway, so I’m no expert.

    3. Even if we assume #2 is false, I’m willing to cede that comfort to the person in front of me on any flight where sleeping would be a material benefit, but a sub two hour flight in the afternoon? And besides, the guy in front of me wasn’t sleeping. If he was, maybe I would feel for him a little more.

    The real solution is better seating arrangements, but the airline industry seems to be going in the opposite direction these days.

  4. Mark Boulton says:

    For short flights, in daylight, I absolutely agree that if you’re not planning on having a kip, then there’s no need to recline your seat.

    I had the same problem on a long haul to Singapore in April. The bloke in front reclined his seat 20 minutes into a 12 hour flight and then didn’t sort it out until we were about to land. I could have just asked him, but preferred to sit there seeting and stewing for whole duration of the flight. You know, do the decent thing and not just ask him but devise new and inventive ways to annoy him. It didn’t work. He didn’t budge.

    I used to get the same sort of thing on the tube everyday to work in London. I just could not handle the invasion of my personal space at that time in the morning. So, in an effort to get people off my back (literally), I made myself all pointy (knees, elbows, knuckles, fingers) which did the trick nicely.

    Of course, it’s not the bloke who’s at blame here, but the airline for not giving enough legroom, or the seat designers for getting it really wrong!

  5. Adam Spooner says:

    My thoughts are much along the lines of yours. If there is noone behind me or it’s a small child, then I’ll recline. Otherwise, I simply sit in the small, I’m-not-paying-for-more-than-coach seat and read a book…even if the person in front of me isn’t as considerate. It’s just common courtesy to respect other people’s space.

  6. So why didn’t you just ask, instead of kicking the seat every 20 mins, making him (probably) think “what a jerk”?

    But yes, as a guy over 196cm (over 6″5.5′) I know how valuable chair space is.

  7. Priit says:

    Its different physical abilites thae. I can work, I have 15″ mbp, I never ever use tray, I always use my lap – this just suits me. When the seats back is straight I can sleep, but I cannot place my head comfortably – the thing starts to “fall down” when i’m asleep – and I will wake up after every 5 minets or so. Not good.

  8. chris sivori says:

    Sounds passive aggressive to muck with the drumming and knee kicking. Buy the guy off, ask him nicely, or just sit and take it like a grown-up. Kicking the guy’s seatback is unnecessary and probably doesn’t communicate that well. Make an issue or don’t make an issue.

  9. Dave Simon says:

    I was going to sayy what JJM above said. Ask, repeatedly, if he would please put the seat up so you can work.

    I was also going to say that I know abouut chair space, as I’m 6’2″ and the size of many football players.

  10. Mike D. says:

    Yes, I agree about the passive-aggressive part. On the one hand, I’m apparently too timid to speak up about it, but on the other hand, I’m trying to send signals and do other things which — like his own actions — don’t take into account the comfort of others. Definitely not saying it’s right…

  11. Arnor says:

    Well, I don’t usually recline at all, unless I have a very good excuse for it, and if I do (not having slept for over 20hrs, for instance) I only recline partially.

  12. Jehiah says:

    I will mention that I’ve seen some seats recline accidentally without their ocupants intending for it to do so (yes that was me once); I’ve seen this happen on more than one flight though. On some aircraft the “recline” button is easy to bump; perhaphs it was accidentally reclined? Did the stewardess have to tell him to un-recline it at the end of the flight, or did he do that on his own?

  13. Mike, I couldn’t agree more. If I had more money and time, I would actually produce a short PSA on this issue. People need to know.

    On a recent flight from New York to KC (home for me) the @hole in front of me reclined with very little warning – which gave me no time to move my MacBook Pro back toward me. The result? A nice sized dent on the top of my MBP! You see, when you lower the tray and put your laptop out, your screen naturally fits in the void where the tray was. When the guy in front of you reclines, the space from tray to the top of the void reduces – thus crushing anything sitting in the void.

    So, if anyone would like to help fund the PSA, let me know.

  14. While I agree with your courtesy rules I think the actions you chose made you the real asshole. If the guy wasn’t sleeping and he put his seat back you should have said something.

    As far as putting the seat back helping someone get to sleep it most certainly does.

    As far as your “right” to get work done vs. his “right” to be comfortable I think it is BS to think that you even have a right to get work done. It is certainly useful to get work done and it sucks not to be able to but it isn’t your right.

    One thing you should think about are his possible situations.
    * He could have unknowingly put his seat back.
    * He could have a back/knee/whatever problem.
    * And of course he could just be an asshole.

    The point is never you never asked, instead you spent two hours stressing yourself out and acting like a child. If he wasn’t an ass and you politely said something you could have had an 1’45” of pleasant flight. If he was an ass, you could ask the flight attendants for assistance.

    Anyways, in all likelihood he probably was just an ass, but you don’t know because you chose not to act like an adult/ceo/man. Talking to someone does not have to be a confrontation. Just because you are upset doesn’t mean the other person is.

  15. Andrew Kumar says:

    On a flight from Vancouver to Toronto in January, I put my arm on the chair in front of me… I think the guy in front of me just figured his chair was broken…

  16. Calichef says:

    I will definitely agree with you that the guy was a jerk. However, the real fault is with the airlines.

    They know their seats are miserable for average or larger sized people to have to sit in for more than a few minutes at a time. Heck, they aren’t even comfortable when there’s nobody beside or in front of you! Ergonomic, they are not!

    The cheap “fly anywhere for $99” days are long over and it’s time the passengers spoke up! We are already virtually strip searched, questioned like criminals and humiated just to get to the plane, and then packed in like sardines once we get there.

    I say, lose a couple of rows of seats, give us back our full 24 inch-wide seats and let us have a little breathing room!

    While I actually love flying, I still have to take a Valium just to get on a plane because I can’t stand to be in such close proximity to strangers for such a long period of time. If I don’t take it I’ll likely have a panic attack at 30,000 feet, and believe me, that’s no fun for anyone.

    Oh, and I can’t sleep on planes, either.

  17. Mike D. says:

    Nathaniel: As I’ve admitted, yes, I should have said something… and no, I shouldn’t have gotten all passive/aggressive about it. I know this. But that’s not what this post is really about. It’s about the social conventions I believe you should follow when deciding whether or not to recline your seat during a plane ride. From the poll results so far, only 17% of this blog’s readers consistently recline their seats and this matches up pretty accurately with my observation that I seem to get reclined on about one in every five flights.

    I only agree with your assertion that people have the unalienable right to recline their seats in the same way that people can bump their car stereos through my neighborhood. They paid for their seats/stereos so they can technically do as they please. But that doesn’t make it “right”, and it also doesn’t mean I relinquish the right to be upset about the disturbance and handle it in whatever adult or childish way I please. :)

  18. Joshua Zader says:

    Interesting topic.

    I always put my seat back on an airplane, as my back and neck feel much more comfortable in that position.

    I have never been bothered by the person in front of me putting their seat back, so it wouldn’t have occurred to me that this could be a source of inconvenience for someone behind me.

    Now that I understand the laptop dilemma, I’ll try to remember to take a glance behind me before putting my seat back, in the future. If there are enough empty seats on the plane, however, I would assume all this is a moot point: You can have your laptop and I can have my recliner.

    Interesting that you would resort to kicking his seat, etc. Offhand, it strikes me as significantly more inconsiderate than what he did, in terms of being obviously and intentionally rude. :-)

    If push came to shove, my hunch is that an airline attendant would tell you that his right to recline trumps your right to work.

    In any case, it sounds like you have spotted the makings of a niche market in the airline industry — namely, airlines that actively encourage courtesy toward laptop users, or provide better physical setups for using a laptop.

  19. Kory Twaites says:

    I’m 6 foot 1 and I hate it when people lean back!!! I usually only lean back if it’s a flight at night and I’m trying to go to sleep. But if I sensed someone wanted me to put my chair up I would do it.

    What bugs me most is when the seat leans back on it’s own, and flight attendants are like “Sir please put your seat up”. And you have to lean forward off the seat to keep it up.

  20. Scott Jungling says:

    One time on a flight, I had my 15″ PB on the tray table so I could watch some TV shows (in-flight television is pretty lame these day) when the guy in front of me jerks his seat back into the recline position.

    The screen had been angled away from me for better viewing and I was caught by surprise as the screen became trapped between the tray and the seat. In a panic I was able to remove the laptop without an damage.

    Word of warning, if you’re going to use a laptop on a tray table, don’t position it too far back on the tray or if you do, make sure the screen is angled slightly toward you to avoid what could be a disaster for your machine.

  21. gb says:

    I took my revenge for all the pain in the ass flight experiences I’ve had by nearly smacking Muriel Hemingway in the face with my carry-on whilst boarding a recent flight. I have no idea how exactly this may have balanced the power, but somehow, in the cosmic scheme of things, it felt right.

  22. Bulbboy says:

    …Issued random kicks and kneejerks into the seatback every 20 minutes or so just to interrupt his train of thought, whatever it was

    Your efforts were probably in vain. I don’t think the kind of guy who reclines his seat and sits forward most of the flight, would actually have a train of thought to be interrupted!

  23. Peter says:

    I don’t agree at all.

    On a plane, you have a right to put your seat back. It’s part of your space.

    Once I was trying to sleep and the guy behind me physically prevented me from putting my seat back. Who is he to say that I cannot put my seat back?

    Bottom line is if you really care, move up to the economy plus area. Pay for it. But don’t tell me I can’t use a feature of my chair because you’re not willing to pay for the extra room you seem to demand.

  24. Ryan Rahn says:

    Truely annoying, I agree. Are you flying first class? I always fly coach and I find my 12″ powerbook to be just barely adaquate (I usually have to put it on my lap and still quite cramped…but usable).

    Also, I recline my seat based on if the person in front of me reclines. I therefore gain that precious 20% back.

  25. Mike D. says:

    Peter: Again, you have the *right* to do a lot of things in this world (see car stereo example above). If that’s not a good enough example, how about this: I have the right to sing or hum during the entire flight. I don’t because it’s not good etiquette. That’s the same way I feel about needless seat reclining. Others may disagree. It’s as simple as that.

  26. I think that it’s a more clear-cut case when considering the case of a tall person as opposed to the case of a person trying to get work done, as the tall person doesn’t really have a choice with respect to how much space they use. I see reclining for comfort as having approximately the same priority as someone wanting to get work done, which doesn’t really help in coming to a conclusion.

    That said, as someone who has a bit of a phobia when it comes to “being in the way,” I never recline unless there is no one in the seat behind me. While it’s a touch easier to fall asleep when reclined, I figure that that person’s legroom and ability to work is more important than a small increase in my ability to sleep well.

    I don’t think that short flights during the day really matter, though. I succumb to the white noise on airplanes and fall asleep almost instantly on any flight—even when taking a sub-hour shuttle between Boston/New York/Washington. Short flight, long flight, day flight, night flight; I’m sleeping.

    Your individual case is probably a bit different, since he apparently wasn’t really using his additional space with good reason. In your case, he was just an asshole.

  27. Matt Edmunds says:

    As a person that is 6’6″ I normally try to request exit row seats, as they normally have more leg room and don’t have to deal with the dreaded reclinonator that usually sits in front of me.

    I remember one flight that was only a couple hours from Atlanta to Boston where my knees were actually bruised up from a guy wacking his chair into me.

    While I understand the persons right to recline, many flights have cracked down on ‘oversized’ people (for which I am one) and made them buy extra seats to accomodate the comfort of other passengers and I understand and respect that.

    However, tall people really can’t “shrink” and I can’t much pay for a seat in front of me and have them take it out for the flight, can I?

  28. Tod says:

    I’m a million-mile flyer so I have some persepective on this. Flights have been mostly long-haul (transcontinental and transoceanic) and it is definietly a PITA when that seat in front of you flies back into your space.

    I mostly read or snooze on those long flights (I get distracted too easily to try any kind of work). When the food comes around I usually move into the aisle so that I’m facing the person in front as ask (kindly) if he or she would mind putting it upright during meal service. That usually gets the job done. If it doesn’t, I politely ask the flight attendant to mention it.

    If I’m going to snooze and want to recline, I usually mention it to the person behind me so it’s not a total slam-bang shock.

    I wasn’t always so polite, though. For a while I was on the SFO – O’hare run. I broguht along a piece of wood that I’d crafted that had notches in both ends: One that slipped into the solid part of my seat’s frame, the other stuck into the solid part of the upper seat frame ahead of me. Sure, the FA gave me funny looks and row-mates even asked how I had fashioned it. One guy nearly busted me in the chops when we got off in O’Hare one time so I sorta got religion.

  29. Jared Lyon says:

    I always recline my seat, as I usually sleep on flights. I know that some airlines have more leg room in seats on the last third of the plane. If you’re goign to be working on the plane, you might want to check and see if the further back seats have mroe space.

    Truthfully, I would have never even thought that you wouldn’t be able to work. I fine it funny that the man could have unknowingly been annoying you, and yet you were trying to do all kinds of things to annoy him. He was being innocent and may not have even known he was bothering you, but your actions were fare from innocent. :)

  30. Mike D. says:

    Tod: Great stuff!

    Jared: That is exactly what my complaint is. People recline their seats willy nilly without regard for the person behind them. It doesn’t matter that they don’t know exactly what the consequences are for the person behind them… what matters is that they perform the action without consideration. It’s not malicious… it’s just inconsiderate. From the poll results, it appears about 80% of people agree at least to some extent as they refrain from reclining themselves except under special circumstances.

  31. Robert says:

    Is it discourteous to recline one’s seat?

    I don’t think so. (But it would be better to check first, and be like Tod.) Here’s my reasoning: the reclined-seat situation is very inconvenient for laptop use, but for most normal use it is OK. It’s easy to think that reclining one’s seat is just a given, and not particularly inconveniencing. (I hate being in the way and making other people uncomfortable, and I’ve just never considered this an issue. Now that you’ve brought it to my attention, I will consider it.)

    Since the inconvenience here is (let’s presume) unintentional, it is probably worthwhile to point out your problem to your fellow passenger. That course of action is difficult—it seems like very difficult advice to follow. There is a strong impulse to respond in kind, which is another way of continuing the cycle of abuse you mention above, Mike. But the real advantage to asking isn’t the moral one; it’s just that asking will be more effective in solving your problem.

    As for the car stereo thing, well, in some places you’re not allowed to play your stereo as loud as you please, even just driving around town. And obviously you’re not allowed to park your car outside someone’s house all night and blast your stereo, unless your name is John Cusack and the song is “In Your Eyes.” So we do have some courtesy codified in our society. Good for us.

    The takeaway from all this is that on public transportation, the plane, the bus, etc., and in other public spaces, we have the choice to decide that we care about other people’s comfort and convenience as much as our own. In this microcosm, you both tried to make life unpleasant for each other—and succeeded.

  32. N says:

    I like the broad stroke comparisons between people who recline their seats and people who have loud car stereos or hum loudly during flights. In what way is either of these like reclining a seat? I don’t know either, but I’m told it has something to do with people exercising their “rights”. I’m surprised no one mentioned that reclining a seat is like flag burning, they’re basically the same thing.

    While we’re making ridiculous equivalencies in order to justify being annoyed about something frivolous, let’s try some more. Here are some future posts and some example replies to get us started.

    –I can’t stand it when people use the airline provided bathrooms.
    “I can’t get any work done when people keep getting up to pee. Why didn’t they go before they got on the plane?” “I bring crutches on the plane and pretend I can’t walk so I don’t have to get up to let people into the aisle.”

    –I can’t stand it when people watch the airline provided television.
    “I can’t get any work done when someone has their annoying TV going next to me. It’s too distracting.” “People who watch TV are assholes.”

    –I can’t stand it when people use airline provided light in order to read.
    “When I get on the plane, I take the bulbs out of all the lights around me.” “I just want to sleep and the light is annoying me, why can’t everyone just recline and sleep like me?”

    –I can’t stand it when people type on their laptops next to me.
    “Hey I’m trying to sleep, can’t you see I’ve reclined? I don’t want to listen to your clackety keyboard for the rest of the flight.” “I carved a bat out of wood and bring it on planes. I hit any nerds I see with it. I wasn’t always so polite though.”

    (Editor’s Note: It appears once again that some people don’t understand the difference between “rights” and “etiquette”. None of the ridiculous examples you made above cause any real inconvenience or discomfort so your point — if it exists — is lost.)

  33. Robert says:

    I initially thought “carved a bat out of wood” meant N. carved the animal, not the hitting device, which would have been a great line. :)

  34. Mike D. says:

    Robert: Yes, but your line was better:

    “You’re not allowed to park your car outside someone’s house all night and blast your stereo, unless your name is John Cusack and the song is “In Your Eyes.”

    Love that movie.

  35. david gee says:

    If you want to do business on the plane, there is a special service provided just for you – business class. Spring for an upgrade and you should have plenty of room to do your work, regardless of what the guy next to you, in front of you, or behind you decides to do with his own space. If you really can’t afford it, request to be placed in an exit row, where you will have a bit more room.

    Personally, I find the upright seat position horribly claustrophobic, on any flight, and always put my seat back. In my (pretty extensive) experience, nearly everybody else does the same. Your behaviour described above is appalling. You are a paying customer, just like anybody else on the flight. You do not get to act like a child and throw a tantrum when somebody else does not conform to “your” rules.

    Sorry to be harsh, but I just completed a 30 hour trip on planes crammed full of Baptist missionaries (quite possibly the lowest life form on the planet), so I’m a bit grumpy myself.

  36. Mike D. says:


    #1: Don’t use the word “appalling” when referring to a few minutes of reciprocal rudeness and then make a bigoted statement about a religious group please. Mine is “probably not right”… yours is “appalling”.

    #2: Alaska Airlines doesn’t have business class.

    #3: Your extensive experience does not match up with mine or the poll. My experience is that most people are restrained in their use of the recline button on short flights. Those that are not are either ignorant of the downside or willingly pissing people off (usually the former).

  37. Tod says:

    #35 regarding the missionaries:
    Now now. Unless they were all tryiing to perform a spontaneous “save” and “rebirth” on you, I’d hope that they weren’t behaving like some “regular” folks on planes I’ve flown.

    However, if you’re talking about the Christo-fascists that are trying to recreate the USA into their image of right and wrong, then I absolutely agree.

    But we digress… :-)

  38. I don’t know if you’re aware but the seats next to emergency exits are locked and can’t be reclined. So seating next to them would allow you to work without any hassle. I belive that the seats that are locked are the ones right in front of the emergency exits and the immediately next row, before and after.

  39. Ryan Salerno says:

    Ze Frank did a bit about the same subject recently that you may find a little cathartic. He also suggests that the seats should recline by sliding forward so that the only person inconvenienced is you, which I thought was a stunningly good idea.

  40. bingojackson says:

    Maybe instead of having the tables on the back of the seat in front they could be stored in the side of the seat, inside the arm for example, then lifted verticaly out and hinged to a horizontal position. Might solve the problem of your laptop lid getting crushed when the guy in front leans back without warning.

  41. Bulbboy says:

    There does seem to be a market for Discreet Knee Defenders, designed to fit in with the look of the aeroplane and go unnoticed by flight attendants. Would saving bringing your own carpentry a la Tod (comment 28)

    I broguht along a piece of wood that I’d crafted that had notches in both ends

    You could have a whole range, individually tailored to each airline!
    Just remember me if the idea takes off. :)

  42. N says:

    My point was that the airline explicitly provides the feature which you find annoying. Not everyone finds it quite as annoying. I pointed out other features of flight which an airline provides which some people might find annoying.

    I was also mocking the extreme solutions which many of your commenters seem to recommend and which you seem to condone. The fact that you guys seem to think that using devices which you feel the need to hide from the flight attendant are somehow okay, but people who recline are somehow breaking some unspoken rule which demands vigilante justice is borderline insane.

    To go back to what you seem to believe is your main point: the ability to recline is annoying to everyone and so are cars with loud stereos. I think the main point is that you find reclining as annoying as cars with loud stereos. I do not. I do not think most people find reclining chairs and loud stereos at the same level as annoyance. I think this example is ridiculous. I think a more accurate example which would hopefully help to put your viewpoint in perspective would be that people who recline their chairs are as annoying as people who drive past your house. I don’t think most people like having cars drive past their house, but usually we just accept that’s the way it is, and even occasionally drive past other people’s houses. They don’t normally stand on their lawn and throw eggs at passing cars, which is what I hear being recommended here.

  43. Don says:

    Isn’t it called first class? You pay more for more space. They make money by cramming you in. On many airlines they have front row seats, take one. It also places you nearer the entrance/exit.

    I think asking if they mind if they are no obviously sleeping is good. You might also ask the flight attendant if there is another place.

    I have to say I think your random knee kicks and other irritating behavior is crossing the line of courtesy as well.

    I often recline to nap in a car, seldom on a flight to be honest, but it makes the difference between your head rolling forward and laying back so you can sleep.

  44. Jeff L says:

    Wow, I find it very childish that you went out of your way to inconvience the guy in front of you for reclining. What’s next, you going to punch the guy next to you for eating his peanuts?

    I always recline my seat when I fly (which isn’t often, but is usually far). When I fly, the only thing I worry about is my comfort. I show up a few hours early to the airport to be first in line for the exit row seats. I bring my own pillow, ipod, and book, and I recline and relax or sleep.

    If I had you behind me kicking my seat, because I was usually a feature that was provided to me by the airline? I’d tell the flight attendent I saw you stick a shiv in your sneaker.

    (BTW, your car radio example doesn’t work. There are actual laws about how loud a car radio can be played, so it’s not just inconsiderate, it’s against the law. Not like getting comfortable on a plane.)

  45. Christine says:

    I think the point that most people seem to be missing is the guy reclined and then didn’t use the space. If he was going to take a nap, fine. But he sat forward for most of the trip. So he deprived Mike of space for no reason. That’s extremely rude.

    That said – kicking the back of his seat wasn’t the best course of action. Someone being rude is no reason to sink to their level :)

  46. DocDave says:

    With the compact seating arrangements in most flights today I think the recline function should be removed entirely. There is no need for it on domestic flights and it iritates me when others have no consideration for the person behind hem.

    You would think that the engineers that design these planes nowadays could make the seat rise as it reclines so that you are in a vertical position more than a hirizontal recline. Lets face it; most folks that recline are not looking to lay down, they are looking for more space. The extra couple of inches from flipping the seat back makes them feel in control of there space.

  47. Nicole says:

    I’m with you, Mike. I don’t care if reclining functionality is “pre-installed” in an airplane. That doesn’t excuse discourteous use of said functionality. There are very few planes in operation with adequate leg room. As a 5’10” woman, on most planes someone reclining means my knees get bruised. I’m not afraid to ask someone not to recline their seat (and have done so and put up with a few scathing glares). I don’t see why their comfort trumps mine.

    So, some seat etiquette:

    1) At the least, give me some warning so I can adequately protect my knees.
    2) Better yet, poke your head around the seat and ask if it’s okay. If I’m not going to use my tray or plan to sleep as well, then I have no problem with someone reclining in front of me. As noted in #1, I will also have warning to save my knees.

  48. Mike D. says:

    Ryan: Thanks! That ZeFrank clip is great! I really need to start watching that show every day. Here’s the salient line: “Although reclining your seat is technically your right, just like free speech, exercising it to your limits will make everyone around you think you’re an asshole. Although it’s technically your right to open and close your tray table violently to protest the seat recline, just like any protest, if you do it often enough, everyone around you will think you’re an asshole.”

    bingojackson: That’s a great idea. The bulkhead seats already do this. Perhaps they all should.

    Christine and DocDave: Thank you for explaining this in a better way than I apparently have. The point is not that “no one should ever recline their seats on any airplane, period.” The point is that “some people recline their seats for no good reason, to the detriment of others, and that is just plain unnecessary and inconsiderate.” As is shown by statements from Jeff L like “When I fly, the only thing I worry about is my comfort”, we live in a society of varying levels of courtesy. I prefer (despite my obviously discourteous attempts to jar the guy in front of me) to see to it that if people aren’t making *me* uncomfortable, I try not to make them uncomfortable either.

