Poll: Is it rude to recline your seat?

As you can see from the sidebar, my post “Is it rude to recline your seat?” is my most popular ever. I appreciate the varied comments that I have received, and as they are pretty well split down the middle I decided it was time to do something (slightly) scientific. Please take just a second and answer the poll. And of course, feel free to comment as necessary.

Is it rude to recline your seat?

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  1. In coach, it is OK to recline if you first ask the person sitting behind you if it’s OK with them.

  2. On a Beijing/LAX flight (in coach), I politely told the passenger behind me that I was reclining my seat. He protested loudly (and rudely), so I did not do so. A couple of hours later when returning from the restroom I saw that HIS seat was fully reclined. Needless to say, I did not tell him this time.

  3. I think it is okay if you ask the person behind you.

    On an international flight from Europe, I asked the person behind me if I could recline my seat and her answer was simply “no”. She didn’t offer any reason and didn’t appear to be uncomfortable (at least not more uncomfortable than anyone else in coach).

    So the question can also be, is it rude not to let someone recline her seat?!

  4. Almost Never! Especially in coach.

    At the very least speak to the person behind you. If you physically need (doctor’s requirement) to recline, even a little, you still must speak to the person behind you.

    I speak from experience having my knees crushed many times by the rude so-and-so in front of me! One guy went so far as to ask me to move my legs some place else. Where?, I asked. Into the aisle or into the space of the woman on the other side of me?

    @ViaHerlette – No, it is not rude to say “no”. Why should their comfort come before yours?

  5. And I am also reminded of something someone far wiser than me once said: “Just because you *can* do something, doesn’t mean that you should.”

  6. this whole discussion is sort of moot unless we know exactly what the law says when it comes to this. If someone simply refuses to let me recline can i sue them for damages?

  7. Well, I’ve always assumed it’s my right, as it is for the person in front of me. I’m 6’2″ tall, so maybe I’m not the average traveler, but an upright seat really curves forward on top, so I can barely stand it during takeoff and landing.

    I’m unlikely to change my view that it’s my right to courteously recline my seat when permitted by the crew. And the person in front of me is expected to do the same.

  8. Yes, you have the right to recline your seat, but not the right to injure someone in the process.
    I’m 6’5″ with very long legs. I’ve suffered bruises and cuts from people reclining their seat into my knees. I’ve even been trapped in a seat when the seat in front of me was fully reclined.
    Ask first, or at least look to see if you have the room to recline.

  9. I think this is the same as my previous answer: the word “rude” is a bit strong but it is most definitely discourteous to your fellow travelers. Having the person in front of me recline is something I would like to avoid at all costs. I don’t like people encroaching in my personal space, limited as it is (and to that end, I never recline my own seat).

    I don’t really think asking makes it OK. Most people are too polite or too intimidated to say “no,” but it could very well ruin their flight. I find it impossible to open a laptop when the seat in front of me is reclined, and often on flights I desperately need to work.

    I also find it curious that it’s more accepted in coach by a few of the previous commenters. It’s much worse to be in coach behind a person who’s reclined than to be in first class behind a person who’s reclined.

  10. Was on a flight yesterday from SFO to ORD and a guy reclined his seat (during takeoff!!) into my knees. I am 6’3″ and can barely navigate a coach seat to begin with. Not wanting to cause a scene, i tolerated the guy for the first half of the flight until he glared at me for bumping his seat while letting my seat mate into the aisle.

    He stood, let his seat back up, and stretched. He then returned to his seat and forcefully reclined yet again. I told myself, “hells naw” and locked my legs in place. For two hours I flew with this d-bag reclined so heavily into my knees that my legs were numb. That’s alright. I nonchalantly kneed his back every time we hit turbulence, every time i tapped my foot to my music, and every time he arched his back in pain. The bad part is that he was doing the same thing to the lady to the front of him (her seat was reclined as well) as I was doing to him!

    It was clear that we were in a standoff, but the sciatica is worth it!

    My new viewpoint: RECLINING IS NOT OK unless: you are in first; you are on an international (usually more leg room and rarely full); or the person behind you has their seat reclined (in which case, what’s good for the goose…)

    I think it is definitely a faux pas these days. . . are there any flight attendants with viewpoints on the subject? I’m sure they’re experts having heard both sides of the story for years??

  11. I feel bad for you very tall folks who are forced to fly coach. That is terrible. I never recline my seat in coach, ever. Not even on an international flight. Call me old-fashioned, but I was taught to be considerate of others when it costs me little. In my experience, reclining your seat gives you so little extra room – and none of it leg room – that it’s hardly worth doing. You can barely use a laptop anymore on planes when the seat in front of you is upright; it’s impossible to do so when it’s reclined. And if you’re the next to the last row and recline into those poor last row people who have nowhere to recline TO, you’re evil, IMO. Of course the airlines are to blame ultimately for not giving any of us enough space, but that doesn’t give you the right to be a jackass to the person behind you in the name of your ever-so-slightly increased comfort.

  12. I don’t think it’s rude. Sitting without the recline is very uncomfortable — it’s rude to expect someone else to be uncomfortable for several hours because you prefer it that way. The person behind is free to recline and “reclaim” the space. Taller travelers can certainly complain that leg room on most coach flights is inadequate. But that is a complaint for the airline, not your fellow traveler. Seatguru and other sites provide ample information on the space one can expect on every airline/plane. If someone chooses to save money by purchasing a seat with less room than they need, then YES they will be uncomfortable. It’s not the responsibility of the person in front of you to make it better for you.

  13. I find that it also depends on where I am sitting. The seats just after the wings on certain flights have less room – because of the extra room for the wing-seats – so if I get stuck there I feel very uncomfortable when the person in front of me, who already has a lot of extra space – reclines for a 1 hour flight.

    During the 1 hour flight, when I was flying back from London this week, and got stuck in such a seat: The person just pushed the seat back staight after the sign was off, hard. I’m 5’3, and I had problems shifting my legs around during the flight, not to mention the magazine I was reading during take off got smushed into my face (Don’t want to think about the table into my stomach that could’ve happened if I’d had that up). The worst thing was that whenever I got a good position, the person would immediately try to push the seat back even further, even though it was as far back as it could get, thus bumping my knees repeatedly.

    If I book the seat myself, and have a normal space between the seats, I’ll appreciate it if the person in front of me asks before reclining, but I won’t be offended if they do.

    Personally, it will take quite a bit before I recline my seat, as you never know who is sitting behind you.

  14. I’m curious about something. Not here on this post, but on other blogs and travel sites the question of very fat people flying has arisen, and widespread opinion is that if you’re too wide for 1 seat, you need to buy yourself 2 seats, and no one else should have to suffer. But here I see a lot of posts from very tall folks. No one seems to be saying that if you’re over 6′, it’s your job to buy yourself 2 seats so that you can put your legs sideways. Why not? Why is being too tall for a (ridiculously small) coach seat different from being too fat for it? As to the OP: I’m short. It has a lot of disadvantages in life (just fell off a stool that tipped while I was trying to reach something high in the bathroom and flew across the room and smacked my head into the shower tile), but it’s an advantage when flying I recognize. If I’m on a redeye, why should whether I get to recline depend on the height of the person behind me?

  15. @Curious Comparing tall people to obese people is comparing apples to oranges. Tall people can’t help being tall where obese people have a choice to change their lifestyle. Do you suggest tall people cut their legs off?

    I’m 6’3″ and if the seat in front of me even reclines just even a small amount it immediately hits my knees. So yes, it’s completely rude! Someone choosing comfort over inflicting pain upon someone is rude any way you try to justify it.

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