  49. DL Byron says:

    ha, I just hung out with Virtual Stan (aka Jason Santa Maria) last night! I’ve been traveling a lot lately and what I do is push back on the seat, when I sense a recline about to occur, and convince the person that their seat is broken by either playing dumb or saying, “it’s broken.”

  50. PanMan says:

    I don’t see the reclining as an offence: the airlines give you the possibility, you should be allowed to use it. And if everybody does, it doesn’t take up more space, but does make everyone more comfortable. I haven’t tried to work on a laptop, tho. But if you have a problem with anybody in your surrounding (and that will stay so for a couple of hours), talking is usually a better sollution than random kicks in the back. If somebody would complain, I would put my seat back up. Not if he’d kick me a couple of times first, tho :).

  51. Jim says:

    I’m 6’3″ and I hate having my knees bruised. On the other hand, I’ve also got lower back problems, and reclining the seat makes the flight much more comfortable. I usually grab one of those little airline pillows on the way in to add some extra lumbar support. If I don’t/can’t recline the seat at least a little, the upper part of the seat squishes into my shoulder blades. Plus, I’m too tall to rest my head on the seatback so unless I can recline it a little my neck starts hurting from the strain, too.

    If someone’s behind me, I’ve actually turned around and asked if they don’t mind if I recline. To date, no one’s ever refused. But what if they did? How would I balance their need/desire for space with my need/desire for comfort?

    Part of the problem, of course, is the uniform – and woefully inadequte – design of coach-class seats that those of us unable or unwilling to pay First Class fares have to endure.

    So here’s an idea: Non-uniformity!

    Redesign coach class seating to accomodate a broad range of body types/space usages. Some wider seats for heavier or bigger people, some shorter and skinnier for kids or smaller people. Perhaps a few rows esp. for laptop users. While we’re at it, how about a “quiet section” for those who want to sleep! Not everyone can be accomodated, of course, but wouldn’t a large majority be able to find a comfortable place for themselves? In any case, I doubt it would be worse than the current one-size-fits-all model.

    Till that happens, of course, we’re still stuck with the main issue of what constitutes polite behavior in civil society. Is it mere refusal to give offense? How about a willingness to absorb offense without retaliation? Is there a limit to this? At what point does courtesy become the unhealthy enabler of rudeness?

    I suppose these would be my options, in rough chronological order:

    1. Politely ask the person behind me if they don’t mind if I recline my seat.
    2. If they refuse, politely explain how painful for me it is if I can’t recline.
    3. If they still refuse, politely suggest that we explore some sort of compromise, where both parties get something (only a half-recline?)
    4. If they still refuse, politely ask a flight attendant for, if not intervention, a suggestion of other options.
    5. Move to another seat.

  52. Calvin Tang says:

    I’m a total recliner. If everyone on the plane were to recline, there’d be the same amount of room for each passenger (except perhaps those in the front and back rows), and everyone would be more comfortable. BTW, I think you’re seriously exaggerating about the level of difficulty using your powerbook with the seat reclined in front of you. I flew over 100,000 miles per year for several years with my 15″ powerbook and I never had a problem opening/using it with people reclining in front of me. Some of the airlines I flew had much less room between seats than our US-based airliners commonly have (such as Alaska, who you flew back with), and I was still able to get the laptop open. Yes, sometimes it’s a little harder to type, with your tray pulled toward you all the way, but it’s doable and each person is well within their right to use the reclining function provided to them by the airline for convenience and comfort.

  53. Mike D. says:

    Calvin: Please read the entry before commenting. Apparently you missed the part that said “Alaska has eliminated some legroom or I was just in a really bad row. The distance from the front of my headrest to the back of the other person’s headrest was only about 20 inches.”

    I have the photo evidence to show exactly where the laptop was in relation to the tray but I suspect your 100,000 miles per year of flying will not let you admit that there are planes and rows you haven’t been in.

    In case anyone wants to see the photo, here is the shot of the laptop, and my right arm which is pushed all the way against my seatback. In other words, my hands physically cannot move back any further than they are in the picture:

  54. Matt Hoult says:

    Sadly I live in a country where I don’t get to commute by air that much because I love to fly. I don’t get to commute a good distance for meetings, conferences etc. much at all in fact, but here’s hoping that that side of the business life will get on soon.

    I have done a lot of travel on the trains here in Britain however (and I lived!), and I have to say that I agree with you. I personally keep the seat upright and mush my legs up against the back of the seat in front while reclining down into my seat. It’s probably weird, but I find all kinds of comfy positions like that and love long trips.

    I also find that I can’t use my laptop, but that’s mainly because you would get mugegd right there and then around these parts. Still… One day…

  55. Bulbboy says:

    Mike, that drink scares me being too close to your mac!
    A little turbulance and it’s adios powerbook.

  56. Greg Leuch says:

    Time of day plays a big part in my judgment. If it was an overnight or early morning flight, I’d be more inclined to recline. Otherwise I try not to bother the people behind me in hopes karma grants me the same situation as them.

  57. Jeff L says:

    As is shown by statements from Jeff L like “When I fly, the only thing I worry about is my comfort”, we live in a society of varying levels of courtesy

    Did you ever stop to consider that in the relationship of you and the guy in front of you, you were by far the less couteous? Perhaps the guy leaned forward because you were kicking his seat!

    And, if I’m flying from Manchester, NH to San Diego, CA or Austin, TX, and I’m on a plane for 7 hours, why the hell shouldn’t I have the right to be comfortable?

    I’d say I’m MORE courteous because I’ll gladly let the person in front of me recline (as they usually do).

    You didn’t have to use your laptop. You could have easily reclined and relaxed for the flight. Basically you are simply saying that the gentleman in front of you should be inconvenienced simply so you are not.

    We do live in a society of varying levels of coutesy. However, between the person reclining or the person kicking their seat, you’re way lower on that totem pole!

    Calvin above got it correct – if everyone simply reclined, there would be no problems at all. Why wouldn’t someone take advantage of the extra comfort? The only people who really get screwed there are the folks in front of the exit row and those in the back of the plane.

  58. Mike D. says:

    Jeff L: It’s like you didn’t even read the blog entry… or any of the comments after it. Let me know if any of this that doesn’t make sense:

    1. No one ever said that reclining your seat during long flights is wrong. Why you would bring up that imaginary strawman I have no idea.

    2. Nobody ever said kneeing the seat in front of you is right.

    3. That fact that you, Calvin, and thankfully only 17% of the rest of the world feel that because you *can* make someone uncomfortable, then you *should* is the very point of this post. See the ZeFrank video clip above. There are people who exercise every right they have in this world without any regard for other people. There are also people who exercise rights only if they don’t produce negative effects for others. Furthermore, the “if everyone reclined…” argument is ridiculous because everyone *doesn’t*. That’s why communism failed. Not everybody is wired to act the same way and not everyone ever will.

  59. Tom Watson says:

    Mike, as someone coming in right around 6’9″ I can assure you that yes, it was painful to fly those flights on Alaska down and back from Seattle for the conference. I noticed it right away before jumping to an open emergency exit row spot.

    As for Calvin’s comment, I say toss out 100,000 miles of experience. When you’re his size, it just doesn’t matter. I’ve flown a fair amount and have always had problems with the recline. If I’m in a particularly bad seat people can’t even move it back. My knees are already jammed up against the seat in front of me so it’s like a built in knee defender without having to worry about packing space. (As you can see I’m looking for the silver lining here.)

    I’ve pulled the “excuse me could you not recline” card a few times but you’re right, without the standing up and almost hitting the ceiling when you stare down at the guy it just doesn’t have the same impact.

  60. Lee Dale says:

    While it’s certainly not reasonable to make flippant comments about baptist misionaries, I don’t see how equating seatback reclining to child abuse is even remotely an acceptable analogy. I get the point, but, wow, you’re both out of line.

    On that note, I’ll just say that I think the main point has very little to do with the guy in front of you. This is about the airline.

    As a plane goer, I assume that the airline is courteous enough to leave room for the person behind me if I were to recline. Bad assumption, apparently, but I have never had this issue with my laptop when someone reclines in front of me, so I would assume the same for the person in the rear. I have also never had anyone ask me if it was okay if they reclined and never expected it of anyone. And I have never had an issue eating while the person in front of me was reclined. And I don’t fly business class. (I read the thread. Trying to follow up on everything here. This is exhausting.)

    I think the correct tact would have been to tap the guy on the shoulder and comment about how the airline obviously screwed you by putting you in the as yet unheard of toddler row. Hopefully he would have excused himself and done the right thing. Regardless, in my opinion the airline is at fault, not the oblivious customer. They should be clear about space constraints and confirm whether you intend on using a laptop or writing when you fly. They should also inform their customers that the row behind them is not as forgiving as the already cramped one they’re in (but who would believe that?)

    Anyway, there’s no point in arguing with you Mike, because you’re far too bitter about this whole affair. I’ll keep your sordid tale in mind for my next flight and be sure to avoid Alaska airlines, if possible. Not being able to fit a 12″ doesn’t bode well for any level of comfort.

    That said, with karma piqued at the negativity of this thread, I’m sure you guys will both end up in this row on your next flight. ;-)


    (Editor’s Note: I agree with all of that. And the child abuse analogy is obviously not serious. It’s the “breaking the chain” part that is salient here.)

  61. Andy Cunningham says:

    Speaking as someone who is a) 6’3″ and needs every inch of space on a plane, and b) suffers from back pain sitting in a seat that’s too upright, I’m going to recline my seat from the second we start to level out after take off until I’m asked to put it back upright on approach. I’ll put it up for the meal service, but that’s it.

    Random knee jerks will result in my having a quiet word with the flight attendent saying “I think the guy behind me has some kind of mental problem and keeps kicking my seat like a 6 year old. Is there anything you can do?”

    And politely asking me to put the seat back upright will get an equally polite explanation of why I can’t, unless you’re willing to compensate me for the 24 hrs of back pain (more if it’s a long flight) that I’ll have coming to me.

    If you need to work that badly, you should shell out for a business class seat.

  62. Bradley says:

    I still think we’re all missing the point, which of course is… which seats are better engineered and more reliable? Japanese-made, American-made, or European-made?


  63. Mike D. says:

    Andy: And once again, that’s great. You’d be doing it out of need and not because “it’s your right and you just feel like it”. Bradley is right that there’s a lot of point-missing here… probably moreso than with any post I’ve ever written… which means this is either a very controversial subject, or I’m just not making my point well. Or both. Thank god for the poll at least. It shows the level of agreement, despite all of these comments about “rights”.

  64. james says:

    I’ve got to be honest. I think your attitude is sort of unreasonable. You should take the view that yes, on 20% of the flights you get screwed and be thankful that it only happens 20% of the time. Nuff said. Instead you use your non-scientific poll to deride your detractors. We all need to get along on flights. People on airlines these days come from all corners of the world… your seat mate could have just made a 17 hour flight connect from Asia, he could be tall, fat, computer geek, overworked website owner, DJ after a 3 day music festival needing an afternoon nap, he could have back problems or neck problems. Who knows what the reason would be to choose to recline or not? But what I can tell you is that on a plane load of people you’ll run the spectrum on what people think is “right”. Did you ever think it might be truly annoying to the person who chooses to recline to have you tap tap tapping on the keyboard for 2 hours? The tray table is connected to his chair you know. What would you do if someone asked you to sit with your knees angled slightly to the side because your long legs bumping the seat constantly annoyed them. I have had this problem before trying to sleep on planes. I would never think about turning around and asking the other passenger to inconvenience themselves just to make my flight more comfortable. This is the situation we are all placed in. We aren’t guaranteed sleep, comfort or a convenient work space. Just a ride from point A to point B. If I want premium comfort I save my miles and upgrade. You’ll never find the right answer. Your real problem is with the airlines. If you really need to work why not pony up the dough and just buy the seat in front of you? That certainly wouldn’t cost $3500.

  65. Mike D. says:

    james: It’s not that on 20% of the flights, anyone gets screwed. Having the seat in front of me recline for reasonable reasons it not getting screwed in my book. Having the person in front of me recline their seat just because there is a button there is “getting screwed”… and that happens even less than 20% of the time… but it does happen… as is evidenced by people on this very thread. This is a very simple issue in my book:

    By reclining your seat, you enact a certain bit of discomfort — however big or small — on the person behind you. If the amount of comfort you receive (i.e. it’s a long flight and you’re going to sleep or you’re a very tall person, etc.) is disproportionately higher than the amount of discomfort you’re causing, then by all means recline. The guy in front of me was short, this was a short flight, and he didn’t even lean back against his chair for most of the flight. My problem is with people who don’t even run this equation through their head before hitting the recline button.

  66. Nick says:

    You should try SeatGuru. It sounds like you got a particularly bad row. Apparently every plane on every airline has some rows which are worse and some which are better. On seatguru you can find out which is which before you pick your seat when you buy your ticket. It has almost every airline and each plane they fly.

    P.S. I didn’t have time to read all the comments so I hope this hasn’t already been mentioned…

  67. kareem says:

    Dude, I’ve had the worst experience with reclining neighbors.

    I was watching a movie on my new lappy when the guy in front of me reclined. The screen was angled just so the reclining seat compressed the screen between the table tray and the little ledge where the table tray folds up into, and shattered the screen.

    Broken screen, brand-new laptop, and there’s not much I can do. I can’t yell at the guy, and it didn’t feel right asking him to pay to fix it (not like he would’ve anyways).

    To make it worse, the dude was on crutches, so when we landed, he asked me to haul his luggage down from the overhead bins. I was fuuuuuming.

  68. haubner says:

    I’m 100% in alignment with Andy C. above, right down to being 6’3″.

    I’m going to recline because it does me a material — and necessary, in my belief — amount of good. All of these caveats about time of day and length of flight are irrelevant. Yes, I recline in part to help me sleep (and yes, it does help), but I recline primarily for my comfort — I feel the pressure released from my back in direct proportion to my reclining.

    I’m sorry that it might do you a material amount of bad, but I don’t feel as though I am at fault for that, I feel that the airline is, for not providing sufficient space in general.

    At the end of the day, some people have big problems with reclining on demand, and some people, like me, think that it’s OK and also, I should note, *have no problem with people reclining into them*. There’s a clear difference of opinion. The people who go out of their way to do things like knee the back of chairs are the ones actively being dicks.

    I don’t think the poll is foolproof, either, as it measures behavior when the discussion is about etiquette.

  69. Martin says:

    Im stunned to find so many people commenting on this post to blame Mike for the aggressive way of handeling this. It seems like a lot of you think it justifys the meaning of this post:

    To take others peoples comfort into consideration when you recline! It’s not about your right, and tt’s not about the need! It’s about takeing other people into consideration!

    Reading this post almost makes me angry. Not only on those people saying it’s their “rights” to do recline, but also to a few of those of you who say you do it because your tall. Being tall have nothing to do with careing about other people. Careing doesn’t have anything to do with if you get to recline or not. It doesn’t have anything to do with you needing to recline!

    I find it hard to belive that so many people can fail to see this. Even the example with the carstereo. So many people seem to think this is about their rights/needs to do things..

  70. Nick says:


    I don’t exactly get it — if it’s not about needing to recline, but only about caring about other people, why do they even offer the option at all? I take it you feel the recline button is there to provide you an opportunity to feel good about taking other people into consideration?

    The bottom line is, if you use the recline just because you can, you’re a jerk. If you use it because you need to, you’re fine. If you use it because you find it uncomfortable without it, then you are probably like most of us.

    I personally recline either if I want to try to sleep (usually before a flight I’ve stayed up all night packing) or if the guy in front of me reclines, because I am 6’1″ and feel especially cramped with someone reclining in front of me. In this case, I figure the guy behind me can recline as well if he wants to.

  71. Martin says:

    The reclinging hasn’t got anything to do with it. It’s about the thought you give it when you recline (or every other thing you do for that mather). If you simply recline, without giving it any thought, then you havne’t thouht about the other people around you. If you do, then you will probably go about it the way you find best.

    For the reclinging: If you do it just because you can doesn’t mean you’r a jerk. That would depend on if it effects other people around you, and what effect it got on them. If you recline because you need to, you’ll be a “jerk” if you just recline without even bother to think about the person behind you (read the comment about broken laptop ^). The fact that you didn’t acctually mean to isn’t the important thing, it’s about you placing yourself above everybody else. If you recline because you find it uncomfortable without it, then you should still give your action a thought.

    Given the example where the laptop screen got destroyd, it doesn’t mather WHY the person reclined, but HOW he did it.

    It’s not about reclineing – it’s about everyday-behavior..

  72. Eli says:

    This is why I always sign up for an exit row. You get all the legroom you want, and in an emergency you’re the first one out. Win-win situation!

  73. JCB says:

    I hate this post and discussion. What the f@ck is the matter with you people?! Mike, shame on you for all your talent and brains! Airplane seats and bickering. There are real problems and discussions that need to be made. You of all people, who shame reporters for inproper reporting. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all could have this much passion for the military industrial complex problem. ( see=

    It flames me to no end when the top talent of our country wastes premium resources on celebrity justice. For f%ck sakes we are no better if we can’t rise above it. For better or worse, Mike, you are in the command position to do something…. or at lleast say something. Glad you feel like blowing the oppurtunity…. and god damn it where the hell is your auto-spell checker for posting comments. Usability my eye!!!! See you at the next Six Flags kegger.

  74. Greg says:

    That sucks. Try this next time. It’s kind of gross (depends how you look at it, but hey you have to do what you have to do.)

    Wait for the right moment and then yell “I’m going to hurrle!” (Make sure it’s believeable)

    Then make a big deal like your trying to make it to your “lunch” bag which is naturally located in the pouch of this guy’s seat. After some considerable bumping, wrestling and wrangling of his seat – naturally you can’t get to it, then lean forward onto his seat, asking him for his own bag. (Don’t forget the act – it’s key)

    Hopefully with this impending disaster, he’ll naturally raise his seat, more as a defensive shield than anything, against your … well, you get the idea.

    Might instantly kill your chance of getting the number of that lady you’ve been staring at on the plane the whole time, but hey – you will at least feel triumpant against the inflight injustice that was bestowed upon you.

    Plus it makes for a good bar story.

  75. Bradley says:

    More fallacies related to the real subject:

    “I don’t think I’m at fault if I tailgate you; it’s the automobile manufacturers’ fault. They really should have better proximity detection and limiting devices in cars these days. After all, it’s 2006. Not to mention, I pay my taxes which pave the roads just like you.”

    “I don’t think I’m at fault if I eavesdrop on the sensitive conversation you’re having. After all, even though you are talking quietly to avoid this, you are still in a public space, and you really should go somewhere totally private. It’s silly to hope for this sort of courtesy in a public place.”

    “I don’t think I’m at fault if I grab a gigantic plate of a popular food at a buffet (like crab, steak, or general tso’s), leaving none for anyone else. Yeah, I could have probably done with 1/3 of the portion I took, but I paid to eat here just like you and that’s what I wanted to eat.”

    Or you could have backed off.
    Or you could have stopped listening.
    Or you could have taken less food.
    Because other people are important.
    And it’s equally important in life to not be a dick.

    I am very confused by those who are acting like it’s someone else’s responsibility to prevent them from being said dick. Geez… It sure is all about Number One up in this piece.

    Take some personal responsibility. You don’t have to be walked on or make huge sacrifices to be courteous and think of others first. At least weigh the ratio between your comfort and someone else’s discomfort.

    It’s like why dogs lick themselves: because they can. We are better than that. Even if you would believe we are all animals, we are still better than that. But who am I to condemn? Some would say that I’m a sinner no less.

    Bottom line observation: just like privacy, common courtesy has gone out the window. Pity.

    Sidenote: I actually kinda giggle inside that you were kicking his seat, Mike. I dunno why everyone takes that so seriously. Seems to me that you were being ornery, not malicious. :)

  76. TheGuyInFront says:

    This is, definitely, the other side to this. Maybe I was the guy in the seat in front of Mike (but when I had this experience, it was a lady, or so I thought sitting in the seat behind me. No laptop either … but you never know.)

    I have not read all the comments (just glanced at some of them) but as the guy in the front seat, this is what I felt:

    I am feeling a little tired, this is the second leg of my journey. The first leg was 12 hours, I have to put up with this 2 more hours. I am not from the same timezone as you are. This is my sleep time. As soon as I can get a chance (even before cruising altitude) I stretch my legs (swollen, by now … and for fear of rasing a stink, I cannot even take my shoes off). It hits the bottom of the front seat. I need more space … I gingerly touch the button and push back. An inch or two. Not comfortable enough. Oh, what the heck, all the way.

    Few minutes. A rude bump wakes me up. Turbulence, probably. Back to sleep. Another rude bump. Turbulence? Not at all. It is Mike’s knee. Oh well, I think, Mike is feeling restless, he will settle down soon.


    Bump, bump, bump.

    Now I know he is doing it on purpose.

    Well, whatever happened to courtesy and plane and simple etiquette? Mike, please just tell me what is bothering you, can we compromise somewhere in between? Too low for you too high for me? How about this, comfortable? How about giving me your pillow that you are not using? How about just keeping me awake by talking to me? Whatever. But if you don’t talk to me, how do I know? My eyes are not on the back of my head, mind you.

    Well, I think Mike wants to be rude, so let me just be rude right back to him. I don’t need my back to be so reclined. I am small (5’8″, hardly 140 lbs), I can sleep inside a matchbox. But I cannot take this rudeness. I try to stretch my back further, more. No relenting. Talk to me, you neanderthal!

    We are not miles apart, it does not take long distance charges or setting up Skype to do this. I am right here.

    Till you have the guts (and the courtesy) to look me in my eyes and tell me what’s bothering you, my seat back stays as far back as it can go. Not that I need it to be so, but because you did not say “please”. We are not animals, but the burden of proof is on you: communicate, that’s what sets us apart.

    Courtesy begets courtesy.

  77. TheGuyInFront says:

    Post Script:

    BTW, you don’t need to buy that knee defender, you already have one: your ability to speak. Even if you are deaf and dumb (apologies), there are means and ways to communicate, and places more important than a Blog.

  78. Mike D. says:

    Bradley: Absolutely. I don’t know why people are taking that so seriously either. There’s a difference between a couple of knees and violently pounding on the seat the whole trip.

    TheGuyInFront: I don’t disagree with much of what you said, but were you sleeping, you would have received the same courtesy I give everyone else. You weren’t, however. You were not “using” the recline in your seat at all in fact. And you didn’t even wait for the plane to level out before exerting your “right”. You pushed the button — as others have said here — without any thought or consideration whatsoever… and that is the *only* problem I have with seat reclining. (By the way… I say “you” and I obviously mean the real guy in front of me… you don’t appear to be the sort of person who would recline their seat without good reason).

  79. TheGuyInFront says:

    Thanks, Mike. It is really heartening to hear that you would have let me sleep, if I had made it known that I badly needed it. Perhaps it would be heartening to you that I would have pulled my seat back up if you told me that you were having trouble getting some work done.

    You are complaining about the guy in front, I am complaining about that girl in the back. But Hey!, neither of us had the courtesy to tell the botheror what was bothering us, we expected them to read our minds and do our beckoning, and we called it eiquette.

    We did not talk when it mattered. Instead, we post stuff on a blog in the secureness of anonimity. Shame on both of us.

    PS: Did not really mean to call you “neanderthal”, a thousand apologies. Hope it did not offend you.

  80. Mike D. says:

    TheGuyInFront: I am indeed a neanderthal so I thought you were just pointing that out. :)

    I think either I’m just an awful communicator or some people just aren’t getting me here: I don’t think I have the right to speak up and tell the guy to move his chair forward. That’s kind of why I didn’t. The question of seat reclining allows people to either do it or not do it and requires others to abide by that decision (short of extenuating circumstances like the person behind being 6 foot 9). So the issue here is not my communication with him. He made a choice and I have to live by that. The issue is the consideration or lack thereof given by some people on airplanes. Some people give it. Some people don’t. Many people who recline their seats give that consideration, and that’s fine. But others, as has been pointed out on this thread just say “fuck it, it’s my seat, I’m reclining!” That’s the only type of person I take issue with.

  81. Bulbboy says:

    Eli (post 72) : Win-win situation?

    Remember that quote from Fight Club? The illusion of safety…exit procedure from a plane at 30,000 ft (paraphrasing).

    Mike, I think you need torun a new poll asking how many would recline without thinking versus informing those behind you first.

    It’s only common courtesy, isn’t it?

  82. TheGuyInFront says:

    I think you DO have the right to ask me to straighten my seat back if it is troubling you. So, I really don’t get it. Oh well … the loss seems entirely mine. Till the next blog … ciao.

  83. Eric Scouten says:

    I’m with the middle-grounders here. Person in front has a right to lean back any time they want to, no questions asked. Person behind just has to suck it up.

    I had an experience similar to Kareem’s about ten years ago. First leg of a month-long trip to Hawaii and Australia. Had the laptop sitting on the tray table. Guy in front of me leaned back w/ no warning. Top of the screen caught on the latch for the tray table and nearly tore the screen off of the laptop. I got through the trip with a bunch of duct tape and being really gentle with the hinge, but it taught me something useful.

    When I know I’m going to use the laptop on a plane, I often talk to the person in front of me while we’re still on the ground and say something like: “I’m going to be using a laptop behind you. Would you be so kind as to let me know before you’re going to lean back?” Often times that leads to the person ahead of me not leaning back at all, or if so, only a little bit. Almost always, they’ll look back or give me a warning before leaning back.

    More recently, I’ve discovered that I can do pretty well by putting the laptop (currently a 17″ MacBook Pro) directly on my lap instead of on the tray table, and that eliminates the need for getting concerned about the seat ahead of me. The 4″ of elevation makes enough more room that the screen will still fit.

    I’m not really a Windows guy any more, but one thing I loved about my ThinkPad laptops of a few years ago was that they could open to 180° as opposed to the 120° or so that Mac laptops can do. At 180° you can lay the laptop flat against the seat ahead of you and have a great viewing angle. (The typing angle is admittedly awkward.)

  84. Amit says:

    This debate got me thinking. How many of these people who recline their seat do it because they can’t look you in the face? It’s cowardly because I feel that these same people would show restraint if each seat had a rear view mirror attached. LOL. Again, this is only for those few that recline for no apparent reason. Like the man in Mike’s case. Even if the person reclined their seat just to get more comfortable, but not fall asleep, would get exempt from such criticism. But, politely asking the person ahead would have given more insight and possibly a solution to the problem at hand.

    Personally, the only way I’d complain about a reclined seat, after politely asking the person ahead to put their seat back upright didn’t result in the outcome I had hoped for, would be if a child was simply playing around and being obnoxious. Other than that, you really can’t argue the point, no matter how much you think the person ahead is being an ass.

  85. Mike D. says:

    Amit: That’s a very interesting question, and I agree with you. Merely having to look the person in the eye before reclining may indeed prevent a good deal of reclines.

  86. Jeff L says:


    Please know that I’ve read the entire blog entry and all the comments.

    I still feel as though you have a problem with the reclining in general, not just this one guy because he wasn’t actually sitting back in his seat.

    I will still continue to recline my seat whenever on an airplane because it’s just that much more comfortable for me. I will however, be leaning back in it. Until I need to lean forward to get something out of my bag, or take a picture out of the window, or even just stretch.

    You are more than welcome to recline your seat as well, thus giving you the same amount of room we had before either of us reclined.

    I think a bigger issue here, rather than reclining, is the sharing of armrests. THAT is where you can really see people who are selfish or courteous.

  87. Collin Yeadon says:

    What may be a 2 hour flight for you might be just another hop of a 5 or more hour plane jumping campaign for him. Sometimes to save a buck you can get screwed. Maybe also he is a nervous flyer and wouldn’t sleep all night worried about it. (Probably not the case here but I have had experiences like that.)

    I am wondering if you ever consider first class for shorter flights? I haven’t checked lately but I know the difference between FC and coach on some airlines used to be a $50 spot or so for a short flight like SFO to LA. As the distance increases so does the cost difference but it seems like sometimes it might be worth it. Of course I just like to spend money for the sake of spending sometimes. Overspending is my vice in place of smoking crack.

    Man, I really wanted to go hear from you and the other speakers. Maybe try to make some connections with the Google guys since I know some people working there and would love to get my foot in the door. Especially since my current contract will be up in a month, lol.. I just couldn’t justify it though. Would have ended up costing me over a grand counting lost work hours and maybe a hotel for a night to avoid traffic from south bay. How about a post recapping the experience and what cool stuff was shared by you and other speakers? Sorry I missed the event. :-\

  88. Chris Carter says:

    The lesson in all of this isn’t about courtesy – it’s about who you fly with. Don’t fly with Alaska and you won’t have to worry about people using the supplied features of the plane. You are responsible for your own comfort within the space and environment you’re given. Now, if the guy behind you were kicking your seat…

    I don’t think it’s discourteous for somone to lean their chair back – that’s why there is a chair leaning button. That’s like criticising someone for driving 5 miles under the speed limit and blaming them for you being late. If you think that it inconveniences you, take a different route or fly a different airline/class.

  89. anhorn says:

    Re: Calvin Tang and Others.
    Obviously you must be a midget or a moron. When the seat back reclines, the seat cushion does not move, accordingly, the amount of legroom in every seat decreases. Additionaly, when you recline the seat, it tends to slide your “bottom” forward, thereby reducing the amount of functional legroom even further. If you are 5’8″, it probably doesn’t matter, but if you are 6’5 and 280 pounds like me, it does. My knees (about $75000 of titanium and plastic) are wedged into the seat in front of me when I sit down. I always get an aisle seat to avoid unnecessary inconvenience for my seatmates because my shoulders are considerably wider than the seat. Reclining my seat makes the legroom problem worse, so I don’t. When the 5’8″ guy in front of me slams me and then refuses to raise the seat back up, I am tempted to react accordingly, but jail is a great deterrent. I have asked, and been told to #@%* off. I doubt that it will get any better in the current climate of people having no manners, but one can always hope, and keep trying. While I’m at it; to those who claim to be tall and say that reclining helps their personal comfort, I say bull shit. If you are tall, sitting upright is more comfortable. Finally, if for no other reason, I don’t need your “gag a maggot” perfumed hair gel in my nose for a flight, whether it be an hour or six.

  90. My wife gets upset when I leave the seat up.

  91. Julie says:

    I pretty much hate flying anymore because of this and the people who need part of my seat space for elbow room. I usually try and get an aisle seat so I can lean toward the aisle so I don’t arrive with a bruised side.

    On one leg of my recent flight back from Moscow I somehow ended up in United Economy Plus. There are 5 more inches of leg room and fewer seats across. After 18 hours in route it was such a relief. Not sure what the additional cost is but it would be worth it.

  92. Tony says:

    I almost always have to recline a little bit, because I find the fully upright position of the seat dreadfully uncomfortable. I gauge how far I recline by twisting around and taking a peek at the person (or hopefully lack-there-of) behind me. If it’s a tall or large person, I will recline ever so slightly.

    BTW, I had the same problem with my 15″ PowerBook on a flight to L.A., and the person in front of me didn’t even recline all the way! I was all ready to do some work, and i just couldn’t get anything done.

  93. Cara says:

    I recline and im proud.

    last night had the worst flight of my life- it was a sleeper flight from NYC to heathrow and the chick sitting behind me kept PUSHING my chair up! didnt ask, just pushed. and she wasnt working on anything…the only thing that girl would do is eat and sleep id say. I was so angry we had a tiff at the end of the flight…if we werent meant to recline they wouldnt make them recliners and if u want a chair with space fork out some $$$ and go business. then i wont have to fight you. and since when have flights in economy been for working on a lap top anyway? buisness class says it all.

  94. arnor says:

    @cara: Why on earth (or in sky – whatever) should we have to pay extra to not use the reclining-feature?!

  95. Gary Watson says:

    Didn’t see anyone else mention it, but some airlines like United have specific published rules prohibiting the use of “knee defender” type devices. Their official justification for this is that they will cause delay in evacuating the aircraft in the event of an emergency. Since you can’t lower your tray table until you are above cruising altitude, I’m confident that this is not their real reason. Rather, they probably have focus group studies showing that the recline button gives people the illusion that the scumbag airlines are not packing in the passengers like sardines.

    Seems to me that the recline angle on the seats was engineered for the days when the seat pitch was several inches more than it is today, and that the real solution is to cut the recline angle by perhaps half, or eliminate it entirely. At the very least, it should have a hydraulic damper which limits the recline velocity so you have time to move your drinks and laptop screens.

    I’m a frequent flyer, so on United I usually sit in “economy plus” which doesn’t have the problem you describe, but certainly it happens when I have to fly any of the other carriers in coach.

  96. Don says:

    Mike, you are a bright guy, but geez,

    I don’t think I have the right to speak up and tell the guy to move his chair forward. That’s kind of why I didn’t. The question of seat reclining allows people to either do it or not do it and requires others to abide by that decision (short of extenuating circumstances like the person behind being 6 foot 9). So the issue here is not my communication with him.

    This guy was most likely oblivious to your discomfort. You assume he was not. Not communicating with him your need is indeed the issue, contrary to what you say above. But the point is your first option should have been asking if he needed to recline at this time as it interfered with your ability to work. He may well have switched seats if you asked, or the flight attendant might well have swapped you with someone else (there was probably a petite person the next row back feeling overwhelmed by the space they had because you weren’t reclining to give them comfort — did you check?).

    But seriously, what is wrong with simple polite communication? “Would you mind” goes a long ways. That is what you are faulting him for. I have no idea why he would recline and then sit up … but neither do you because you didn’t engage the chap in simple conversation. Instead you went out of your way to return the discourtesy. Did that make the world a better place?

    Amazing, isn’t it, how much discussion you can get on something so silly as this?

  97. Gary Watson says:

    I fly several hundred thousand miles a year, and I suppose I’ve pretty much seen everything in terms of discomfort and discourtesy. While I agree with the comments above that physical retaliation is excessive, I disagree with the notion that the recliners are unaware of the problem they cause for the people behind them. Almost all of them know, and don’t care, just like the way people drive like stoners while on their cellphones (By the way, why do these idiots have to talk on cellphones while navigating a parking lot?). I have seen a number of cases where laptop users have politely asked the guy in front to move forward, and in all but one case the request was rebuffed. There is very little courtesy these days, especially where crowded transit is concerned. You know what I’m talking about — the packed shuttle bus with people standing, yet half the people are taking up two seats because they don’t want to leave their laptop bags in the luggage area (you might also ask why flights and shuttles are so packed these days — the owners are trying to shave the last few bucks off their opex and don’t give a crap about your comfort). In general, travel is becoming a more frustrating experience due to declining service standards all around, absurd security placebos like banning liquids and gels, reduced seat width and pitch, screaming toddlers, and let’s face it, fatter and taller people who need more (not less!) space. This breeds an atmosphere of short-tempered, irritated people who may be tolerant in other circumstances, but not when being dragged through the tenth circle of hell which travel has become.

    To bring this back to the main point Mike asks, I would advise you NOT to plan on using a laptop when seated in ordinary economy seats. You might get lucky one time in three, or less. I suggest you find some other way to use the time — perhaps a small notebook and pen to do brainstorming, or my favorite, catcing up on podcasts related to your line of work or other interests (get the headphones which are like earplugs and you won’t be bothered by the screming baby or that asshole salesman hopelessly trying to chat up the pretty girl for the entire 8 hour flight). The big advantage of the iPod is that you can keep your eyes mostly closed so the dry air won’t make your eyes sore, which in turn makes you rub them, which in turn infects you with all the cesspool of germs you got on your hands during the airport experience. If you don’t like podcasts, there’s always audio books from people like

  98. tm says:

    What I hate is when I’m fully reclined, head comfortably resting in someone’s lap and they start getting up to pee every freakin’ five minutes. Stop pulling on my headrest, dammit.

  99. Jim Gleeson says:

    I stand at 6’4″ tall and am very conscious of my size and tend to try to err on the side of being courteous. As such, in a movie theater that is not that full, I will try to sit somewhere that is not directly in front of or behind the person in front of me. On planes, I either keep my seat up or I ask and also check to see if the person behind me will be unfairly inconvenienced by my reclination.

    My knees are already into the seat in front of me. I was on a long flight to Paris from Atlanta and for most of the flight the person could not recline. There were times the person was literally lunging up and down on the seat in order to get it to recline and then spoke to the flight attendant saying that the seat was broken.

    And then I had to go to the bathroom. When I got back she might as well have been sitting in my lap. I asked her to please not recline, but she did not listen. However once I moved back into the seat, she might as well not be reclining as my knees were really up against it.

    You have the right to recline, to tailgate, to take more that fifteen items to the express lane, to use a public bathroom stall in a dance club as your cellphone booth. But just remember, each small inroads you make in etiquette and consideration is like erosion.

    I was at a dance club once and needed to go badly and there is always a line. The line was moving very slowly. When I finally was inside I could see the reason why: some guy was talking on the cellphone in the bathroom stall. The door was half open and you could hear him talking loudly over the music.

    I politely asked the guy to get off the phone or take it outside but he waved me off. Finally the stall next to him opened up. I walked into it and started singing, top of my lungs. Like a prairie dog, the guys head pops up and he asks me “to keep it down he is on the phone.”

    At which point I tell him he needs to leave since this is a bathroom and a not a phone booth and suggested that outside the club would probably mean he could hear better anyhow. Well he gives me the brush off again. So I went to singing loudly again. He reaches over the stall and tries to grab me.

    I easily evaded him and finally seeing that all advantage was lost in the ingenius method he used to calling up one of his friends on the cellphone, he finally left and I was given applause upon leaving the bathroom.

    In short, you have the right to do a lot of things, but with such freedom comes responsibility. You have the right to pursuit of happiness and comfort, but should we not also respect the the comfort of others as well?

  100. arnor says:

    Ok, I just had to be commenter #100…

    Anyways. Why can’t there be “recline” and “no-recline” sections? We could use the old smoking and no-smoking sections, since noone’s allowed to smoke on the plane anymore?

  101. ridiculous says:

    how does reclining a chair that is able to do so violate your personal space? Doesn’t the fact that my chair is able to do it, make it my space? if you do not want to use your extra space, how is that my problem?

    and someone above referred to it as someone going thru the express lane with more than 15 items. I disagree. It is more like the person w/ 10 items is complaining about the person using the full 15 item limit.

    And if your working that hard that you have to work on your flights, seems that you should be able to afford business class, no?

  102. Jim Gleeson says:

    I will concede the whole express lane issue but add this. The point here is not personal space, it is consideration. Mike probably would not be even mentioning this is he had been asked if he would mind it if the seat before him was reclined. He wasn’t asked. And when that happens, correct me if I am wrong, it feels like personal space is violated. In fact, I would add, I have felt the same way.

    There are a lot of things we can do, we just shouldn’t. I have the right to take off my shoes on a plane if I so inclined. I could sing the whole flight.I could ask for a drink from the middle seat, and go in and out to the bathroom every ten minutes like someone in need to Depends. The point is that it is inconsiderate to do so. Although if there is an issue with incontinence I would probably swtich seats to give the person aisle access. Which, Oh crap, is consideration.

    There are a lot of things we can do, but should we? Like at a movie theatre, should we ask to have every concession item brought up and shown to us before we buy something? Should we drive past a bunch of cars in line and sneak in the right hand lane at the very last second? Should we talk really loud on cellphone while paying for our groceries? All these things are permissible, but are they beneficial?

  103. Mike D. says:

    Jim: You’ve summed up my opinion and the opinion of some others on this thread perfectly. It’s not a question of rights or abilities. It’s a question of simple consideration. Deliberate thought before action.

  104. Bulbboy says:

    Ridiculous (post 101), as well as being ridiculous, you also don’t read threads fully.

    And if your working that hard that you have to work on your flights, seems that you should be able to afford business class, no?

    See post 36:

    #2: Alaska Airlines doesn’t have business class.

  105. ridiculous says:

    bulb-boy – maybe you should switch to higher wattage. i never proposed that they had to stay on Alaskan. I am sure whatever flight was offered by Alaskan is also offered by a carrier with a business section.

    Mike / Jim – I fully understand your points. And agree that the world could be a more courteous place. And it is the responsibilty of each of us to do our part.

    That being said, i will state the obvious – I am a recliner. It is more comfortable. I sleep better. Easier on my back and all of the other reasons stated here in this post. I do look back and give the person behind me a nod, and then even recline very slowly after the fact. And you guys seem to be on the side that appreciates that gesture. However, there were quite a few people on this post that it seems would still feel as though i had wronged them in some way.

    I travel a fair bit. I have over 60,000 miles logged this year. I am not new to this. I prefer window seats. I keep my carryon in front of me so as not to bother people by going to the overhead. I have held going to the bathroom for whole flights so as not to inconvenience the elderly, or overweight, or working person next to me. I would hardly consider myself discourteous. And i even work on my laptop a bit too. And, in all fairness, i have had the seat in front of me come flying at me, bumping into me, knocking my laptop, etc. And i did not appreciate it, like most.

    That being said, on a few flights, i have been the victim of the “kicker”. But i guess i was the rude one? The flight provides reclining seats, not shoes. And to all of the singing on the flight, getting up every 10 minutes and talking on the cell phone analogies? again, ridiculous. in my opinion, it is more like the guy not getting peanuts being mad at the guy that does cuz he can hear him chewing. or mad at the guy who got the meal service becuase you do not like the way it smells. Hey, you can get peanuts. the meal and recline your seats too. it is a service provided by the airlines, and if you decide not to use it, do not begrudge those who do.

  106. Bulbboy says:

    bulb-boy – maybe you should switch to higher wattage.

    Touché .

  107. Jim Gleeson says:

    Talking on the cellphone while paying for groceries, getting up every ten minutes to make another trip to drain the bladder, and singing on a flight are actually apt analogies as they are things that you are allowed to do in the contexts I used. Maybe singing on the plane is not immediately thought of as a right that a person has on a plane, but then neither is taking off your shoes etc.

    They are not ridiculous analogies because they are things that:

    1. Are not against the law. Ã…s far as I know no one has ever been arrested for having a small bladder, a loud singing voice, or cell phone use while paying the cashier of a grocery store.

    2. Actually can be ways to feel comfortable. Some people blow off stress and actually seem to unwind while talking on the cellphone, relieving a bladder and or stretching your legs, as well as the therapudic value of music.

    3. These analogies are discourteous when they are abused as in talking too loudly on the phone and actually interferring with your own ability to pay for things in a timely matter (I watched a woman juggle her cell phone while looking for her wallet for 3 minutes before she finally managed to pull it out).

    I think these three criteria mesh well with what the whole seat reclination without notification example that is was the original subject of this post. 1. It is something that is allowed on a flight. 2. Ways it can bring comfort or relief. 3. Discourteous when abused.

    That peanut analogy actually also fits well with mine, barring that peanuts are banned from a lot of flights due to peanut allergies.

    Finally, this whole thing about the ultimatum about upgrading to business class is really moot because arguments can be made that tall people who need to recline and those that need more legroom should both upgrade to business class because it maximizes comfort for those who need it while minimizing the intrusion into others space regardless if that space is contested or not.

    I did like the one very creative idea however that instead of moving the seat back…it could actually adjust forward providing the same angle reclining without intruding into someone else’s personal space.

  108. even more ridiculous says:

    Jim, Jim, Jim – I guess we will have to agree to disagree. Cuz i still feel like those analogies are inept.

    1. Reclining seats are provided on planes – not microphones for singing, nor an area for talking on the cell while paying for groceries, nor enough bathrooms to accomodate 270 passengers getting up every 10 minutes. do you get that part? it is provided for that purpose. i find it difficult for me to understand anyone complaining about something that someone else is doing that is provided for them to do. and in the analogies that you are reeeeeaaaching with, your missing that key ingredient. you are merely looking for anything that could potentially annoy people around them.

    2. the peanut thing – semantics. (getting caught up in the actual literal meaning of the word, while conveniently avoiding the principal…just in case) do me a favor and go back and read that point, but replace peanuts with “little bag of mixed pretzel pieces”

    I do agree with the idea about the seat inclining forward, assuming it did raise and give the same angle of course, but there certainly would be some major changes in the structue of planes and i think we all know that is just not going to happen.

    and i’ll let the upgrade point go as well. but thanks for arguing my point. who’s team are you on anyway?

    my point is this. we are all put in an uncomfortale situation and everyone has to make the best of it. i do not throw popcorn at the tall guy that sits in front of me at the theater. it sucks, but i deal with it. i am a recliner. not everyone is. but i do not do it to piss people off around me. promise.

    and it’s funny. you and mike keep drumming “courtesy”. “it’s all about courtesy” you keep saying “go back to the “original” point of this post.” so please…let’s do:

    It is discourteous to use something that is put there for it’s useful and intended purpose if it bothers people around you, but is perfectly acceptable to kick and knee people’s seats, drum on the tray table and take photos of complete strangers from right over their head.

    Oh. Ok. Got it. Courtesy. Give me a break.

    I’m out…

  109. Mike D. says:

    It is discourteous to use something that is put there for it’s useful and intended purpose if it bothers people around you, but is perfectly acceptable to kick and knee people’s seats, drum on the tray table and take photos of complete strangers from right over their head.

    No one said kicking the seat and drumming on the tray table was courteous, acceptable, or right. Just because I did it for a few seconds on this one flight doesn’t mean I think it’s right. I certainly wouldn’t do it in 99% of the instances when someone reclines a seat. That’s the difference here: I at least know it was a discourteous thing and generally wouldn’t do it… those who recline willynilly (not you) do not even care that it’s discourteous and do it time and again, without regard for anyone.

    You’ve said from your previous posts that you are courteous about it, so you’re not the enemy here as far as I’m concerned.

  110. ridiculous says:

    Mike – Fair enough.

    Thank you for the mildly entertaining post. I just got off a 6 hour flight the day before when i found it. i had a little kid sitting behind me, kicking my seat the whole time. i shot the mom a glance and she caught on. she got the child to stop…until she fell asleep herself. needless to say, i didn’t get my usual nap. but i dealt with it. my back still hurts (from the seat, not the kid).

    So this hit a nerve when i read it. Thanks for listening to the points from the other side.

    On your next flight, watch for the nod. it just might be me. And if you really need the space, i am sure we can come to a compromise.

  111. Jim Gleeson says:

    Kids can be inconsiderate and selfish, that is the real issue here in this particular case. I will even give you that it was your right in this particular case to lean back without any askance of the kid because the kid is not taking up that much room to begin with. I am sorry you got caught with a child behind you kicking your seat.

    This is another case of something being provided (legs) that people have but have been put to bad use. And look at me: I am complaining about it as it also seems that you are as well and you have every right to.

    I also know full well that my peanut argument was semantical just as you stubbornly refuse to give my analogies any merit. You know full well that the cellphone analogy was in the context of a grocery store, and that although not everyone has a bathroom provided to them on a plane, everyone is allowed access to it and that making trips to the bathroom in great frequency, like reclining without warning, are both discourteous and inconsiderate. You also know that I was not referring to a retrofitted American Idol Special airplane, but rather that many people could, if singing at full volume, conceivably annoy you. I know I could.

    But let’s agree to disagree.

  112. Jim Gleeson says:

    BTW, I am on the side of courtesy. That kid was in the wrong and just as wrong as the woman lunging up and down on her seat trying to move my mercilessly pinned knees.

  113. Ira says:

    As the inventor and purveyor of Knee Defendersâ„¢, I’d like to say that I’ve appreciated this discussion.

    For the record, the product was invented to prevent actual collisions, such as seat-knee, seat-computer, seat-baby’s head, seat-coffee cup (while being held/filled). In fact, every KD has printed on it “Do not hog space” and the website goes on at some length about the need for accommodation. FWIW.

  114. Todd Huss says:

    I’m with you on the annoyance of reclining… when I recline on transcontinental flights I usually do the slow partial recline to give warning but on domestic I almost never recline. In fact, I’ve found I tend to get more lower back pain when I recline because not reclining forces me to have better posture. On the receiving end I’ve had laptop screens get jammed in the seat and it makes me just want to slap the top of the persons head in front of me… for the love of god, how can people be so unaware of their surroundings that it doesn’t occur to them that the high speed full recline might just be inconsiderate!

  115. Paul says:


    I like your style to blog and most of your posts but I really hate people with your attitude. The space required to recline my seat is NOT yours, it is mine. I paid for that space. Just that you do not recline your seat does not mean that I had not to recline mine.
    If you feel inconvenient with the space the airline grants you you will have to book another plane type, airline or seat class.

    Just my thoughts, Paul

  116. Paul says:

    Reading the comments and your replies I can’t help but add something:
    First I wish there was a fence around “your” space so you knew what is yours and what not.

    Then your point about car stereo or singing/drumming is as ridiculous and wrong as your whole approach.
    RTF rules before booking a flight. You do not have the right to disturb other passengers. As well as me. Just that the use of my seat/space isn’t considered a disturbance by savvy people.

    Last I sincerely hope you will one day be fined for your self justice – either in money or just by being slammed into yor face by that guy.


  117. Jim Gleeson says:

    After Paul added something, I found myself adding something as well.

    It is ironic that someone would call “savvy” someone who reclines without giving a little “fyi.” I would think rather that savvy people are mindful of the area around them and in spite of having the ability to recline, might actually be perceptive enough to consider what their actions might do to others. The seat recline was invented before laptops and such actions could cause collateral damage. While it is incumbent upon the user to the laptop to know of the possibility of a quick recline, it would be considered decent manners if the person in front of him would at least look before reclining.

    What is ridiculous is that Paul can’t see how a seat reclining can annoy other people with good reason and that is why the drumming/singing is also apt. The reason being is that both of these actions show no consideration to others. While reclining your seat is your right, it is also your responsibility just as it is your right to back out of a parking space it is also your responsibility to look before you leap.

    I think these people who don’t get it failed the analogies part of their SAT’s.

    Still, it takes all kinds.

  118. Paul says:


    I am surprised where you got your idea from? I said with no word IF I found a fyi good/adequate or not. So I was glad if you would add your opinion, not mine. But thanks for attesting me to act savvy.

    For the record: As you said yourself it is ones responsibility to take care to avoid any damage to people or things even behind ones back. One shouldn’t need to mention that.
    AND it is negligence to place a laptop in a way that it can be broken even if the other only moves in his allowed space, gross negligence for you and some others here because you already KNOW about that risk and tacit accept it.

    BTW some posts in here suggest the idea that one breach of regulations justifies another one, even if the first is only a breach of etiquette and the other (like physical violence) is an offence. Ironically especially the people requesting etiquette seem to belong that group. I read Mikes posts as such for example.

    Last, to give you a MUCH closer example take the smokers in areas where it is still allowed to smoke. It is their right to smoke there.
    I am a non-smoker and dislike smoke quite a lot but I see it as my responsibility to choose locations w/o smokers or reach an agreement with the smoker. I never had the idea I had the RIGHT to make the smoker stop smoking – especially not by childishly annoying him or physical violence.


  119. Jim Gleeson says:

    Paul, I apologize, I never meant to imply that you were savvy.

    As far as what needs mentioning, apparently because many people have had this experience of getting their knees hammered, their laptops or their beverages spilled, it does need to be mentioned. And while it is negligent to say, leave a laptop on the floor or balancing precariously somewhere, it should not be considered negligent to have it placed on a tray table.

    As far as breaking “regulations” or going so far as to the threat of physical violence: it seems to me you were the one hoping that Mike gets “slammed into yor face by that guy” whatever that means. But understand this: one of the problems with a breach of etiquette is that like begets like. I think small examples of it are emerging everywhere.

    Etiquette is not a request, it is a convention prescribed by society. It is basic decency that should not have to be mentioned.

    Regarding a smokers right to smoke, that is exactly what I think they should do in reference to reclining, have a designated area for reclining and non reclining. Another forum stated that the original conception for chairs that recline were for those that had more space between them. It used to be like 36″ and now it’s 28″ That is just not enough room to also add in the recline to it.

    I don’t consider this analogy to be any closer than mine though. But to also play it out to its conclusion: there is etiquette to lighting up as well. Usually a person will ask if its alright to smoke, even in a designated area for it. It is their right, but they also are considerate of others.

    Finally Paul, I want to commend you on your use of the English language. There were only a couple of sentences I couldn’t understand like that whole first paragraph.

    “I am surprised where you got your idea from? I said with no word IF I found a fyi good/adequate or not”

    I assume you meant: “I am surprised you consider me savvy as I was referring to others who would be savvy enough to realize that it is my right to recline”

    I also had problems with this sentence:

    AND it is negligence to place a laptop in a way that it can be broken even if the other only moves in his allowed space, gross negligence for you and some others here because you already KNOW about that risk and tacit accept it.

    I assume you meant and correct me if I am wrong: “It is negligence to place a laptop in a way that can be broken even if it is in the allotted space. It is especially gross negligence for you because you already KNOW about the risk and your being there implies tacit acceptance.”

    Still, your use of our language would probably be a lot better than my speaking or writing in your native language. I hope that helps.

  120. Mike D. says:

    I like your style to blog and most of your posts but I really hate people with your attitude. The space required to recline my seat is NOT yours, it is mine. I paid for that space. Just that you do not recline your seat does not mean that I had not to recline mine.

    Paul: Ok then, if that’s your stance, how would you answer this question — Let’s say there’s a 6 foot 9 guy like Tom behind you. The length of his legs *physically prevents you* from reclining in the first place. Has he just robbed you of your space? Or do you still have “the right” to push that shit back repeatedly until you can “force” it down? I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’ll answer by saying “Well, in that circumstance, I’d be ok with not reclining.” If that’s your answer though, it brings us to the crystalization of the point: What if the guy behind you had legs 3 inches shorter than Tom? So you then had three inches with which to recline before the seatback went right into his legs. Then what would you do? Push it back 3 inches? Push it back 2 inches so you give him 1 inch to move? This is about courtesy and consideration, Paul… not about rights and abilities.

  121. Paul says:


    I am not sure if it is my use of English you don’t understand. You seem not to understand quite a lot, beginning with savvy being a positive word. And I truely do not see your ‘translations’ to fit even nearly. I don’t think I can rewrite my writings in a few words as they appear pretty straight forward to me.


    speaking about etiquette: Does it fit your means of etiquette to enter an area if one knows this constricts others in their rights or convenience and EXPECTING them to dump their interests? Your 7 feet guy already behaves against your etiquette by boarding into seats that do not suite him. He knows that but silently expects me – w/o asking before if that’s okay with me as I would be required in your opinion – to take care of that by dumping my rights or convenience. Where is his curtesy or consideration? So every medal has two sides. And never forget – he does that for ONLY one reason: to personally save effort (monetary or the work to book special seats, to get a flight matching his schedule better just to name a few).

    Disrespecting others interests or needs right from the beginning but requiring them to respect mine to be good men reminds me of emotional blackmailing.


  122. Mike D. says:

    Does it fit your means of etiquette to enter an area if one knows this constricts others in their rights or convenience and EXPECTING them to dump their interests? Your 7 feet guy already behaves against your etiquette by boarding into seats that do not suite him.

    Wow. Just wow.

  123. Paul says:

    Yeah, Mike,

    we seem to live in totally different worlds.

    I am a guy who would NEVER expect people to do/consider anything more than my plain rights. Exactly that is what they get from me. Plus some social adaption like not to have a fight with that 7 feet guy. But I consider him rude.

    You appear to give and require from others anticipatory obedience. Thats a bad deal for you (as you often give more than you get) AND it’s a bad deal for me (as you give me something I don’t want/need and want something in return I do not necessarily want to give).


  124. Paul says:

    ridiculous writes:
    […]I do look back and give the person behind me a nod, and then even recline very slowly after the fact. And you guys seem to be on the side that appreciates that gesture.

    I am sorry but I haven’t read about appreciation in any way. I just read the demand and the ‘threatening’/blackmailing if you wouldn’t… Even though it is courtesy of yours!

    ridiculous writes:
    […]However, there were quite a few people on this post that it seems would still feel as though i had wronged them in some way. […]

    Yeah, read the posts, ridiculous. Everyone has stronger rights than you and you are asocial if you do not respect these guys. How would 7-footy know that he would not fit into the seat row? He is granted the right to save money and claim more than he paid for on your cost. And that right is surely stronger than yours to get what you paid for. How could you expect him to waste money on your legal rights? That would be very uncourteous as he claims the right of the impaired.


  125. Mike D. says:

    Paul: It’s interesting to me that courtesy is an equation for you. I actually think that illustrates the root of the problem — and my point — quite nicely. If we’re always living in a world where we only give up as much as we get, that just seems like a bad, bad thing to me.

  126. Paul says:

    …then why do you whine that the guy in front did not give enough at all? Why do you expect him to give you that much more than you gave him? And how much does your last post match your behaviour – trying to give him a bad time because he did not give enough?

    Mike your last post really was not a good point. Not if you do not claim the right of schizophrenia.

  127. Jim Gleeson says:


    I am with you on that “wow, just wow”


    I do know that savvy is a positive word which is why once again I apologize for making any insinuation that you are.

    Next, concerning seats that do not suit, actually people who are seven feet buy coach seats all the time. Imagine the field day the legal system would have if an airline refused to grant a ticket based on height. The thing tall people should consider, and I am among those, is which seats to buy in coach. So out of consideration for those people who think they have the right to recline, sing the blues, and get cable television, I decided to peruse the net for a bit of help.

    The link above concerns Northwest Airlines wondering if they should charge more for people in coach who want legroom. Forget about the fact that comfort of passengers should be a high priority for an airline. Anyhow, this led to two others links that will help someone find a seat suitable for them. and are two such sites. Just at face value, Seatguru looks like the best fit. Not only does it tell you which seats provide more legroom, but also tell you which ones contain power ports for laptops, have limited recline, or misaligned windows.

    The point we are making here though Paul is suppose the seat is unavailable. Suppose that the person can’t afford an upgrade to first or business class. You have the right to recline your seat, but it doesn’t mean that you should.

    Paul, you do realize that this is a hypothetical 7 ft. tall man Mike was referring to right?

    Finally this whole business of “anticipatory obedience” is that what you think consideration is? Is that what you think etiquette is, “anticipatory obedience?” I can’t speak for Mike, but what I do is not in anticipation of what someone else wants from me, but what I would expect if I were them. That is something called empathy.

    I don’t want to bang the crap out of the person’s knees behind me so I look behind me to see if they would be greatly inconvenienced by my reclining. If they are, I suck it up. Because I consider that their space. Or at best, space that if unused could be compromised on.

    Suppose you are in a car and sitting behind me. Now I have every right since I paid for this car to recline my seat and back it up as far as I want, and if you have seen cars, once you recline the seat in one (especially the small to midsize one) you might as well get in the trunk with all the room it affords you. While I may have the right to have as much space as I want when reclining, I compromise with the person behind me. these are people I do know and I think in the context of an airplane how much more we should compromise with those we don’t know.

  128. Paul says:

    quite a long post, Jim.

    If you used irony in your last post I am sorry I did not get it. But I am not sure if this is truth or claim. If you used irony you had violated your own etiquette rules – except it is only you who decides who is worthy of etiquette and who may be insulted.

    Anyway, your post about seatings fits my opinion. These guys KNOW they need more and they could take care for it. If it was about saving mere 15 bucks I was VERY angry about these assholes bothering me with their long legs.

    The person whose seat is unavailable is the same as my seat unavailable in non-smokers. If I CHOOSE to go in a smokers flight/train I am a bloody asshole to expect these guys to take non-smokers into account. Would they have to ASK me if I allowed them to smoke? What world do you live in?

    The car analogy is a totally different and distracting one. I am not going to comment on that.


  129. Paul says:

    …oh, Jim,

    did I say I am glad not to have wasted time on your provocation regarding my English. You almost got me but luckyli I did not see the need to rewrite.


  130. Jim Gleeson says:

    As far as irony goes Paul, you were the one who intimated that savvy people are those who would not get upset when their knees are banged by the chair in front of them, so that in and of itself is an insult which triggered my reflex response. If that was not your intent then I withdraw that comment at least metaphorically speaking.

    As far as people of larger frame and build being able to “take care of it,” many do not. I would assume from your previous posts that you are of average build and height and find that the seats and such fit you well. The thing is that a lot of people book a flight and the only thing they know to do is to get an aisle seat vs. a middle or window seat.

    The point is that there are people out there who work, who are tall, or for whatever reason need the extra space that a recliner can sap from them if they choose to exercise their right to do so. All a person should ask is that a person be mindful of that.

    As far as your English goes, unlike my irony, I honestly commend you on your use of it. If it is not your second language I apologize and would recommend that you perhaps brush up on it a little.

  131. Bulbboy says:

    …there are people out there who work, who are tall, or for whatever reason need the extra space that a recliner can sap from them…

    Too true Jim. Forget the hypothetical 7 foot man, how about the very real long femured girl? I was on a bus with a friend a couple of days ago and realised that her knees were 2 inches further forward than my own when we were both sitting with our backs touching the seat.

    We are both the same height but our skeletal frame is totally different. Obviously modern flight seating arrangements are made with the idea that humans should just somehow get along for the relatively short periods of time we are cramped like sardines.

    Personally, I’m looking forward to the invention of hypersleep when ‘passengers’ are loaded like luggage and everyone wakes up in their new destination without all the aggro. Also, we won’t have to eat airplane food.

  132. Paul says:

    Paul writes:
    BTW some posts in here suggest the idea that one breach of regulations justifies another one[…] Ironically especially the people requesting etiquette seem to belong that group.

    Jim Gleeson writes:
    you were the one who […] which triggered my reflex response.


    thank you. You couldn’t have made more clear to me that you are not the guy to talk about etiquette with. You still and truely act as if you decided what and when etiquette ist. Something you dislike happens and your natural response is to violate. That far one could say you’re mentally ill and shouldn’t be blamed for an improper reflex response. But 4 hours later you still consider it perfectly okay as long as I had breached a rule before.
    I know a lot people who considered your approach simply asozial and that’s the part where I say

    Wow. Just wow. Hope we’ll never meet.


  133. Paul says:


    I am with you and – though it will not have shined through – have some sympathy with anyone who is kind of ‘impaired’ in any way including myself. Lefthanders, visually impaired, fat, huge, whatever.

    But I say it is my job to deal with my impairment. I consider it asocial to anticipate my environment to take care of my problems.

    If my environment helps me by for instace setting their own convenience aside I am glad and grateful.
    My impression in here is some guys do not see this help as a gift of a nice guy but as his duty. And it simply isn’t.
    It is just a matter of the point of view: I constantly receive gifts whereas they’re on a constant fight with the world. It might be one reason why they act so aggressive.

    Have you ever taken serious action to sort out the issue with the culprit? Sued the bus line, blackballed the airline, set up a website and mobilized people?
    It is so much easier to have the poor guy in front of you sort it out for you, isn’t it? He is much weaker and might not withstand your emotional pressure.

  134. Paul says:

    New day, new thoughts.
    Not that I expected the violent part of this blog to accept their involvance in any bad evolution but have you ever thought about “the bad quick recliner” being a guy who would not like to have to fight with you or 6-footy?

    I personally experienced these guys who try to block my seat reclining with their legs. I have the choice to surprise them early or fight with them afterwards. You see? Everything has its its two sides. Your comment is appreciated, Mike. Jims will be ignored.


  135. Paul says:

    …it is a gift or a pitty one cannot edit ones comments.

    What I forgot to mention in my above post is that SLOWLY reclining your seat almost guarantees problems. Not with nice-guy or me but with Mike or Jim.


  136. Jim Gleeson says:

    Savvy this Paul:

    Let me see if I got this straight, I apologize for implying you were savvy and you call me mentally ill and antisocial, and I am the one who has breached etiquette? You even wished that Mike would “get his justice” by getting his face pounded and he is the one who is inconsiderate?

    I think something is getting mistranslated into German when you are reading Paul because you are just not getting it. I speak for myself when I say this simply “All we want is a little heads up.” While you have the ability to recline your airplane seat, what you do on an airplane affects others. Slowly reclining a seat is exactly what is considered good behavior, but at least give some indication your about to do it. Is that too much to ask?

  137. Jim Gleeson says:


    There was an interesting idea tossed around by the airline industry that is having trouble with the rising fuel prices and the other problems with air travel. They thought maybe having angled flatboards for passengers to fit more to a plane. I think the idea was cast aside, but definitely some creativity is being instituted. I think American airlines also had more space between seats for awhile, but then realized they were not making money and decided to make the space even less between the seats than before they made the change.

    It becomes sad to know that airlines place the comfort of passengers as secondary. Yes they need to make a profit, but cramming more people in less space isn’t the way to do it. At least until they do create hypersleep. That sounds like good times.

  138. Steve says:

    I’m a big guy (6’4″, about 220 lbs.), and fly my fair share. This is my biggest fear on any flight…I would almost rather have my seat ejected from the plane than have some terribly-mannered human unnecessarily recline their seat in front of me…though should a combination event occur (reclined seat with an ejection), then I would worry about the reclined seat tearing my kneecaps off during the ejection.

    I admire you for posting such thoughts, Mike, and will attempt to spread the word to get people thinking more about it.

  139. Doug Brenner says:

    Next time make sure your knees are in a forward position BEFORE the guy leans his seat back. You can at least limit the extent of the seat reclining with this method.

    Then when the inevitable happens and the the guy slams his seat back as far as possible, the seat actually won’t go back very far. It will stop at your knees. This won’t hurt, but be sure to loudly exclaim, “OH! Jeeezos! These fuckin seats have no fuckin room whatsoever! Goddammit!”

    If the guy is a total asshole and doesn’t even say he’s sorry, then keep your knees right where they are – buried in the guy’s kidneys, and keep shifting them around every minute or so, for the remainder of the flight.

    If he’s a five-star asshole, leaning forward in his seat with the seat reclined, then he deserves the five-star treatment. If you’re travelling with a business partner or family member who gets the joke, start coughing deep and hard, and then talking about how your wife has antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis but that doesn’t matter, she’s still a great french kisser. Mention that you don’t know why you’re coughing but it’s probably just something you picked up at home. Ask your partner if he’s cold, because if he is, you can turn down the “recirculated air.” Tell him he looks a little pale just like your wife did, and that maybe he’s already caught what you have, but that would be impressive because you only saw him for a half hour yesterday. Be sure to mention that you’ve had your flu shot, so it must be a pretty strong bug to infect you like that. You get the idea…

    Sometimes if the guy gets up to use the bathroom, you can actually reach forward and press the guy’s armrest button to bring the seat back upright again. This is easiest if the you both have aisle seats and the passenger next to him is asleep. Whenever I’ve done this, they’ve never noticed and re-reclined the seat.

    If he confronts you (which he won’t) start coughing again but gasp out the words, “Yeah I put your seat up. You had it reclined, and you weren’t even in it!”

  140. Mark C says:

    I’ve found that it’s possible to push someone’s seat back upright. On a recent flight on Delta a really short person decided to recline, (I figure that shorter people are inherently more comfortable than I)

    In a similar situation to the first post, I had work to do, so I just put my knees up on each side of the seat, really in a stretch for sore legs and noticed that the seat was very slowly going back upright!


  141. Joe says:

    I was on a two AItalia flights in mid Sept and in both cases the passengers in front of my wife and I reclined their seats as far back as possible.

    On the flight to Italy the couple in front us started yelling and screaming when I asked them if we could have a little more space. The male passenger wanted practice his native Judo on me, I declined.
    The trip back was almost as bad, when we reached our seats the family of three in front of us already had their seats fully back and had to be pleaded with to put them up to allow us to seat ourselves. Once we did they again reclined their seats completely.

  142. Don Johnson says:

    This has given me some new perspectives on the reclining seat issue, and I’ll try to keep them in mind.

    There seems to be a belief that the seat upright is the “correct” position and reclining it is an invasion of the space of the person behind or is at least rude unless one has a good excuse for it. I’ve always felt that the seat position is optional to the person sitting in it and no excuse is required to recline it. The fact that it may lessen the space of the person behind doesn’t make it wrong.

    I’m 6 feet 2 inches tall and weigh 220 pounds. I usually feel like I’m sitting in a kiddy seat in coach seating. I can barely wedge myself into the seat and my knees are pressed against the seat in front, so if it gets reclined the problem becomes much worse. When my seat is upright, I feel as though my shoulders are directly above or forward of my hips. This isn’t comfortable for 2 minutes much less 2 hours. I don’t know why the airline seats are designed that way, but my guess would be part of the plan to pack people in like sardines. Compare the angle of an airline seat to the usual position of car seats. People don’t drive around with car seats upright like airline seats. So I’m sorry if reclining my seat to a position in which I am marginally comfortable is interfering with your use of a computer, but I’m not going feel bad about inconveniencing you a little if it will relieve a bit of the torture of sitting in an airline seat.

    I think we probably could all agree that the source of the problem is the seat pitch. If airlines could increase the legroom by 4 inches, nobody would care if the seat in front of them were reclined. I think the airlines have simply squeezed too far and the blame lies directly on them. Raise the prices 10%, make 10% more space, and we can all be happier.

  143. What a jerk.

    I suffer from backache if I sit in a chair that’s too upright for too long, so my seat goes back the second the seatbelt lights go off, and stays back (except for meal service) until I’m asked personally to put it back upright.

    If you were kicking the back of my chair, I’d turn around and ask you what the problem was. And if you carried on, I’d make a complaint to the cabin crew that the passenger behind me was behaving abusively.

    If you want that much personal space, pony up the $$$ for business class. Or write to the airlines (as I do, frequently, and sometimes publicly) telling them they’re a bunch of penny pinching cheapskates and if they put in 2 less rows in each plane they’d fill the remaing seats on every flight once word got around.

  144. Pauline Ng says:

    Sorry if my English is not good, cause I am not a native speaker.

    I absolutely agree with Don and Andy. I have a constant backpain, so reclining my seat is the only way to make me comfortable no matter how short is the flight. I do think that this is my right. This is the original design of the seat, I am not doing something special to annoy other people. So, I don’t think the person sitting behind me has any reason to stop me to do so. That’s why I always prepare for the one sitting in front of me to recline his/her seat. This is also his/her right. If he/she keep upright, I am just lucky.

  145. Jim Gleeson says:

    I can sympathize with Pauline here, until she mentions the word “right.” As I think I have stated before there are things that are designed certain ways, but at the same time we should not necessarily take advantage of their design just because they were designed that way, even if we have good reason to do so. If your back aches, perhaps a car trip would be a better idea, or physical therapy to somehow strengthen the back. Beyond that it is the attitude of entitlement that just gets under my skin.

    For instance, movie theater seats at the AMC are stadium and each armrest is one you can lift and can hold a drink. Yet, if the theater is crowded I do not feel it is my right to lift those armrests or to encumber both of them with my drinks and concessions if I have people sitting on either side of me. Lets say there is an ailment that only allows me to be comfortable if I have both of the armrests up, I still don’t think I am entitled to it. I would probably ask if I could lift the armrests, but in the end it is the public arena and I would probably accede if they had a problem with it. My point is, in the end, I not only care about myself and my comfort and my needs, but also consider the needs of others as well. What gets me steamed is the people who think that because they bought an airline ticket they feel they can just recline the trip away and not consider in the least bit the person behind them.

    For people with back pain, I think it would be only considerate to opt to get a seat that is the last in a certain section. The centerpiece point is this and it should be reiterated. Although it might be a design for these seats to recline, and although you have good reason to recline them, why not take a moment and just see what the world is like behind you. We do this driving every day to make sure we don’t get in a traffic accident, we even use our turn signal as a way of telling people that we are going in a certain direction. Seems to me we could at least use a bit of that same polite courtesy in a hollow metal tube with wings with pumped in air for a couple of hours. To somewhat change what John F. Kennedy stated in one of his famous speeches, it’s not what other people can do for you, it’s what you can do for other people. If we are only concerned about ourselves then we’re no better than animals crawling around on our bellies looking for every means of self gratification.

  146. Tothemark says:

    Here i am at my desk feeling like a zombie from lack of sleep, why ? Because of high flying recliners. A 6 hour + flight out of Doha to UK on Qatar.
    Well, the pimp my ride fast high flyers reclined before the first in flight drink, in fact i could have almost shared it with them. After the Stewardess had got them to reduce some of their maximum recline so i could actually use my tray, they were back down within 5 minutes – Inconsiderate,selfish @holes, the only thing that made me smile was that she had a skin disease and he was going grey early, …they so deserved each other. It got to a stage that I was going to beat the cra* out of the guy in the carpark at the end of the flight, but instead i backed out and pressured the stewardess to find me another seat – no the plane wasnt full.
    I did do the “i need the toilet” run heavily leaning and rocking their seats rigourously as i went and came back and then again when i changed seats, that felt so good.
    I can see both sides of the argument and the failings are down to the airlines, different planes/airlines/seats have different levels of recline angle and its down to them to set acceptable levels, but how would they know, they never travel coach !
    I do like the knee defenders – brilliant until a steward spots one or tries to lift your tray.
    My advice to “the i hate recliners” is simple, if you have a guy who is a recliner behind you make you you fully recline into them especially at meal times, so they get some of their own. Go one better and go find some empty seats in front of recliners and recline it into them and then go back to your seat, lol
    Does anyone know of any physical fights on planes over this issue, a bit more booze and who knows..

  147. kk says:

    The correct point of view is from the seating specification. It will go up or back. We all know that when we bought the ticket. If the starting position was “back”, we would all accept it without complaint and possibly have joy if the person in front decided to “place his seatback in the full upright position”. When we rented the seat real estate, we got the full ~3 inches behind our headrest. This is a fact we can all agree on; however, I realize that my neighbor may be camped out over the edge of my lawn, so, I will be more careful from now on about my excursions there.

  148. Jim Gleeson says:

    “Right” and “correct point of view” are all buzzwords meaning a type of arrogance that has a zero tolerance type of attitude toward it. For every rule there is an exception. And in the realm of human interaction, there is something that was once known as the golden rule. Well the new golden rule is that if you paid the cash, you get to make the rules.

    Sorry, but I don’t agree that there is one correct view on this. One size does not fit all, and it’s not a right to fly on an airplane but a privelege. Check your ticket with all the legalese and you will know that to be true. The problem here is a dogmatic view that one person has a certain right and that right exists regardless of the effect it has on other people.

    Such a belief in one correct point of view and a right can only breed contempt. Where has common sense and decency gone? The seat was designed to recline, the armrest was designed to go up, the air and the light were designed to work. Shoes were made for removing. All these things, actions, effect other people.

    I wish people could see that there is more to it than a correct point of view and a right. It’s like anything in life, you can do something, but the question is: should you? And you know what, you can ease a lot of tension if you just ask.

  149. Jim Gleeson says:

    The above comment illustrates the attitude of lack of consideration the best as well as the adversarial attitude that arises when they are called on it. It takes all kinds.

  150. CONNOR says:

    ok its my first flight in may and im a little scared to fly i don’t want to crash. im only 10 so can you tell me some tips for first-time fliers?
    like were to sit or if i can recline my chair. the cool thing is i like airplanes!

  151. Carl says:

    That’s hysterical! I totally kick the seat back too. I also sometimes “mysteriously” develop a terrible cough, believe it or not it has worked a few times.

    I found this on YouTube…looks like others like this subject too.

  152. Mike Hazzlo says:

    You have got to be kidding me.

    If I pay for a flight, and i am on a small little 30 inch seat or whatever they are, of course I am going to recline. I’m sorry but I live on airplanes and public transportation. I have quit caring about if other people are comfortable or not. I mean come on. If you cant handle a seat reclining all of 2 inches then buy a first class seat. These seats recline for a reason…for people to use this feature. If I am on a 1 hour flight or a 12 hour flight I recline the entire time. It is already so uncomfortable to be on flights I do whatever I can to make myself comfortable. I suggest everyone else do the same. And for the people that kick the seat, why do you do that. That is so rude, immature, and child like. You are really making your point heard, little seat kicker. Your the type of people who live their life misreble. You get pissed over 2 inches, hahahah. Move on.

  153. Mike D. says:

    And Mike Hazzlo has just summed up exactly what’s wrong with American society today. It’s not even “me first” anymore. It’s “me only”.

  154. AD says:

    I was on a flight from Singapore to Los Angeles via Tokyo and I had a very inconsiderate large lady in front of me recline her seat before we took off out of Singapore, and when I asked the flight attendent if you can ask her if she can move her seat up she told me that is her seat and she has every right to recline and please note i told the flight attendent I have to sit with her in my lap for the next 20+hours as our flight was three hours delayed and the flight was full. Needless to say every time I got up I would shove my hip in the back of her seat and move her. I guess on Singapore Airlines it is ok to be inconsiderate to your fellow passengers.


  155. UI Guy says:

    Similar to the previous poster, I had an interesting exchange with the person sitting in front of me today.

    I am 6’4″ inches tall and when I sit in coach, my knees are squarely positioned against the back of the seat in front of me.

    The person in front of me tried to recline – repeatedly banging his seat into my knees – and then finally turns around and accuses me of violating his right to recline (why do I have to be uncomfortable just because you’re tall). Unfortunately, there was no place for my legs to go and he finally summoned the flight attendant, who (much to my surprise) affirmed his right to recline over my right for legroom.

    I’ll refrain from revealing the airline by name as they are just an Average Airline in my opnion right now…

    So, the question is this – 1) Has this happened to anyone else, and 2) who does actually have the higher legal ground here?

  156. santana says:

    As much as I travel for work 70K miles a year I plan to recline as soon the captain says go. And if i plan to work with my laptop it is my issue to hustle an exit row in advance or better yet use those mile for complimentary upgrade. Last resort pay for better personal space!

  157. Brian says:

    I have flown on 100’s of flights of varying durations as I used to travel 100% of the time for work. I always put my seat back. Seats recline for a reason! It is each and every customer’s right to use that feature and the space in the next isle used for the reclining seat does not belong to the person in that isle! Wanting to do work or whatever does not take precedence to another persons right to use their seat to the full extent of their comfort (or even for no reason at all should they so choose).

    I also used to do lots of work on my laptop while flying. I never ‘counted on it’ as I know from logic and experience that if the person in front of me wants to get more comfortable, it is his right to do so. If you need more space for work, you can do what I did and either 1)pay for 1st class (or use a voucher), 2) request a bulk head or 3) request an emergency row. If those options aren’t available plan on doing your work some other time. People shouldn’t have to lose their airplane rights just because you want to use a laptop. The real considerate choice is to respect the right to recline your seat. That’s just the price of playin’ the game.

    Doing annoying passive agressive stuff because you aren’t happy is immature and childish. If you have a problem with it, write the airline or your congressman.

  158. Mike D. says:

    Brian: Yet another commenter missing the point. I have the right to buy a Hummer and tear up the roads and the environment too. But I don’t exercise this “right” because I don’t want a marginal gain in my own comfort to create real losses for other people. You’re on a long flight? Fine. You have a bad back? Fine. It *really* makes a difference in your comfort? Fine. But if you’re going to recline your seat on a 90 minute flight and never even lean back against it the whole time, then fuck you… you’re an asshole. And that’s what this guy did.

  159. Brian says:

    I can see the overall ‘be aware of your environment and the affect of your actions in it especially on the people around you’ argument. I just have a problem with the aggressive ‘counter measures’ I think you should at least ask the person in front of you for extra consideration; he may be unaware that he’s causing you problems. He’s not under any obligation though, since he paid for that seat and its ability to recline. Me personally–I’d sit up for you, but you’d owe me big ;-) I do not find sitting up comfortable as I’m a pretty big guy.

    Airlines need to give us more space–so much so that this reclining bit wouldn’t be an issue. I personally avoid flying at all costs these days. I used to complain all the time for various grievences on planes to the airlines–they aren’t very receptive.

  160. Kristen says:

    I’ve been really surprised to read all these comments. The views on “both sides” are really depressing. Each side claims a “right,” but neither side has a right. Reclining a seat, having comfort, having leg room, etc – they are simply privileges. Even airplane travel itself is simply a privilege. And there is a huge difference between a right and a privilege.

    With that said, I have done a fair amount of traveling in my lifetime. I know what airlines I like and what airlines are unbearable. I’m somewhat tall and my legs are very long. Invariably when in coach, if someone reclines their seat my knees are squashed, my legs cramp, and I can’t put my tray table down. I leave most coach flights with terrible knee pain. But I’ve NEVER thought of the person in front of me as inconsiderate. I’ve thought, “wow, this is a nightmare. I should fly business class all the time.” I’ve thought, “I’m definitely never flying this airline again.” I’ve thought, “I wish I were shorter.” But it never crossed my mind to be angry at the person in front of me. They paid for their seat too, and they shouldn’t be punished for the bad luck of having the tall girl sit behind them. I know I am going to be cramped in my seat on those times I choose to fly coach, and I have to deal with the situation.

    I do make sure that I recline my seat slowly so that the person behind me has time to prepare. But I always do recline. I’ve dealt with the situation, and I don’t see why others can’t deal as well. If the person behind me had a broken leg or something, I’d reconsider – but someone with a true disability probably would have seating accomodations anyway. I’m also guessing that someone who truly is too big or tall to fit in a seat would be allowed to have a bulkhead seat

    The problem here isn’t one of courtesy or etiquette. It seems to be one of tolerance, and of getting over the attitude that “it’s all about me.” Some will argue that the same can be said about the recliners – they should realize that it’s not all about them. But, as a long legged traveler, I don’t believe I can dictate whether the person in front of me does or does not recline – and I’m sure it’s bad enough for them when they can feel my knees through the seat. I tolerate the discomfort because I expect it when traveling in coach. I’m uncomfortable regardless of whether or not the seat in front of me is reclined. It appears that people who think reclining is inconsiderate are uncomfortable (like me) whether or not the seat is reclined. So, I must ask – why is it any better for TWO people to be uncomfortable? You are uncomfortable, whether the seat in front is reclined or not. Why should the person in front also be uncomfortable?

    And as far as getting work done – it’s not that hard to figure out a way to hold your laptop, even when the seat is reclined. If you simply can’t come up with a solution, then try doing work that doesn’t require a computer.

  161. brian says:

    Well said Kristen!

  162. Mike D. says:

    It’s still a simple equation for me Kristen:

    Does the amount of comfort I receive from reclining easily outstrip the potential amount of discomfort caused to the person behind me? If yes, I consider reclining. If no, I don’t. For people like the guy in front of me, the answer is about as “no” as it gets. He didn’t even lean back against the seat so he received zero additional comfort, and he caused problems for the person behind me, so he created the aforementioned discomfort.

    Why did he recline then?

    Because he doesn’t even think about it.

  163. brian says:

    Mike. Its a simple equation for me. Did I pay for my seat that reclines? If yes, The I have the ability to recline it–even if I sit forward! Again I qualify this by saying that I’m a big guy and it is uncomfortable if someone reclines on me–but that’s the way it goes. I accept it and worry about peace in the middle east or something.

  164. Mike D. says:

    Did I pay for the Humvee that tears up the pavement, pollutes the environment, and sucks up five times as much gas as it needs to. Sure did! So I should feel just *great* driving it! Damn the world and any negative consequences I cause within it by the choices I make!

  165. brian says:

    If you have a humvee, then yes you can drive it where it is legal to do so. Cars polute. That’s the nature of a vehical. As long as you aren’t breaking any laws and drivinig it where its not allowed, then I say you are well within your rights! I’ve off roaded and its a lot of fun!

  166. Mike D. says:

    brian: You and I are the exact opposite type of human being I think. I mean seriously, I can’t think of anything else I disagree so diametrically about than the “right” to do as you please because you pay money and aren’t breaking any laws.

  167. Jim Gleeson says:

    How does one accurately quantify a certain comfort level above another one? It’s like saying that one person takes a situation better than another person, but how can we measure things like amount of misery someone feels, or their degree of happiness?

    There is something to be said that to put a spin on this in the right direction the whole question of “Reclination without consideration” would be moot if we focussed on the true culprit here and that is the airlines. Truth be told, I would rather row across a desert in a canoe than fly now just because of all the caveats that come along with puddle jumping. I don’t want to deal wiith either of the extremes of people while traveling anyhow, people kicking my seat, or deciding in their wisdom that they have a right to recline into my lap and I can see exactly how much of a baldspot they have while I skip through time zones.

    But I think, unlike Kristen, that it is indeed a question of consideration and she actually proved my point. “They should not realize it’s not about me or them” IS consideration and she marvelously also illustrates that in considering someone else’s comfort over herself. You can’t legislate this type of behavior, and it should not be made into law, but if should be practiced to a much greater degree than it does.

    One final thought and then let the missives be fired. I am a tall guy and as luck would have it, I sit in front of my two year old niece on occasion in a van that has seats that recline. She is in a car seat. I would love, simply LOVE to recline the seat a couple more inches, but I would rather endure an amount of discomfort to give her more legroom even though it is my legal right since I bought the van to do so. This is something I also extend to others if they happen to be stuck in the backseat.

    I am not talking about rights here, because we all have them, but no freedom exists without responsibility, and it’s time we take some responsibility for our actions whether we are (as I sometimes am) the disgruntled guy with his knees pinned against the back of the seat who thinks about turning my seat into a drumkit or the guy who needs to recline (And there are times I want to do this too) that would love to think that I exist alone in a vacuum.

    What would Steve Jobs do? He would say once again that he would love to make it so there was enough room for people to stretch their legs and recline the seats, but the airlines are the ones who need to respect the desires and wishes of the consumer and make the gaps between seats larger, as well as the seats themselves wider and such to accomodate all sizes and to really go back to the drawing board and see if their is a more profitable way of making a dollar than simply turning people into human cargo nearly stacked on top of the other.

    The fact that this blog gets so much attention signals to me that a real problem does exist here and the final question is, how much longer are we going to tolerate this and should we have to?

  168. Mary says:

    Whenever I fly I always recline my seat. Even that little bit of reclince helps ease the pressure off my lower back, which ends up with sharp pains if I sit in that upright position for more than 30 minutes. I can’t help it; I didn’t ask for a weak back with recurring backaches. Reclining my seat – which I paid for – helps to insure that my back stays relatively pain free. Otherwise, in that straight position, I end up feeling like I have needles in my lower back and then I am constantly squirming and wiggling around, trying to lessen the pain in my lower back, which ends up creeping up my spine.

    I’ve never had a problem with the person in front of me who reclines. I always figured that he/she has a bad back or neck, or is tired and wants to sleep, or just wants to be comfortable.

  169. brian says:

    Mary, I couldn’t agree more. And it really isn’t our business why the person wants to recline. They paid for their seat, and they want to be comfortable in THAT seat. No excuses necessary! I have no problem when the person in front of me reclines. That’s just the way it goes. Besides generally there is a limitation as to how far back a seat goes.

  170. Mike D. says:

    brian: Again, you’re conflating two concepts that have nothing to do with each other —

    1. The person’s RIGHT and ABILITY to recline their seat (there is no argument here… from anyone).

    2. The COURTESY of the person to only recline their seat is there is real value there.

    Your argument is so selfish and arrogant that you don’t even think people should CONSIDER number two… because clearly there are people out there (including you) who don’t. That is the problem.

  171. brian says:

    Mike, next time you fly, take a look around at all the reclined seats on all duration flights. Are ALL these people inconsiderate and selfish? I don’t think so–you are being rediculous. If you don’t want me to recline, just ask me, I’ll happily oblige.

  172. Mike D. says:

    brian: On a 90 minute flight, here is the breakdown I would expect:

    70% — People sitting upright.

    20% — People reclining because they are tall, they have bad backs, or other legitimate mitigating factors.

    10% — People reclining because they bought their ticket and it’s their “right” to do so — damn anybody else on the plane. According to you, this is the group you’re in.

  173. brian says:

    Mike, the use of your made-up statistics made me chuckle!

    I have flown on 100’s of flights and have found that a much larger percentage of people recline their seats. Not all these people are the thoughtless monsters you’ve made them out to be.

    I don’t recline my seat to be a heartless jerk, I do so because I feel more comfortable on my flights when I do.

    Here’s a hint: Fly in first/business class, fly in the bulkhead row, or fly in the emergency row and move on.

  174. Mike D. says:

    brian: You must fly on a different airline than the rest of the world does then. Read the poll. Only 23% of respondents say they “usually recline”. And of those, I’m sure a sizable portion have back issues, height issues, or whatever else.

    If you think that the majority of people on a 90 minute flight recline their seats, you just don’t pay attention.

    … which is precisely my point.

  175. brian says:

    Mike I didn’t realize we were talking about 90 min flights…I usually fly cross country or trans continental where at least a nap is in order. Maybe that’s part of the mis-understanding. Thanks for your feedback and for creating the blog, its kept life interesting. I hope airlines realize the buzz around this issue and find a solution for all of us.

  176. Braddles says:

    I am a fair person, I feel. But if someone wants to be an ass on a short hop in the day then I unfold my quality newspaper and make sure its just high enough to fold forward and tickle the antagonists head. I have in the past said “I’m dreadfully sorry if my paper is bothering you. It’s just so cramped back here”. This puts the onus on the ‘guy in front to help rectify the situation. If someone were to nee me in the back I’d do as musch to annoy him as possible.

  177. David says:

    I must say this is sort of funny for me. I was doing a search for seat cushions and this came up as a link from Google. After reading some reply’s I felt compelled to reply myself. I am an airline pilot with US Airways and when I am sitting in the back of the plane I recline my seat as soon as we rotate. I think it is funny with all the remarks about people thinking this is bad etiquette. It is my seat and it is designed with the recline feature for this reason to make the seat more comfortable. My comfort is more important than your newspaper, your computer etc. If everyone reclined their seat then everyone would get that 20% of space that is taken away. Once you are in your seat there really is no reason not to recline your it. It is not my fault that you don’t have enough time to finish your work while you are at work. It is not my fault that you want to bring an over sized newspaper. It is bad enough the amount of leg room that is offered but I believe you are only making your own situation much more uncomfortable than you have to. Just my .02. I am looking forward to the replay’s.

  178. David says:

    Also, in regards to percentages of people that recline their seats, I don’t really think those figures are accurate. I would suggest in my experience of flying in the back that about 50% will recline their seat backs. Next time you are on a flight and you hear the announcement through 10,000 feet look around and I am almost assured you will see a lot of seat back go back up. Then even after the announcement wait for the flight attendant to go through I guarantee you will have at least 10 people that still haven’t put the seat back up.

    One last thing, maybe many of you don’t know about it, but they do offer upgrades to 1st if it is available on most carriers for like $50.00 at the gate. Some like US Airways base it on status of the person’s member card.

  179. James says:

    A belated reply I know…have you ever heard of the “social contract”? It’s an unspoken rule that we try to do take into account the feelings of strangers in difficult situations when there is no legal requirement to do so. For example: if you have one of the “cheap” seats in the gods at the theatre and the person on the balcony row leans forward to get a better view then everybody behind them has to lean forward as well. Similarly if someone reclines their seat on a plane all the way back then everybody else has to as well. I am glad to read that there are others who understand this. This is how we create a civil society. People who assert their legal rights to the exclusion of other people’s comfort should go and live in the jungle. They are simply taking advantage of other people’s good nature. Another example: on the Metropolitan tube line in London they have temporary fold-down seats. Even when the train fills up and is very crowded I notice that people stay sitting in them. On the Paris Metro there is an unspoken rule that at the point the train gets too crowded that people in the fold-down seats stand up. And they do.

  180. LongHauler says:

    I am going to expand this while keeping on-topic. As well as the folks that lean back, though I agree that they have that right, there are several other annoyances on flights. Here’s a list of pet peeves…
    1. People who play cards and do riffle shuffles – it is loud, sudden, and even breaks through bose headsets.
    2. People who tear paper on flights – amazing but true. On one flight a couple years ago US to Paris a guy brought on easily a whole ream of printed email. He read one email, tore it one way then tore it the other then picked up the next sheet. Eventually I got the flight attendant to stop him. Mostly it’s people tearing up bills or postal mail, but it’s still noisy and annoying and goes through bose headsets.
    3. Kids with games/DVDs and no headsets – I sat through a long US domestic flight recently with Baby Einstein blaring out from a DVD player.
    4. People who bang away on their laptops. I don’t mean type I mean hammer at the poor machine. Nearby there is no chance of sleep.
    5. People who think that the back of my seat is a lever they can grab onto to get out of theirs.
    6. People with kids who kick the back of my seat. Mostly they stop but sometimes the kid is in charge and just refuse the parental request. Flight attendants then help.
    7. People who pass immense amounts of pungent gas.
    8. People who snore loudly and wetly.
    9. People whose size/shape means they overflow across the seat divide into my space.
    10. This one is truly awful but I read it recently – it has not happened to me. Sitting next to someone who is watching a porn or near-porn movie on their DVD player or laptop. I guess I’d add gruesome to that as well. So ‘X’ rated for any reason.

    What’s your top ten?

  181. James says:

    Gee Mike – I am glad I don’t sit near you a plane other wise I’d have every orifice tightly shut for fear of causing offence :-). Perhaps you need to catch the boat next time. Let’s categorize them:

    1,2,4 and possibly 10 are things the people probably don’t realise are causing someone else discomfort. 1,2 and 4 you can probably try asking the person but I’m guessing they’ll give you a funny look. 10 is a bit off but you don’t need to look. It may say something about you if you can’t help yourself ;-)

    7,8,9 – the people can’t really help it can they – not during the immediate course of your flight anyway (ie. 9). As far as passing gas I find the low pressure on aircraft causes it.

    3,6 relate to children. I have none of my own but in talking to my friends I realise they have less control than you think and even well behaved children will get bored at some stage of a long flight unless they are drugged. I once had a toddler whose parents were seated seperately who ran up and down the aisle between them and chose to emit a loud squeal every time he passed my chair. The trick with kids is to give them an hour or two to settle down and not get too bothered by their behaviour early on.

    5 is just plain rude but surely the provence of the novice flyer. Most likely to occur when the people between them and the aisle don’t get up to let them through, at best because they are asleep but usually because they know each other and don’t mind invading their (and your) space.

    I would add the people who stand in front of you when you are fortunate enough to get an exit row and talk and/or do pilates.

    Wait till they allow cell/mobile phones on planes. It’s gonna make all of these pale by comparison.

  182. LongHauler says:

    Re #3, I believe that all devices that emit audio have to have headsets on airplanes. The parents of kids with DVDs either don’t know that or don’t care. In the instance of the Baby Einstein DVD the baby was less than 6 months old and it probably would have been cruel to give it a headset. So the Mom chose to blare it forth with the DVD speaker. I guess though that anyone who would attempt to teach a 6-month old how to spell (what the Baby Einstein DVD was all about) is probably a tad short on the common sense index anyway.

    Dissertations could be written about the novice flyer from the point of view of the frequent one. And I am sure that flight attendants have a full store of horror stories about drunks, the obnoxious, the brain-dead, the compulsive pray-er, the compulsive exerciser (your comment about pilates), and attempted initiates into the mile-high club, you name it.

    As for kids I don’t really mind them as long as I can ignore them. Kicking the back of my seat is probably the only thing I really object to. I even assisted a Mom to help her vomiting 8 year old a few flights back – she was not aware of the bag for that purpose in the back of the seats. The child needed a few of them.

    As for #9 – the obese and overflowing. I have no patience with that at all. I pay for my seat and if the other person cannot fit into theirs then they can either find another means of travel or find a seat that is empty on all the sides they need to overflow into. Or pay for such a privilege. Luckily flight attendants don’t like the overflowingly obese either and will assist anyone encumbered by them where it is possible.

    Cell phones will be a problem I agree. Especially in American culture where people think they have to shout to be heard on the cell phone. And shout twice as loud if it’s a bluetooth. I like the Asian practice of cupping a hand around the phone so you can speak softly yet be understood. Will the flight attendants enforce a quiet-time during overnight flights? I hope so. Oh so it might be urgent? Then don’t answer but text them back asking what the issue is. They are calling from a landline? Then answer but keep it brief. Miss Manners will have a lot of work when that comes about.

    Maybe the bottom line is that a certain percentage of people are annoying, period. And get enough people together and the chance there will be some of the annoying ones present becomes non-zero. Follow that up by the equally non-zero chance that the seat they will be in will be one that impacts you in some way. Put that way I guess I’d rather have someone next to me who is annoying that someone who is psychotic. And if I’m lucky the next time the annoying will sit next to the psychotic and maybe that will solve both problems. No more riffle shuffles for you because now you have no hands! Mwuhahaha. Followed by a quick tase of the perpetrator by the ever-present and vigilant Marshall. One can only hope…

  183. James says:

    LOL longhauler – ’cause if you dont laugh you’ll start screaming and then the marshall will be hauling you (and me) off the flight. Some people just will never “get it” or else they have small children and will be so tired they wont be able to think straight anyway. That was the point of my “off topic” comment about the social contract. :-) It applies everywhere. Some people get it, a lot dont.

    As far as #9 (fat people) it hasnt happened to me yet but I have heard stories where a fat couple have got the aisle and window seats and some poor sod has to sit in between.

    What to do? Maybe like me you can just try and learn to not get upset. Ignore, ignore, ignore. Think happy thoughts about the lovely family and their happy kids going to visit Grandma for the first time, the happily snoring idiot sleeping next to me who has worked hard for a month to make that big presentation, and the happy idiot watching porn…oh whatever. I know it sounds rubbish but there is no choice. And about 60% of the time it works.

  184. RB says:

    I agree with the guy who said “Taking into account that reclining the seat is allowed and perfecly legal :-), I would like to know why your desire to work overcomes my desire to sleep?”

    Mike, you seem to not take other people into account at all. You think everyone should be like you – no reason to recline, work more important than another persons comfort, etc. Some people are physically different than you believe it or not. I have health problems that hardly permit me to sit in an upright position for more than 15 minutes, so ANY amount of recline I can get I’m going to take and it is my right. I paid for that seat and part of my perk is the ability to recline.

    And there are MANY other types of people that are not all like you, believe it or not. So enough boo-hoo. People have the right to recline so you have to live with it. Go first class if you can’t deal with it.

  185. Mike D. says:

    RB: This blog post appears to be one big honeypot for people who a) can’t read or b) just don’t care about other people. For the last time, if you have a need to recline, then recline. If you are reclining just because it is your “right”, then I have no sympathy for you. Of all the people who recline in any airplane, some fit into the first group and some fit into the second group. The people who fit into the second group are the problem.

  186. Ann says:

    The problem with this: “if you have a need to recline, then recline. If you are reclining just because it is your “right”, then I have no sympathy for you.” is you have no way of knowing whether someone needs to recline. Who is the arbiter of who gets reclining privileges? Maybe tall people are obvious, but people with back problems aren’t. Are you going to require people to fill out a questionnaire to determine whether their needs are legitimate in your opinion? How do you know which people are deserving of your sympathy?

    You’re being disengenous. You don’t really want anyone to recline because it’s not convenient for you, but you’re trying not to sound like a asshole because you realize that whether you like it or not, people may have good reasons for wanting to recline.

  187. Mike D. says:

    Ann: Two things —

    1. If someone reclines their seat as the plane is still climbing and then proceeds to lean forward for the whole flight, then yes, I *do* know they don’t need to recline. They are reclining because they feel it’s a right and they are taking advantage of it.

    2. We can tell from the admissions on this very thread that these sorts of people exist. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable to be mad at them.

    3. Just because I may not be able to tell which person does and which person doesn’t need to recline, that doesn’t mean I can’t be irked that the second group exists and that they make up a good portion of all recliners. It’s kind of like claiming that you can’t get mad at people who drive SUVs unnecessarily because you can’t tell who they are. In general, yes, you can’t tell. But if I see lowered Escalade with a 16 year old kid behind the wheel, ummmm, yeah, I can tell in that case.

  188. PeterJ says:

    As a businessman I travel extensively and unfortunately due to company policy I have to travel economy! Reclining seats can be a source of immense frustration. I cannot eat easily eat the meal on my tray, cannot angle the TV screen upwards to see it, or focus on it when it becomes less than 12″ from my face. What irritates me more than anything though, is the realization that another human being can be so inconsiderate!
    Despite the situations I see (last flight I had a man with a 5 year old, who reclined not only his seat but that of his child – for what purpose? The child sat upright to play a video game!) I cannot bring myself to make another human being suffer. I do not need to fully recline my seat – it is actually more comfortable to sit semi-reclined for 10 hours. I will move only to the first position, and after informing the person behind me of my intention to recline partially.
    Airline seat designers have a lot to answer for! Another interesting fact is that in the event of a crash landing, assuming you don’t die in the crash iteslef, the seats are designed to actually fracture both femurs – thereby making it impossible to escape! I wonder if the airline industry is aware of this little fact – grounds for a class action lawsuit if ever there was one!

  189. Rachael says:

    I am reading this article in horror, as I always recline my seat. I always feel really bad about reclining but the fact of the matter is – I have to.

    I suffer from extreme air sickness and for some unknown reason I do not vomit if I have my seat right back. The minute I have to sit upright which is when taking off and landing – I vomit, and vomit and vomit. This all stops the minute I can put my seat back.

    I always feel bad for the person behind me – but I am sure that the smell of spew is worse than putting up with the seat back. Oh, and because the seats have to be foward when food is served – I start vomiting as soon as I have to put my seat forward when the person behind me is being served.

    On my next trip I have requested to sit in the last row before the toilets- hopefully I won’t have to put the seat up if there is nobody behind me.

    Anyway just think – the person in front of you might have a valid reason (even if it’s all in their head like mine is). When I hear the person behind me make a nasty comment about the seat, I actually enjoy spewing as their meal is being served.

  190. Ari says:

    This blog is very Larry David. Just tell the person if you don’t want them to recline. What’s this world coming to!?!?

  191. Mark says:


    Obviously, your blog, your opinions and you will forever be right in your blog. However, I’ve been on both sides of the seat recline issue, and I don’t agree with you at all.

    I’m tall. I travel A LOT (two to three weeks a month)- short flights, long flights and painfully long flights. For the most part, my frequent flyer status has allowed me to take advantage of Economy Plus seating, but when flying on other contract carriers, I’m not so lucky.

    First of all, I give the courtesy “Hey back there… I’m getting ready to recline my seat” glance. Some others do as well, and I appreciate that. I also practice what I like to call “seat discipline”- I recline while resting or listening to music (most of the time) or adjust seat full up while reading or working. I also practice light, window shade (on the rare occasions that I sit next to the window) and air vent discipline as well, as those are also areas that can lead to annoying disturbances.

    However, I realize that others don’t. Your rant is that the inconsiderate guy in front of you who reclined his seat back for no obvious reason made it so that you couldn’t use your LAPtop computer on the tray table. I’ve actually found that the tray tables are not very suitable for working on LAPtops in the best of conditions. Unless you’ve got T-rex arms.

    They are called LAPtops for a reason, after all. Put the damn thing on your lap and quit beating up the poor, inconsiderate and totally-in-his-right-to-recline-as-he-wishes-regardless-of-his-reason guy in front of you.

    How about these for REAL issues:

    The person who decides to put THEIR items under THEIR seat to spare THEIR legroom at the expense of yours?

    The person behind you that uses YOUR seatback for a grabhandle to haul themselves out of THEIR seat?

    The person that closes YOUR airvent (when it’s aimed at you) or that opens THEIRS and adjusts it so that it’s aimed at you?

    The person that repeatedly jabs or drums on the back, bottom or legs of YOUR seat? Oh wait a minute- that’s you, isn’t it? I know, I know, you admitted that it was a little childish of you to do that. But you did it anyway, didn’t you? Funny, I don’t remember reading anything in your blog that you actually asked the guy to consider the fact that you were trying to work and would he consider adjusting his seatback.

    If you want more room to put your LAPtop on your tray table, than purchase a seat with more legroom. I’d think that a CEO of a company would be able to handle that.

    If you don’t buy more room, than deal with what you’ve got. You’re not the only one flying.

  192. Tim says:

    Okay, I’m flying back to Kansas from Honolulu. Doing the math, you know it’s an 8 hour flight. Fifteen minutes after takeoff, the little bit@# in front of me starts trying to lean her seat back, crunching my knees. Yeah, I’m 6’4″, so I don’t need to say any more.

    She stands up and looks like she’s going to go one the warpath until she figures out why her chair won’t lean back, and I simply say to her, “your seat won’t recline because those are my knees you are bashing into.

    Instead of appologizing and saying something like, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were so tall”, she replied in a snotty little voice, “does this mean I can’t lean my seat back?”.

    Funny, she kept trying to lean back the entire flight until I went to the restroom, when she got her way. When I returned I had to sit with my knees in the aisle. Little miss “I have to have it my way” got it her way, but someone my gum found its way into her seat behind her head. I can only imagine where it ended up…. oh, and I turned my overhead light on since it was a redeye, and turned my air on full blast. My knees also made it to her back every now and then also. When we landed, she would not look back at me. At all…

  193. James says:

    So much stress being suffered here unnecessarily. If the guy in front of you reclines, then recline yourself, and the person behind you is free to do the same, etc, etc. Then everyone ends up with the same space, and normal blood pressure. Knee pads, drumming on the table and poking knees and such like is immature in the extreme and if you indulge in such rude and selfish activity then you should be ashamed of yourselves: give up the onanism and get out a little more.

  194. Peterj says:

    I appreciate both sides of the reclining seat argument, but the root cuse of the problem is that most airline seats were designed based on a recommended safe spacing. In order to increase capacity, airlines have undercut this distance. Boeing, Airbus et al did not intend to compromise passenger safety – the carriers actively do this by squeezing more seats into their cabins. This not only causes the problems cited here, but in the case of an emergency, evacuation of the aircraft would also be hindered by people trying to extracate themselves from crammed seating. It is not physically possible to adopt the crash position these days because the seat in front is too close! … and as for life jackets in a crash situation – forget it. Why not put gum shields under the seat – this would at least help in dental record comparisons after a crash.

  195. Tim says:

    In order for the airlines to get more people in the plane, they have to completely remodel the cabin, right? They would have to completely remodel the seating because right now each chair gets its own air vent, light, call button,etc. I wonder if there are published seating arrangements for each carrier’s airplane. I mean to say that how many seats does Midwest put in an MD-80 and how many seats does United put in their MD-80s. I would love to know that information. It’s not like they can move seating around on a whim – it would cost them quite a bit of money to swap out the interior….

  196. Thaddeus Buttmunch says:

    some jerk in Brazil put his feet out wouldnt let me recline (admittedly I said I paid for it I want to) azzhoal said to his buddy “I’d do it if he asked nicely!” several times on the flight. Ever happens again I throw coffee at the Bully and maybe a sharp object in his eye. I finally moved to an unoccupied seat. Jerkoff

  197. Francisco Jayo says:


    “James writes:

    So much stress being suffered here unnecessarily. If the guy in front of you reclines, then recline yourself, and the person behind you is free to do the same, etc, etc. Then everyone ends up with the same space, and normal blood pressure….”

    James, your theory is incorrect. This shows that lack of information is the source of lack of consideration.

    If you observe airline seats you will notice that the point of rotation of airline seats can be about six inches below the top of the knees of the passenger in your back. It can be more for taller people close to 2m like me. If the point of rotation was on level with the top of the tallest person’s knees, your point would be correct, but this is not the way you think. When a seat is reclined the space is reduced substantially.

    It all depends on which airline and airplane you fly, seats and airplanes vary substantially. In an AA Boeing 737 space is rather comfortable when compared to one of their Airbus 300’s.

    When I sit in an AA Airbus 300 seat my knees hit the front seat’s backside leaving no space for the person in front to recline. Depending on the space I can gather to slide my legs to a side and bother the person to my side, the only alternative is to have my knees crushed, or keep them in the air for as long the flight lasts.

    Airlines have absolutely no consideration for tall people and they give the seats with more leg space without any consideration to the person’s height. Most people consider tall people are at an advantage and also show no consideration, sometimes for lack of knowledge. This is a real problem, there is a dire need for awareness.

  198. Tim says:

    Today’s (Sunday, Dec 23rd, 2007) “Pearls before Swine” comic strip expresses my feelings about people who lean back into MY space. Yes, that’s MY space. I paid for it, and dammit, I want it.

    Last time someone leaned back, I accidentally sneezed and my Trident gum was projected into that person’s hair. Oops. Accidents happen….

  199. Kirill says:

    Hello,Mike. Im from Ukraine. I have decided to write an essay about the problems connected with seats on airoplane and to find a solution to them. Ukrainian aircompanies,unfortunately, dont think about passangers comfort during the flight.So could you help me a bit and name some problems with the seats and say what would you do with it.
    P.s. sorry for my poor English:)

  200. Joe Vodifay says:

    I fly a lot due to my job with an airline. The flights I take are short hops of anywhere from 25 min in the air to an hour and twenty minutes in the air. I recline my seat no matter the duration because I attempt to take an nap on each flight I am on.

    Why should it matter the duration of the flight or whether or not it is in the afternoon? If I want to take a nap, I will do so.

    Secondly, the seat is my space on the plane. My seat affords me leg room, such as it is, and the ability to recline my seat. To recline my seat is a luxury in the plane that I award myself.

    I am sorry it bothers you. Well, really I am not sorry but my seat reclines and I will recline my seat when I want to.

  201. Mike Fleming says:

    If you recline all the way back in front of me, you get the overhead air conditioning aimed at the top of your head. After about 20 minutes, the “laid back” passenger rubs their head and “de-reclines”.

    Works 90% of the time.

  202. Mike D. says:

    Mike: That is a fantastic idea. Much better than kicking.

  203. Daniel says:

    I personally HATE it when people recline their seat more than a couple inches. I am about 5’11’, so I’m not particularly tall, but I’m not exactly short either. I have a couple things going against reclining, the first of which being that I get rather claustrophobic in the tiny coach seating area and when someone reclines back to the maximum amount (often so much that I can even see the whites of their eyes), it really, really exaggerates the problem.

    The second, and much bigger, issue that I have is that the absolute only position that I can get any rest or be comfortable for any length of time on an airplane is leaned forward with my arms on my knees and my head face down on my arms. Now, if someone reclines their seat, it becomes absolutely impossible for me to sleep and makes the rest of the trip very uncomfortable. (I cannot sleep with the seat reclined and even if I could… it would be pretty hypocritical for me to do so, so I refrain).

    And for the people who have said that we should pay for first class if we need more room…. first class is getting to be really, really expensive and not many people can afford (or want to pay) that much money simply for several hours of extra comfort. Point in case: My mom recently flew on a 4-5 hour flight. The cost for coach was about $500. The cost for first class was over $12,000.

  204. Bluemarlin says:

    I happened across this blog by accident and can’t believe that there are such self involved individuals out there who would resort to kicking the backs of seats,drumming on trays,taking photos of ? and training air vents on the heads of other passengers. My suggestion to Mike and anyone else obsessing about nothing is you should consider cruising from now on where you are assured of having lots of room.

  205. Jim says:

    As this blog demonstrates, nothing short of new airline policy allowing claustrophobic fliers to pay hundreds more for the opportunity to buy a guaranteed bulkhead or exit row seat will solve this problem. Until this happens, I’m going to vote with my feet – we will depart from Vancouver B.C. instead of SeaTac on either Air Canada or Zoom Airlines which allows you to pay extra for advanced seat selection (including exit row and bulkhead seats).
    I won’t get on the airplane without one of these seats ever again.

  206. john says:

    I don’t understand why people recline either, it offers little in the way of additional comfort to the recliner, but it severely affects the comfort of the person behind them.

    I started searching the internet today as soon as I arrived home from a 4 hour flight. It was the third such flight that the person in front of me reclined their seat. It wasn’t a slow recline either, it was so fast they actually bounced.

    The knee defender looks like a great idea, but I think I’ll try the air vent idea first, a subtle hint.

  207. Lyn says:

    On my last flight, the guy in front reclined his seat so his head was just about in my lap!! Talk about invading my space. Yuck!! I am going to try the air blower idea; and maybe the reading light shining down on his nose.

  208. Ned B says:

    When I was young, I used to look forward to flying. Air travel was glamorous. It was the first step on a new and exciting journey. My job in sales took me to a new city every week. Europe, Japan, Australia. I couldn’t wait to leave.

    Sadly, those days are long gone. Now, as I step onboard an antiquated Boeing 747, I expect the worst. Cramped seating. Tasteless, unappetizing food. I breathe in the stale air, laced with exhaust fumes as we sit on the tarmac for the next 45 minutes. The pilot interrupts the symphony of cell phone conversations and crying babies to provide meaningless tidbits about the approaching weather system that threatens to ground all air traffic into and out of Philadelphia on this fine summer evening. My fellow passengers look as miserable as I do. A few minutes ago, we all waited patiently in line for the exquisite privilege of cramming ourselves into this aluminum sardine can, which is heading for Boston in no great hurry. Now, we sit here. All together. Patiently.

    My 6 foot 2 inch frame is wedged tightly into the window seat of the 27th row. The plane is full. As luck would have it, both of the other gentlemen in my row are also my size. Ed, the friendly fellow sitting next to me in the center seat might even be an inch taller. I can’t quite tell while we’re seated. What’s clear is that all of our knees are pinned firmly against the row in front of us. And we can’t all breathe in at the same time without pushing Mike out of his aisle seat and into the aisle. What an odd feeling. We also can’t put our arms down to our sides at the same time, so I take a turn at keeping my arms folded across my chest. After a while, Ed does the same. That gives me a chance to lean on the arm rest for a bit.

    Traveling by air has become an exercise in endurance, frustration, discomfort and humility. But, I couldn’t do my sales job if air travel were not an option. It would take me weeks to cover the same distance by land or sea. So, these days, I try to remind myself that the inconvenience is a minor trade-off in doing a job that earns me a pretty good living (probably more that I deserve). But, I earn that salary because I am willing to endure some of these discomforts while others are not. And I really enjoy my job, so I am quite willing take the good with the bad.

    After reading this blog, I have come to realize that I am a bit different than everyone else who has written in. When I board the plane, I am not looking to change anything about it: not the seatbacks, not the food, not the atmosphere, and certainly not the behavior of the other passengers. There is at least one “Paul” in every row of the aircraft. From your own experience, you know that in any group of ten people, there is at least one that only thinks of himself. You can’t change that. No amount of polite suggesting, cajoling, coaching, or blogging will change these people. Studies have shown that if parents haven’t ingrained some courtesy, compassion, and empathy in their children by age six, it is already too late. And people like “Paul” pay dearly for it as they grow up and try to function normally in our complex world. They learn quickly that the world is unkind to those who are selfish, but this just strengthens their resolve to put themselves ahead of everyone else. And you can’t fix it by lowering yourself to their level. No amount of kicking the back of their seat, drumming on trays, taking photos, pulling their seatbacks, flicking chewing gum, or aiming air conditioning vents at the tops of their heads will change their behavior. And they are probably already paying for their social handicap in other (more important) aspects of their lives. The “Pauls” of the world often have a very difficult time fitting in. They have a tough time holding down a job, marrying, starting a family, and raising their kids. Show some compassion for this poor fellow. You were lucky enough to receive the gift of social awareness from your parents. “Paul” did not. And at times, this can be worse than any physical handicap.

    So what can be done? I’ll share some of the things that I do to make the flight more bearable. Like others, I also visit before I make my flight reservations. Their comparison charts help me to avoid aircraft that have less than 32 inch seating pitch. They also provide lots of other useful information when you are ready to make your seat selection. If airlines insist on cramming seats closer than that, I just choose another airline (whenever possible). That hits them in their wallet, and if everyone did that, it would get their attention much more quickly than any letter to their customer service department. I also try to arrive early to get a seat in the exit row. Even if I don’t get an exit seat (which is only a little less than half of the time) I have still given myself a little extra time to relax. I never buy food onboard the aircraft. Paying $4 for an inedible hockey puck just goes against my grain. Instead, I have a nice sit-down meal in the airport with a cold glass of beer. And when it’s time to board, I’m satisfied and in a good mood.

    After I’ve changed the things I can, I forget about the things I can’t. The reclining seatbacks, the flight attendants, the delays — they are all beyond my control. If one airline is worse than another, I try to avoid it (hoping to do my small part in putting them on a path to either redemption or bankruptcy, whichever comes first). On board the aircraft, I try to give my fellow passengers the benefit of the doubt. I don’t expect them to ask me for permission to recline their seats. In truth, I just try to tune everything out and go with the flow. I would never dream of engaging in seat kicking or any other act aimed at altering someone else’s behavior. If someone does act inconsiderately, I try to cut them a break — for very selfish reasons. Engaging in a conflict only raises my blood pressure and gets me stressed out for the duration of the flight. My objective is to keep an uncomfortable situation from being even worse. And I would much rather see my fellow passengers a little more relaxed and happy, because that goes a lot further toward reducing my stress than an extra two inches of space ever could. But that’s just me.

    I sincerely hope to see all of you at 30,000 feet at some point in the future. From what you have each written, I can tell that there are some very good people out there. The exceptions seem rare.

    Thanks, Mike, for giving us all a place to share our thoughts. I have to say that this has probably been the most interesting blog topic that I have read in a very long time.

  209. Davud says:

    I’m 6’3″. I don’t need “knee defenders” or anything else to prevent the seat in front of me from reclining. I have had people complain to the stewardess about me “blocking” their recline to which I simply point out that it’s not physically possible for me to not block their seat. I *always* volunteer to take a free upgrade to first class if that will resolve the issue.

    Personally, I’d like to see reclining seats outlawed until more space is put between rows. There is not enough space for anyone to put up with a recliner.

  210. John says:

    I would also like to say that it isnt only the laptops workers that get annoyed, my knees take a real thumping on the tin cans they call airplanes. that being said I think it is only right to tell the recliners to please!! have some courtesy and if they dont comply make a sceneof it as the other passengers will chime in(been there done it)

  211. Accipiter says:

    To Davud: Excellent post! You have a very good point – your legs are “Knee Defenders” in themselves! It’s simply not possible for you to allow them to recline. Kudos for volunteering to move to First Class – I hope you’re able to. I’m 5’10” and squishing into those seats is bad enough for me – I couldn’t imagine cramming in at 6’3″!

  212. Mac Pro says:

    Okay, just did a google search to help me through a horrible flight to see if anyone has had similar issues and I found this sight! I fly about once a month, usually first class, unless I’m going overseas, enough to be a skyteam elite memeber–so, I’ve flown quite a lot and have never had a rude encounter on an airplane. Maybe I’m just lucky and tend to run into others like me who would rather not start an altercation at 30 thousand feet. Anyway, I was on a regional flight with a small first class section. I was seated in the second row, and the guy ahead of me had the bulkhead plus about (no joke) 6 feet in front of him. Biggest bulkhead I have ever seen–on any size plane. Maybe it was for handicapped seating? I, too, like the starter of this comment board, was attempting to work on my laptop. Gave up on that. So, I put up the tray table and crossed my leg. BIG mistake. The slight nudge of my knee on his seat back set him into a fit causing the chair to violently be moved forward then quickly reclined smack back down onto my knees. This dude was not sleeping, but reading the newspaper the entire flight, all the while, feet were outstretched at a 90 degree angle against the bulkhead. I usually feel bad when I hit the seat in front of me and I honestly try not to. Later on in the flight, I repositioned myself again, with his seat still touching me, and uncrossed my leg, giving his seat a slight, unintentional nudge. Again, the seat shot right back up, only this time the seat belt flew off and a head popped out over the head rest. The man in front of me asked “Are we finished yet!?” I apologized, said I was just crossing my leg, as I wasn’t used to not having very much room and flying on such small planes. He replied by saying “Well, you’ve hit my seat three times already.” He turned around and the seat flew back down, crashing into me. The seatbelt was furiously buckled back up, the newspaper ripped out of the magazine holder and the feet back in place, in their outstretched position, enjoying the 6 feet of bulkhead in front of him. I was so upset, so infuriated, I just sat there staring for a few minutes, as his set rested fully back, nearly in my lap, giving me a clear view of his hairplugs that I so wanted to rip out. I never said anything, figured it would be better to let it slide.

    This is the same guy who “shooshed” the FA as he refused to hang up the phone so the plane could leave the gate, keeping others on the plane waiting so his majesty could finish his important call. Needless to say, as soon as we landed, like a jack in the box he springs out of the seat, nearly taking out the woman across the aisle as he rips his bags from the overhead and charged to the exit door. That’s another issue I’ve noticed “the cutter.” Cutting is okay with an immediate connecting flight, but really annoys me when I see people do it, then find them after the flight in the crown room sipping scotch and molesting their blackberrys. This guy didn’t have a connecting flight. There weren’t anymore flights that night out of our airport.

    Long story short, don’t recline if you’re not napping. I don’t. If the nice guy behind you nudges your seat a few times, when your seat is fully reclined, he probably can’t help it. Cut him a break. Has anyone been confronted like this for bumping the seat ahead of them one too many times? Or, was this just a chance encounter with whom I call the “entitled first class passengers?” Maybe it’s just me, but unless someone deliberately kicked my seat numerous times, I probably wouldn’t say anything.

    Long story short, don’t recline if you’re not napping. I don’t. If the nice guy behind you nudges your seat a few times, when your seat is fully reclined, he probably can’t help it. Cut him a break.

  213. Mac Pro says:

    (Sorry for the double post, if I could delete it I would.) One more comment: Mike, you can sit in front of me any day–my seat won’t be back for a 2 hour flight. Even if I do feel like it’s my right.

  214. Adrian says:

    To me it’s simple courtesy. You have 20 inches of room and the ‘guy in front’ has 20 inches of room. He decides to recline and give himself another five inches of space, leaving you with 15 inches of room and he now has 25 inches of room. That’s selfish.

    I too suffer with back pain, but I also suffer from claustrophobia, which is much worse. Sitting for two or three hours with someone’s headrest in my face gets me really twitchy.

    What’s up with these people who need to lie down at every opportunity? OK, if it’s a night flight then it’s understandable that people want to lay back and sleep, but in the middle of the day? As for all the petty arguments put forward as excuses, the base line is pure and simple – if you recline you take space from the person behind you to improve your own comfort.

  215. Rob says:

    Airline seats are designed to recline. To me, that means that the space behind a seat which is used by the seat in the reclining position belongs to the passenger in that seat.. If the seat in front of you is not reclined, then you are free to utilize that space, just as you would be free to utilize the space in an empty seat next to you if no one is sitting in it. However, if the passenger in front of you wants to recline his seat, AS IT IS DESIGNED TO DO, then he has every right to do so, regardless of whether you are unable to place your laptop on the tray. The trays are there so people can place their meals on them when they are eating.. That is why the cabin attendants require that EVERYONE place their seat in the upright position before they serve meals… The tray tables are not there for people to place their laptops on, or for people to use as a drumset, and to do that is rude and inconsiderate, and I truly hope that if you continue to do so you will one day sit behind a passenger who punches you in the face.

  216. Mike D. says:

    Rob: Sigh, another “I can so I will” attitude. Get your facts straight at least… nobody is required (or even asked) to put their seatbacks up when meals are served. Been on hundreds of flight and never seen that.

  217. Mysid says:

    Reclining is completely normal. If you weren’t supposed to adjust your seat, the airline wouldn’t have provided that ammenity.

    As for ability to use your laptop for the duration of the flight… space to do that is just something the airline hasn’t provided you.

    Use of the dining tray to put a laptop or work on it, and expect the person in front of you to stay in a physically uncomfortable position throughout the flight just so you can work, now that’s pretty unusual and inconsiderate…

    Just like it’d be inconsiderate for the person in front of you to stay reclined the whole flight (even at meal time).

  218. tim says:

    Wow, I’m amazed at Mysid’s attitude! “space to do that is just something the airline hasn’t provided you”? What a jerk!

    How about reading a book? Someone in front of me leans back THE ENTIRE FLIGHT and I can’t read a book, eat my sandwich, etc. Yeah, real considerate of you. Why don’t you not take a bath for a week just so you can really make my day?

    And now I’m really trying to figure out how “expect the person in front of you to stay in a physically uncomfortable position throughout the flight” by not leaning back is really going to kill them. Gee, did you drive to the airport? If yes, then did you lean your car back for that sixty minute commute so you didn’t have to “suffer”? I don’t think so.

    Let’s face it. You “leaners” are inconsiderate and don’t care about anyone else. I’m 6’4″, and my knees routinely touch the seat in front of me before they lean back. And when they do, it smashes my knees. I would love to put all the leaners in my position and lean back on them for a two hour flight just to see how they complain. In most planes I can’t even stand up without hitting my head in the aisle.

    I remember one gal tried three times to see why her seat wouldn’t go back, so she stood up to see and saw that I was wincing in pain. She got all snotty when I told her she was smashing my knees, and her reply was, “you mean I can’t lean my seat back”? and not “oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were tall, etc”?

    I only wish I could stuff the leaners into the back seat of a Geo Metro and me be in the drivers seat and give them a little “lean back”. Sorry, I guess “space to do that is just something Geo hasn’t provided you”?

    So, to recap… you don’t want to be uncomfortable, so you lean back. But you lean back into my knees, which is not just uncomfortable. It’s painful. But you would rather be comfortable and me be in pain.

    Oh, and from now on, I fold my in-flight magazine in half and drop my tray during take-off and wedge it in there so you can’t lean back. Now it’s on you. You’ll have to ask me if you can lean back. It’s easy for you to say, “just ask us not to lean back”, but now you have to ask permission to lean back. How’s that grab you?

  219. Missy says:

    Whether you’re a recliner or whether you’re not, it is clearly inconsiderate for any adult to assume because and airline seat has a certain feature, that the feature should be taken advantage of without regards to the comfort of those in the immediate vicinity. Come on guys, we’re all adults. Admit it. Regardless of what the airline gives, it wouldn’t take much to compromise. I sure don’t have a problem with people reclining. However, it would help if they give a warning before doing so as I could be in the middle of something where the unannounced recline may damage or hamper what I’m doing. Bottom line is … be respectful adults. My issue on American Airlines was with this dude who was seriously blasting his music, bobbing his head and humming to whatever he was listening to on the in-flight radio feature. I know the airline gave him the privilege to enjoy his music; however, he needs to be respectful of others in his immediate vicinity. I mentioned it to him and he was very understanding while I was awake, but as soon as he saw me sleeping he went back to his usual tone. I believe this was the case because when I woke up the music was blasting in his ear again. Lucky for me, the flight had already landed.

  220. Missy says:

    Mysid – “Reclining is completely normal. If you weren’t supposed to adjust your seat, the airline wouldn’t have provided that ammenity.”

    Mysid you make absolutely no sense with that statement. The goal of the thread is to gain feedback based on people reclining without considering other people’s feelings.

    Here’s an example. I drive a racecar. The manufacturer provided me with tons of horsepower. Does that mean I can go 150 mph on a regular day? Wouldn’t I be inconsiderate to all the other individuals on the road?

    Also, what if I was traveling with an infant, and I was just about to prepare a bottle for my child. Let’s say I place the bottle on the tray table for split second while I adjust the baby bag. If some inconsiderate person reclines unannounced very hard, wouldn’t that pose a problem? After all, I paid for a seat that has a seat back tray infront of it and the airline added that amenity.

    Bottom line is to be considerate. Adults need to stop feeling so freaking entitled. Grow some manners. Turn around and inform the person of your intensions.

  221. Dan B. says:

    When flying these days in coach class, one has to have the mindset that all passengers have the right to recline their seats if they chose to do so. Plain and simple!

    It may not be nice, but nonetheless, it’s their prerogative. The seat reclining area is not really your “personal space.” That space is reserved for travel-path of the backrest, in-front of you, to recline. If they should decide not to recline, you get that space; however, should they choose to recline–too bad–your loss of space.

    This is simply a function of the airlines cramming more people on planes to increase profits and keeping planes full. Think of it as a reality show where passengers (in coach class)are placed in substandard conditions and now have to fight it out against each other. Sad, but that’s the reality.

    Most of us want to fly on the cheap, this is what we got. If you want more comfort, pay extra and upgrade!

    When the passenger in front of me reclines, I do so in turn to maintain my personal space. It’s up to the next person behind me to exercise their right to recline.

  222. Tim says:

    I would love to place all the “leaners” (and you know what I mean… all the rude ones who don’t look behind them before leaning back) in the seats that don’t lean back. The seats in front of bulkheads and in front of the exit rows don’t lean back, so I would love to put them all in those seats and then have everyone that can’t stand the “leaners” to sit in front of them and recline as far back as they can. Then see how they like it.

    I’m 6’4″ and every time someone leans back, it crushes into my knees. It’s really comfortable. My comment to the person who states, “why is your work more important than my sleep”, well, why is your sleep more important than my comfort? Let’s put you in the back of a Honda Accord and let me move my seat back all the way and see how you feel. Bet you don’t like it.

    Why can’t everyone just be considerate? Simply look back and see if anyone is sitting there. If not, then lean back. If so, politely ask. Reality is you really don’t care about the person behind you because you think you’ll never see them again. And you think there’s a possibility of them saying “no”.

    You know that’s why you don’t ask…

  223. Dan B. says:

    Missy, your race car logic really doesn’t support your argument. Going 150 mph on a public road, except maybe on Germany’s Autobahn, is illegal, and has nothing to do with consideration! Reclining airline seats is completely legal and provided as an option to each paying passenger. The truth is that we are entitled to recline our seats until the airlines takeaway that option–read above post.

  224. Tim says:

    I agree with you, Missy.

    They don’t want to turn around and risk the rejection from the person behind them. That’s why they’re so against asking.

    I would love to put this guy in front of a bulkhead so he can’t lean back and then lean back on him the entire flight – to Hong Kong. Yeah, ever try to stand up and get out of a window seat when the leaners have leaned all the way back and are blocking your way? I make no attempt at their comfort when trying to stand up. One time my gum even fell out of my mouth and down behind one of the “leaners”….

  225. Mike D. says:

    Dan B.: Once again, you’re proving my “entitled” argument. Many people (particularly Americans, it seems) feel “entitled” to do a lot of things for the benefit of themselves and without considering others. Yes, you’re entitled, and yes, you’re inconsiderate. You have the right to be both… and we have the right to think you’re kind of a jerk for it.

  226. Tim says:

    Well, I screw with the leaners every chance I get. Knees in your back… Oh, and if you think you’re going to doze off, it ain’t happenin’, brother. Not on my flight. One of my favorites to annoy them is to stand up and make my way to the bathroom and disrupt them on purpose. I’m 6’4″, so there’s no way I’m getting out of my seat without bending over knocking the leaners around a bit. My knees constantly bump your seat. I also try and move their handrests if I can. And I turn on the reading light and my air, and turn it so it blows on the guy when he leans back.

    After all, the airlines put that air there for me as an amenity, and I don’t like it blowing on my face, so I aim it right at their head. Ever try to sleep when someone’s kicking the back seat, has a light on, and has air hissing in your face.

    Two can play at this game.

  227. Jonny says:

    Well at 5″5 even I find a long haul uncomfortable – but think of this…at around 60KG (yep I’m a guy) is it ‘fair’ for someone with my dimensions to pay the same as a semi pro line backer (front row rugby player?) – perhaps not. Tall people have numerous advantages over short people (prove to be more successful in work, life and relationships) a small cramped airplane is not their best domain – finally a shortie has 12 hours of super smugness and tall people suffer! Planes are cramped – FACT. As for the whole debate well I agree consideration is the key – as for children on long haul – its pretty cruel to subject them to non essential air travel (visiting relatives- OK, long haul holiday for u10’s NOT OK)…I don’t sleep on flight and tend to get up and drink (soft drinks) chat, read and eat and use the TV/Radio system. I’ve nearly always managed to get a good seat and the one time I didn’t I said ‘I tend to get up a lot and walk around and stretch if you might be disturbed by this perhaps we can swap seats?’ (when I’ve been in a window seat and the other person ahs had the aisle) they looked at me like I was crazy and grunted. I just went ahead and disturbed them at least every 2 hours (11 hour flight) as that is what I do on long haul – not maliciously…they had absolutely no defence despite their tut-tutting…if I was seated next to a ‘large’ person and it was very uncomfortable I’d try to find another seat ort ask politely to be seated in business class if that was possible. Overall people do need to be reasonable but long haul makes demons of the best of us, and ultimately seats are made to recline – equally people need to exercise self control and yes it is frustrating when a 4”7” Japanese girl insists on whamming her chair into my albeit small frame, if the person in front was a tall guy then I’d be more understanding!

  228. pony says:

    Tim- my man!

    On today’s 2 hour flight some smoke drenched dweeb jammed her chair back into my knees the minute we left the runway.

    So she got two hours of knees, cold air, and every time I had to go to the bathroom or get my carryon, she must have thought she was Jagr getting hit by Ovechkin.

    It’s a lack of courtesy. Leaning your seat back makes the person behind you uncomfortable.

  229. Kris says:

    My husband and I differ on this topic. He is of the opinion that one should just deal with being made even more uncomfortable by an inconsiderate person in front of you putting his seat back as far as it will go. He thinks we should just endure the ride with our legs down, making a real effort to not jab the seats in front of us or otherwise inconvenience that flyer. Perhaps that is the more mature route to take in some ways, but I don’t mind letting that person know he is leaving me no leg room. I do this by simply not minding when my knees poke into his seat or move his seat some when I move. If he cannot be considerate of my legs, then my legs cannot be considerate of him. I think that’s a fair approach.

    I’m probably a little too passive on this subject. Recently, on an evening flight from Oahu to CA (about six hours), the person in front of me reclined his seat as far back as it would go for the duration of the flight. I dealt with it in the way I have described. As I tried to sleep during the flight with my seat fully inclined, my head lolled forward every few minutes, waking me up. Finally I decided to recline my seat SOME–not all the way–to the complete dismay of the woman seated behind me, who immediately hissed “Jesus Christ!” I inclined my seat again and dealt with no sleep for the rest of the flight.

    I also have to disagree with Mike’s numbers. Of the last 15 flights I have taken, I endured 7 of them with the seat in front of me fully reclined. I think as airlines have lessened the space allotted to each passenger, many passengers have become more aggressive about claiming space. Soon we’ll have “air rage” to go along with “road rage.”

    I’m an infrequent flyer, so I don’t rack up miles. I’m not rich, so I can’t afford to fly anything other than coach. But I don’t think consideration from other economy flyers is too much to ask. Go ahead and recline your seat–SOME. You don’t HAVE to recline it ALL THE WAY. IMO, this is a good compromise for everyone.

  230. Mike D. says:

    Kris: A six hour flight from Hawaii sounds like a much more reasonable length during which to recline one’s seat, though. Remember, my original complaint here was about someone who reclined on a sub two-hour flight and didn’t even lean back into his seat most of the time. Again, my complaint isn’t about legitimate reclining. It’s about reclining “just because you can”.

  231. Kris says:

    Yes. My complaint is a little different from yours.

  232. Dave says:

    I am struggling to understand why the ‘recliners’ don’t appreciate that their additonal comfort must come at the expense of the person behind them. There is extremely limited room on the aircraft, therefore if one takes more there is less for the other guy, simple as. It’s not dificult to work out, or perhaps the ‘recliners’ like to pretend they hadn’t thought of that one. There is no ‘right to sleep’ and there is no ‘right to work’ on aircraft. However, I do belive there is the right to treat others as you would wish to be treated, i.e. with respect and consideration. Reclining in such a limted space seems to me like the morals of ‘grab what you can before the other guy gets it’ or the those with the biggest snout get the biggest helping. Do we really want to live in a society like that? I don’t. By the way, I’m in the UK and ignorant, selfish, grabbing b******s fly from here too.

  233. chizen says:

    I paid for a reclining seat, but you didn’t pay for extra legroom. You lose, end of story.

    Additionally, since when did an airplane become an office? Sounds like you need a private jet. Absent that you may want to shell out some cash for the extra legroom (a la United), pay for an exit row seat, or get an upgrade to first/business class. If you can not afford to pay for the comfort you seek, how is that my problem? As with anything, you get what you pay for.

    If it ever costs $ to recline my seat, I will pay for it, but what I won’t do is try to make it someone else’s problem if I can’t afford to pay for what makes ME comfortable.

  234. chizen says:

    Forgot to say, who gives you the right to place a value judgment call on my right to recline (a right that I have paid for, when you did not pay for extra legroom)?

    I’ll recline on a 45 minute plane ride in the middle of the day if feel like it. You don’t know if I was up all night working a double shift at a hospital saving widows and orphans. Seriously, dude you and all of your followers really need to get over yourselves. People don’t purposely recline their seats a measely 3 degrees to upset your world. As I’ve stated numerous times before, pay for the legroom you seek, don’t take it out on the tired guy in front of you that has paid for his ‘recliner.’

  235. Mike D. says:


    What gives me the right is spelled out very precisely in your comments: you don’t care about other people. You care about your “rights” and anyone who gets in your way can go to hell. Again, this is why people drive Hummers. Exact same mentality. So go ahead and continue caring only about yourself. One day it will all come right back at you… if it hasn’t already.

  236. Tim says:

    Hey, I was given the amenity of a magazine, and I ALWAYS fold it up and lower my tray table and stuff it in the crack between the chair and the table arm, preventing people from leaning back.

    Why? Because they gave me the magazine, and I feel I can do anything with it because they gave it to me. If you want to lean back, why don’t you get all up in the first class section and lean your chair all the way into a bed and be done with it?

    Yep, that magazine is for me, and I put it wherever I want. Keeps jerks like you from leaning on me. But one time I was caught off guard, and I had a hard time standing up to get out of my chair. Had my soda can in my hand that accidentally spilled down your back. Sorry.

    And there was the time I used my knees to smack you around so you wouldn’t get any sleep. And the time I turned my vent on your head to blow your hair around. And of course if it is night, I turn my light on.

    Why? Because they made your chair with a button to press to lean back. But they also gave me a soda, a light, an air vent and a magazine.

    I hope we meet again….

  237. Mike D. says:

    Tim: Nice trick with the magazine. Next time I’m on a plane, I’m going to whisper “chizen” really quick and if the guy in front of me turns around, I’m pulling out the mag.

  238. Siri says:

    The simple solution for the seat reclining issue is for the airlines to have only certain seats that recline and charge a premium of an extra $50 to people that need to be in those seats. They seem to charge for everything else why not reclining seats? I bet they would have fewer problems if they limited the number of seats that recline and make people pay for the luxury.

  239. JStarnes says:

    Thank you!!! I actually was surfing the net and ran across this post I could not agree more.
    I flew back from Frankfurt to Atlanta and the jerk
    in front of me had his damn seat back the entire time.
    Im 5’10 it was a Luthansa flight and I had NO leg room to begin with mix in some common courtesy.

    Oh and Chizen how bout common courtesy. I could
    be a condescending jerk and be inconsiderate but I reason the guy behind me is miserable so why make his life more miserable.

    Not to go goody two shoes but the Golden Rule applies
    to this situation.

  240. Mike says:

    I can’t believe this is even a topic of discussion. On a flight last year, some fat moron shoved my seat forward after I reclined and when I turned around and looked at him he said “there’s no room for you to recline your seat!” I proceeded to stand up and politely inform him that he had the same amount of room as everyone else on the airplane, that I wasn’t his mom and didn’t care if he didn’t have enough room, and that I would break his laptop over his head if he shoved my seat forward again.(I’ve calmed down a bit as I’ve gotten older, but if I were 17 I would have probably broken his jaw right then and there.) A nearby flight attendant told me to sit down and told the moron behind me if he shoved my seat forward again he would be arrested when we landed. When he protested she interrupted him and informed him that if he didn’t have enough room he should buy a first class ticket next time or drive himself from Chicago to LA. and that he needed to grow up. As soon as she said that everyone within earshot started laughing at this guy who was making a fool of himself. Moral of the story: The world doesn’t care about you…the world’s not your mom! Unbelievable!!!

  241. Dave says:

    I do hope you live in the States. I’d hate to think I share the same land mass as someone quite so ignorant and selfish. And are you sure it was the guy behind you they were laughing at?

  242. Mike D. says:

    Yeah, somehow I doubt Mike’s story (not me Mike… the Mike two comments above. It reeks of fabrication or at the very least substantial embellishment. Flight attendants don’t generally threaten to arrest anyone unless there is violence or safety involved.

  243. richy says:

    Blimey that’s a lot of reading about putting a seat back! Unfortunately we live in a world where illness and deformity is common place! I could ask to shake your hand!! But i fear it may drop off!!!…. Let’s face it everybody is different, If you put a button in the toilet and it said “PRESS THIS BUTTON AND YOU WILL DIE” some tit will press it!!!!!!!!!
    Inconsiderate seat reclining, knees in the back, laptop typing,some dick who uses your headrest to pull him or herself up! It ain’t gonna go away, i like to recline my seat a bit but always check behind!! That’s me!!! Some people just don’t think!!!
    Easy! Make them think! One of you lot could make some money,…Velcro Sign back of each seat “PLEASE BE CONSIDERATE TO THE PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU, AND THE PERSON BEHIND YOU. If they pull a fast one then politely point it out. If they still don’t get it!!! Wait till their asleep and add some of your personal liquid to their tasty beverage!!!
    You ain’t gonna Stop the World!!! Just get in Sync. xx

  244. Campbell says:

    I’m all in favor of the seats NOT reclining. If you want to stretch out, slouch and slide your feet forward. 99% of the time when I get on an airplane the first thing I do is to cross-my legs and brace myself against the seat in front of me to protect my space. Seats may theoretically recline, but not at the expense of others behind you.

  245. Ben says:

    I travel several times a year from Boston, USA to Sydney, Australia. It takes about 23 hours from when I leave home to when I arrive at the hotel. I am 6’2″ tall and I don’t ever find it necessary to recline my seat any more than half way, and I always look back first to give the passenger behind me a polite nod before gently reclining part way. On most shorter flights, I never recline at all. Even when someone in front of me reclines all the way, I still won’t do it to “re-claim” my space. And I would never harass others who do. Isn’t it time we all behave like neighbors and good ambassadors from each of our respective countries? We have the opportunity to set an example and then look for the best in others. It all starts with one person —and that person is you.

  246. Herbert Fellows says:

    I am in this very situation as we speak. The person in front of me has just reclined his seat on a really tight seated flight.
    I asked him if he would please move his seat up because it was just too tight.
    He said ‘the person in front of me is doing it also, recline your own seat.’ He then immediately put his headphones on as if to dismiss me.
    In fact, the person in front of him had not reclined their seat. So much for being polite.
    I plan to bitch slap him when we get out of the airport.

  247. A. S. Hole says:

    Screw you all. The seats are made to be reclined, so reclined they shall be. It isn’t about sleeping or space, just simple personal comfort. Car seats are set up the same way, every time I get in the drivers seat after my wife I recline the seat a few clicks from her settings. So, really reclining is solely about personal comfort. Essentially all of you who insist that the person in front of you should sit upright to aid your comfort are infringing on their right to be comfortable. Surely an unsatisfactory solution for many of you, but there is an old saying: grin and bear it.

    Certainly I know I’m looking forward to reclining into your knees on my next flight, which happen to be numerous.

  248. Mike D. says:

    There’s also another saying: Don’t be an A. S. Hole.

    Also, whenever I get into the front seat of a car and there is someone behind me, I specifically move the seat *forward*, even if it makes me a bit uncomfortable. Pretty much the opposite of your policy.

  249. Dave says:

    I think a basic rule to live by in a civilized world is to ask the question: ‘If everyone behaved just like me what would the world be like?’

    And if the answer is ‘not very nice’, then I guess you know what you should do.

    A.S. Hole’s world sounds like a bit of toilet to me and he seems well suited to living there. What a nasty little place it must be.

  250. Pete75 says:

    Here’s the thing – the seat reclines to a level deemed acceptable by the designers and operators of the aircraft. If you don’t like it, don’t travel on a flight with “reclining characteristics” that you don’t like.

    The point has already been made – why does your “right” to work on your laptop supercede the right of the person in front of you to be comfortable? If you need room to work, pay for the room and buy tickets in Business or First. If your airline doesn’t have business, use an airline that does.

    As a taller guy I always recline the seat as it is far more comfortable for me. Furthermore, I suffer minor back discomfort if I sit in the non-reclined position for more than about 40 minutes. I don’t get upset when the person in front of me reclines their seat. Indeed I don’t get upset when someone taps away on their computer all night on a long haul flight over the Pacific – something I consider far more inconsiderate than reclining the seat as intended in the design. My view on it is that I’ve paid for a cheap seat, I’ll have to put up with some of that stuff.

    Blowing the air conditioner on someone’s head it flat out unacceptable. It isn’t passive aggressive, it’s just aggressive. Not to mention intensely childish. As is constant kicking of the seat in front – you want more leg room, buy a seat in First Class. It’s the nature of the Economy Class beast.

    Having said all of that I do believe that there are some basic courtesies that one should stick to when reclining. Firstly, try to recline in a steady and slow way. If the seat falls back quicker than anticipated, apologise. Secondly, always return your seat to the upright position when meals are served, and leave it there until the attendants have collected the passenger behind’s plates and rubbish. Also be mindful that, after a meal, they may have a drink on the tray and probably don’t want to wear it in their lap. Finally, if you are going to be sitting forward (as pictured above), then yeah, return your seat to the upright position.

    People who employ various methods to actively stop the seat from reclining want to have a very good, long, hard look at themselves. Again, why is your comfort more important than the person in front of you? You don’t know what their reason for putting the seat back is, they might be chronic pain sufferers for all you know. I have been asked to move the seat forward and I have declined on more than one occasion.

    There are some simple courtesies that one should emply when reclining, but beyond those, feel free to recline, while observing some simple courtesies.

  251. Tim says:

    Well, I’m a taller guy. Six foot four to be exact. I hate it when someone reclines, as it smashes into my knees and causes me discomfort. Why does your comfort superscede mine?

    And the designers made the air vents so I can direct them any direction I want to. So if the designers made the seats recline and you take that stance, I can say the designers also put lights up there and vents I can aim any direction I want. So, I do. I aim them right on your head, I turn on my light since I am so uncomfortable I cannot sleep… so I’m going to make sure you can’t sleep.

    And if you can’s sit in one place for 40 minutes, then take a boat across the pond.

  252. Pete75 says:

    PS – I don’t mean to be rude but your poll really isn’t worth much as an idicator to the way that the average person feels about the subject. I’d imagine that there is a fair portion of people who come into this discussion via a Google search on “reclining etiquette” or something similar. I’d further imagine that people who are moved to make such a search do so on the back of being annoyed with someone reclining their seat. So it shouold come as no surprise that a majority of people who are participating in this discussion are doing so to vent their frustration.

    The rest of us just recline and relax!

  253. Pete75 says:


    I’m pretty sure that the air vent is designed to point at yourself in a manner that you find comfortable. I’m further quite sure that it WASN’T designed to be pointed at other people by ignorants. But I don’t know that for 100%…. On the other hand I am 100% sure that the “reclining seat” was made to be…. reclined.

    As I said, common courtesy states that you recline the seat slowly so as NOT to bruise other’s knees. I further pointed out that if the seat reclines faster than anticipated, that you should apologise. Again, as I said, if you want to leave your light on all night, tap your computer all night, go at it. I won’t complain.

    What exactly was your point?

  254. Tim says:

    My point is that it crushes my knees. I’m glad the leaners don’t care that my entire flight is now hell because they want to sleep and I am sitting there in pain and popping Ibuprofins.

    The seats were designed to lean back because when these vessels were designed, planes were rarely full and it was okay to lean back if nobody was behind you. But now the planes are always packed and there is nowhere for me to move to when the leaner strikes.

    Matter of fact, I had one gal get up out of her chair when she was leaning on me and ask me why my knees were in her back making her uncomfortable. “Lady, I’m was a basketball player for four years – I am not jabbing my knees into your seat, you are leaning into them”. She huffed and moaned and complained that she wasn’t going to get a good nap on the flight. Waaahhh. You are 5 feet 5 inches tall and have 8 inches between your knees and the seat in front of you, and I have about an inch before you lean back.

    It’s called R E S P E C T. I’m not overweight. It’s not my fault I’m 76 inches tall… but the least you can do is not lean back and smash me into my seat so you can take your selfish little nap…

    And for the record, I don’t like air blowing on me. I’ll aim it at your head so I get some air. After all, the designer wanted it that way, right?

    Just remember, the next time you try to lean back and can’t, it’s because someone like me put his magazine in the seat so it prevents you from causing me discomfort. After all, the airline gave me a magazine to do whatever I want with, right? In fact, they tell me I can take it home. So it is my property and I can do anything I want with it.

    And for the record, I do lean back. But only when nobody is behind me. And I always look first. I would NEVER think of leaning back if someone is behind me… it’s called courtesy.

  255. Shortie says:

    To James and others:
    I am short and it is painful to recline – it causes my feet not to touch the floor and become numb. SO when you recline fully – it only cuts my space. I can be recapture it by reclining.

    There is a lot of talk about the seats being designed to recline. Do you really believe that the engineers intended for it to be impossible to exit your row when everyone is fully reclined? I have to believe that the reclining feature was designed with more space between seats in mind!

  256. Lynn says:

    God bless all you fellas who are six feet, plus. I don’t know how you do it. On a recent trans-Atlantic day flight I noticed that my travel-mate’s lap tray was about one-quarter to one-half inch above his thighs. The people in front of him were two young women, who were speaking with a great deal of animation, would knock the seat backward even further. The lap tray almost got his good parts!

    I had a different problem with the reclined seats. I’m only 5’6″, but I found it very, very difficult to get up to use the restroom… and then to sit down, I had to drop my fanny into the seat and glide my legs across the arm rest.

    In response to Tim, who said that a 5’5″ female who annoyed him had 8 inches of space between her knees and the back of the seat in front of her…I’d like to know what airline that was. On the Lufthansas flight I had yesterday, the space I had was two inches max.

  257. Linda says:

    The sad fact is that economy class is not designed for people over 5’10”.
    Folks over this height are uncomfortable before any reclining takes place – reclining just makes it impossible.
    The only real solution is for airlines to ban folks over 5’10” from flying in economy BUT giving them a seat in economy plus, or business at a small additional charge due to height rules.
    Business class is often more than 3 times the cost of economy – sometimes a LOT more.
    It’s just real cruelty to expect a plus 6 footer to squeeze into coach and then have a recliner in front of them.
    It’s the airlines fault – not the guy who wants to sleep or the guy who wants to look at his laptop, or who through no fault of his own is born tall.
    As a 6′ 2″ woman I’d happily pay for the seat in front as long as you remove it before we fly, but to pay US$8000 for a seat in business class as opposed to US$2000 for a seat in economy is not within my personal budget.

  258. Doug (Vogel) says:

    First, it is not the other passenger’s fault that his chair is so close to yours. That is a decision made by the airline to maximize seating density, and therefore, revenue. Second, it seems to me that when each person purchases one ticket, they should have the right to determine the position of one seat back. If you get to decide the position of both my seat back and your own seat back because you find it more comfortable if I sit bolt upright, perhaps you should also ask me to turn off my fan because you don’t like the draft, or turn off my light so you can get some sleep? Maybe you should also ask for my meal when you find that you are still hungry after finishing yours? On an airliner these days, space is precious, and control is at a bare minimum for everyone. Asking a complete stranger to give up some portion of their precious control, that they paid for, in order to improve your own comfort at their expense is in my opinion, rude, intrusive, and selfish.

  259. Mike D. says:

    It continues to amaze me that people use “rights” as their reason for doing anything on a plane. This is not about rights.

    Repeat after me.

    This. Is. Not. About. Rights.

    You have the right to recline your airplane seat. No one is disputing that. All people are asking is that before you recline your seat, you take these simple steps:

    1. Realize that when you recline, you are making the person behind you either slightly less comfortable or massively less comfortable. You may decide this is fine. Just be conscious of it.

    2. Ask yourself if you are are really making yourself more comfortable by reclining, or if you are doing it “just because you can”.

    3. Look behind you quickly before you recline and size up who is sitting behind you. Is it a small person? Is it a 6 foot 7 person? Adjust your plan accordingly.

    4. Optional: Ask the person if they mind if you recline. You don’t need to do this, but it’s a great (and disarming) show of courtesy.

    5. Either recline your seat slowly, or decide you don’t need to.

    That’s it.

  260. Doug says:

    Mike, when you say it is not about rights, it seems to me that this is mere semantics, and a distinction without a difference. All you are really saying is that it is not about rights FOR YOU. Of course, as with any opinion, someone else may operate from a different perspective. In the end, whether you want to say that it is about rights, or control, or personal space, or common courtesy, or the golden rule, in my opinion it is rude to ask a complete stranger not to recline their seat. If you want more space on an aircraft, there are plenty of ways to accomplish that end (sleeper, club seating, first class, business class, rear facing seat, bulkhead seat, emergency exit rows, etc.) before you attempt to impose your will, your needs, and your preferences on a complete stranger. Bulkhead seats and emergency rows can usually be had for as little as $20 per flight segment, so if knee room or claustrophobia happens to be a critical issue for you, just a little planning ahead eliminates the entire problem. If someone would rather ask a complete stranger to sit bolt upright than to spend five minutes to review a seating plan and make the appropriate arrangements, then I have to say that I find that terribly discouraging.

  261. Tim says:

    Well, I flew today. I knew there was a leaner in front of me, so as soon as we went wheels up, I lowered my tray table and folded my magazine and stuffed it in the crevice which prevents the leaner from crunching my knees.

    I’m glad the airline gives me those magazines to prevent my knees from being crushed. All the airlines need to do is redesign the seats with a button so the person behind can push it and lock the seat in front of you, preventing it from leaning. That would be fair. If you don’t mind leaning and are in front of someone that doesn’t mind being leaned upon, then the person doesn’t push the button and all is well. But if the person doesn’t want to be encroached upon, since they paid for that space, then they can push a button and keep the person in front of them upright…

    But the Delta magazine did the same thing…

  262. Mike D. says:

    Doug: The fact that you see “rights” and “courtesy” as a distinction without a difference is my point exactly. That is precisely the problem.

    Also, rear facing seats? “Club” seating? I’ve been flying for 35 years now and I’ve never seen either of those. You must either be from a different country or fly some pretty special airlines.

  263. Doug says:

    “Doug: The fact that you see “rights” and “courtesy” as a distinction without a difference is my point exactly. That is precisely the problem.”

    Hi Mike,
    Here’s the thing: I fully understand and appreciate the difference between rights and courtesy. In this case, for me, they are flip sides of the same coin. My point here is that the terms one would select in order to frame the debate say less about the subject itself and more about the writer/speaker’s attitude in the debate. So where you might say this is a discussion about “common courtesy”, perhaps another fellow might say this is about “rights”. In fact, the word choice seems to me to say less about the seat position in aircraft and more the writer’s position in the debate/discussion. If I made my point too casually, I apologise for my lack of clarity, but I assure you that I recognise, understand, and appreciate courtesy. Probably much like you, I think that courtesy is far too rare in our world today. In the end, while you and I probably both lamment its absense, and we may both long for more genteel times, we also may have a slightly different view of what courtesy might look like when expressed in an aircraft cabin. Anyway, I’ve truly enjoyed reading your blog on airline seatback position, and thank you for responding to my post. I have sincerely enjoyed the back and forth. -Doug

  264. Doug says:

    Hi Mike,
    You mentioned that no one is disputing anyone’s right to recline. Check out Tim’s post above. Tim appears to be using a Delta Sky Magazine (a terrible and noxious rag) to prevent the person in front of him from reclining. I’d say Tim is not only disputing someone else’s right to recline, he is actively exercising his ability to insist that a total stranger remain bolt upright. So Mike, perhaps now we can all agree that this debate is about both rights and courtesy? -Doug

  265. Doug (Vogel) says:

    Hi Mike,

    Just reading back and noticed I forgot to answer your question about rear facing seats. United International Business Class offers rear facing seats on selected Boeing 767s and 777s. Some people have complained that they can provoke airsickness, but I have not found that to be the case personally. I’ve also flown in rear facing seats on other airlines, but can’t remember which carriers off hand. A hazard of aging I guess.-Doug

  266. Don says:

    I love it when people scream courtesy only when it serves them.

    Let me start the rant.. Yes, I am entitled to recline my seat as far back as it will go.
    I am using it as designed and in the manner the airline has intended.

    There is no rudeness in using an object for its intended purpose.
    Airplanes are for travel, they are not mobile workstations, beds or restaurants.

    All the above can be done in a plane, but none are easy.

    If my reclining will cause another great distress I will modify my behavior.

    But I am doing you a kindness, as I am changing my legal and proper behavior to help you have a more enjoyable flight. You do not get to irritate me in any manner that a steward or stewardess will not allow. If you are a jerk or disruptive, I hope they restrain you from attacking my seat or causing a scene.

    I have no automatic sympathy for tall or overweight or even normal people that have different flight experiences. It is just life, some things are easy some are hard.

    People need to understand that life is not fair. That tall or obese people have a harder time flying. This goes alone with the agoraphobic and small children.

    A plane is not an easy place for any of these people. If it is a huge problem find another way to get there,

    But the fact that a short person has an advantage in comfort in this one area of life and you begrudge it to us is funny to me.

    Come on

    I tell you what, all you poor tall people out there. How about you give me the extra money studies show you make for just being tall … I will trade you that for you’re the seat recline.

    Anyone here want to trade height? I am 5’7 and would like to be 5’10 but all you six footers who have so many built in advantages just suck it up and deal with the one disadvantage.

    Poor baby.

    Find a mode of transport that will be conducive to working if it is that important to you. Otherwise just recline your seat back the same as me and we all have exactly the same amount of space we started with.

  267. Lauren says:

    Well I regularly take trips to and from England (family there). I went back for a week with my family for my grandmothers funeral, fell ill about 3 days in and didn’t fully recover for the flight home, then was due at school the next day. So yes to be fair, I used the reclining seat. I was sick, depressed, and absolutely exhausted.
    Otherwise I will use it if I plan to sleep which might be for 2 hours of an 8 hour trip…I don’t really think that’s too much.

  268. John says:

    2 trains of thought here — who “owns” the space the seat reclines into. My opinion is that the person in the seat has the right to recline and “owns” that space as the seat is sold that way. If I have my laptop and the person in front of me reclines, I have no say. The airline didn’t sell me space to use a laptop, but it did sell me a seat with a recline button. I do sleep on most flights, I also watch movies on my laptop sometimes. If the person in front of me reclines (they usually do), I reposition the computer. I do carry a smaller, more “recline friendly” laptop. I have no right to tell the person he can’t recline. He bought a seat that reclines. I do take issue, however, with seats packed so tightly together that a reclined seat crunches into my knees. That’s the airlines’ fault if it’s that bad. Also was on an Air France flight that made it impossible to watch the seatback TV with that seat reclined. That’s not right, as my seat was sold with the promise of AVOD in the seat. Once again, airline’s fault.

  269. Sam says:

    This is not about working. It’s about one person getting in another person’s space inconsiderately. I rarely recline and never without checking on the person behind me – even if I plan to sleep. And yes it is difficult sleeping upright but I bear that burden so as not to impact the person behind me. I imagine many don’t realize the effect on the one behind them. But others just don’t care. Lot’s of folks are simply inconsiderate. Or at least not considerate of others.

  270. Jean says:

    So just for the sake of clarification, some people are so polite, sensitive, and considerate to the needs of others that they find it rude when any airline passenger reclines a seat that was designed to recline. These same very considerate people then ask someone they have never met to sit upright and awake for seven hours on an overnight flight because they want or need the extra space behind the other passenger’s seat? The complete and utter hypocrisy of people never ceases to amaze me.

  271. Mike D. says:

    Jean: No, usually the people you are talking about don’t say anything to the person in front of them. They just suck it up. Also, most people recognize that it’s ok to recline your seat on a 7-hour overnight flight. Nobody is disputing that. What has been requested is:

    1. Think to yourself if it will really make you that much more comfortable reclining your seat.

    2. If the answer is yes, look behind you as a courtesy to make sure the person isn’t unusually tall, and optionally ask to recline the seat. If you don’t ask, just do it slowly to minimize collision risk.

    3. If the answer is no, simply don’t recline your seat.

    The complaint here is that many people don’t even think about it. Plane up = seat back. No thought whatsoever about the person behind you.

  272. Jean says:

    It seems to me Michael that you are not reading the posts from your own site. If you are concerned about thoughtfulness and consideration then a simple scan of the conduct described in the posts above will confirm to you that the behavior of those who oppose reclining has often degenerated to a shocking and inexcusable level of vindictive childishness, all apparently in punishment for the crime of reclining a seat that the airline designed to recline. It is amusing to me that someone who has admitted to deliberately and repeatedly kicking a strangers reclined seatback in an airline cabin can then go on to complain about a lack consideration and courtesy in others. If you preach the gospel of consideration and courtesy, you had better not be acting like an obnoxious spoiled brat when the world doesn’t conform to your personal expectations. In our household, that is a bare minimum expectation of everyone over the age of six. If a seven year old can manage to maintain appropriate behavior, then it is sort of odd when a middle aged adult who claims to be preoccupied with concern for the feelings of others falls short.

  273. Tara says:

    It is inconsiderate to recline without considering the people in back of you. Simply insisting on your consumer’s right to recline without considering that the reclining chairs were probably installed when the airlines provided more legroom… is a symptom of our grossly entitled society. You have a right to your seat, not the space behind you. And obviously, since you’re also in coach, you did not pay for COMFORT. The people behind you paid for safety and space to breathe, same as you did. By unthinkingly reclining into their breathing space you compromise the value of their seat and, if they are tall enough, pose a physical danger. Period.

  274. Jeff says:

    Me suffering, by not using what I have indeed knowingly and in advance contracted with the airline to use (a reclining seat) and planned to use, just so that someone else, who also knew in advance what THEY were getting into doesn’t have to suffer, is not classified as “common courtesy”. Personal responsibility is a fading concept I’m afraid; everything is everyone else’s fault. “Period”? ahahahaha.

  275. Pony Trekker says:

    Yes @ Jeff. I paid for the right to put my knees wherever I want so when they are in the small of your back — well that’s your problem. Accept some personal responsibility for your back ache.

    I also paid for the right to use the air nozzle, so when you feel it blowing on your chrome dome, that’s your problem. I also paid for the right to fart, cough and and sneeze wherever I please so those droplets — consider them symbols of my man love for you.

  276. Jeff says:

    a, american trash – lots of it these days

  277. Don says:


    Again we seem to need to go over the obvious.

    It is not inconsiderate to use an item in the way it was marketed and designed. Also a person reclining is not intruding on another’s space. They are useimg the space and options provided by the airline. That being said I am not an oaf. If my reclining will cause another great distress I will modify my behavior.

    But please understand, I am doing you a kindness, as I am changing my legal and proper behavior to help you have a more enjoyable flight. You do not get to irritate me in any manner that a steward or stewardess will not allow. If you are a jerk or disruptive, I hope they restrain you from attacking my seat or causing a scene.

    Do not fault or be a child when you choose to put yourself in a situation that by its nature and design can be uncomfortable to the tall, busy, child carrying public.

    If people are polite on both sides we all will get along. But try to keep me from using my seat as designed or try to be an ass with your behavior trust me, the problems and Karma will be yours.


  278. Mike D. says:

    Pony Trekker: You represent the worst of what this country has to offer… people who don’t care about anyone but themselves.

  279. Doug says:

    In the end, that’s the essence of the problem. Each side is vurnerable to the same criticism that they have leveled at the other side. If you find it personally more comfortable to have extra knee room, then you’re mad at recliners, and consider them self-centered and rude for infriging on your space. If you find it more comfortable to recline a few more degrees, then you’re mad at the thoughtless person who is rude enough to try to impose their own needs and preferences on a stranger. The truth is that everyone who has engaged in the argument (myself included) should probably be just a little embarrassed. As adults, we should all have more important things to be concerned about than seatback positions in airline cabins. Here’s my resolution: “Recline if you want, or don’t, I really don’t care.” For anyone I gave a hard time on the subject, I hereby apologize. We should be just a little more gentle with one another in this world.

  280. Pony Trekker says:

    Work on your reading comprehension skills I am the guy who DOESN’T recline because it crowds the people behind me. But if they jump into my space I will eff them up.

    One guy put his seat so close to me I almost nutted in his face.

  281. Jean says:

    “But if they jump into my space I will eff them up.”

    Very nice. I’m sure your mother would be so proud.

  282. Other examples says:

    >>It is not inconsiderate to use an item in the way it was marketed and designed.

    What was an air horn marketed and designed for? So it isn’t rude to use an air horn in doors then? Outdoors near someone’s ear.

    What was a cowbell, whistle, etc. marketed and designed for.

    This is a stupid justification for rude behavior.

  283. Jean says:

    So to sum up, we have adults who threaten to intentionally cough on people, fart, sneeze, kick seatbacks, direct fans to cause discomfort and even “eff them up” all because a stranger reclined an airline seat. These same adults are apparently very concerned about manners, consideration, thoughfulness, and courtesy in others. I think anyone with a modicum of common sense must now feel exhausted. The best remedy for exhaustion is sleep. The conventional position for sleep is reclined.

  284. Jean says:

    Mr Pony Trekker: When even those who agree with you on principle find you unbearable, perhaps it’s time for a little self-examination.

  285. John says:

    Just because I rarely recline does not mean that I agree that others should not. I am over 6 feet tall and I have NEVER been bothered by reclining by another in front of me even when eating or using a computer/pad. Anyone who can’t tolerate reclining should: 1. Purchase premium economy, Business or First; 2. Drive, take a train, bus or ship. Flying today is not usually enjoyable. Live with it or don’t fly. I am afraid that we have too many self centered people who really think that they are the only people who matter. The burden should not be on the person who uses the airline installed recline feature to justify the use. If you can’t stand it, YOU should take appropriate and lawful action. And don’t buy a “Seat Defender” if you plan on flying on United. It has banned its use.

  286. Joan says:

    It really is not any of the passengers fault…( though , I am considerate of people around me ) It is the airline’s fault and those that design the planes knowing full well that it is horrible to the person behind the seat that is laid out as far as it will go . Mr. Airline, you will not always have the pandemic or gas prices and availability or even rowdy passengers to use as an excuse . Fix it . Get creative , Think outside the box . Do something.

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