Don’t grab the seat in front of you. Please.

seat in frontIf you don’t fly very often, this is one of those etiquette scenarios that may never enter your brain as a potential issue. But picture this: you are sitting in your airplane seat, enjoying some beauty rest. Or perhaps you are engrossed in a great book, or your  guilty pleasure, a celebrity gossip website. Suddenly you are thrown out of your blissful state by the person in the row behind you using your seat as their own personal lever, yanking the headrest violently backward as they stand.

Once the offending passenger releases your seat, it ricochets into the back of your head, causing little stars to explode in front of your eyes. After the lights fade you worry you have a concussion, but once a few minutes pass you feel back to normal. But you don’t lean back anymore, casting wary glances behind you, knowing that at some point that person will come back from the lav and you’d better be prepared.

Wow, Road Warriorette! you may be thinking. What a descriptive writer you are! Thank you, dear reader, but I am only describing in detail what happened to me on my flight yesterday.

Friends, please don’t grab the seat in front of you, ever, when you’re standing or sitting. I get it-it’s not easy getting in and out of the postage stamp-sized spaces that pass for airline seats. But if there is someone in that seat resist the urge! If you need help or leverage, use your armrest and your own seat. Otherwise you risk sending the person in front of you into a whiplash-induced stupor for their trip. Trust me, that is not a great place to be.

Readers, what are your thoughts about using the seat in front of you to stand up?


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  1. This is exactly what I do with excessive recliners especially those who suddenly drop all the way back without regard if I have food or my laptop while open. They get to enjoy the whole flight of seat grabbing.

  2. Oh my god yes! I LOATHE seat grabbers. I make a point to recline on their knees as much as I can for no reason. The worst! I’d rather have a crying baby!

  3. In a perfect world, I would agree with you; however, not all travelers are under 65, slim, athletic, etc. Further, airline seat spacing is not ideal especially with a recliner in front of the offender. The person in a middle or window seat often has to use the seat in front as leverage or risk a fall.

    Safety trumps etiquette in some instances. That said, one can certainly apologize and try to avoid jerking the seat.

  4. But those who don’t fly often don’t read blogs like yours. So how would they learn these frequent-flier etiquettes?

  5. Unfortunately, the people who do this are the people who DON’T read blogs like this…

  6. As a very tall flyer, I never recline my seat in coach because I know all too well how uncomfortable it makes the passenger behind me. Why bring this up? When that seat yanker returns to his or her seat, I depress my recline button and they pull me into a fully reclined position. Don’t know if any lesson is imparted, but throwing a look hasn’t worked for me in the past.

  7. @JakePB : I rarely recline my seat because I don’t want to “trap” the person behind me. I have met a passenger or two that did the seat yanking before. Will try to use your tip on depressing the recline button if this ever happens. Makes me feel less guilty taking away the extra space they had previously 😉

  8. I agree with J Hill.- many times I’ve noticed the seat grabbers are older, using a cane, unsteady in their feet. They are in the window or middle seat. They are off balance when they stand and reflexively grab the seat. They do it without thinking.
    I’d rather they grab the seat than fall down and get injured. I don’t want a flight diversion
    Both seat reclining and seat grabbing are becoming problematic because the airlines squished the seats. Fixing the root cause makes the symptoms go away.

  9. You guys bring up some really good points.

    Yes, a lot of the seat grabbers are elderly. Clearly I would prefer them use my seat to get up rather than fall! But I see all kinds of people doing it, including some frequent fliers I know! It seems like until it happens to them people don’t realize the impact it has on the person whose seat they are grabbing. So I want to remind people that it’s not a great thing to do. Obviously if someone isn’t searching out travel etiquette or tips for frequent fliers they may not find my blog, but on the chance that I can make someone aware I want to write about it!

    Those of you who are grabbing seats strategically–interesting. Hard to blame you, honestly. I do place most of the blame for our tiny seat with the airlines though, and less with the people reclining. Although if the person is reclining during meal service, all bets are off.

  10. Well just got back from an intercontinental holiday. Let me tell you that this advice is fine if the seat in front is not reclined and I follow it. But if the seat in front is reclined, it is actually IMPOSSIBLE in the space allowed to get out from the window without limbo-ing. Which is fine if you are young, thin and have no back trouble. And there are no plastic wrappers from airline blankets on the floor for you to slip on. I almost killed myself and the kid in the seat next to me while attempting to limbo out from my window seat when my foot slipped on something on the floor. His refusal to get up into the aisle did not help this.

    So try not to judge the seat grabber. It was all I could do to avoid injuring myself and someone else.

    I did find that if you can manage it, turning around and facing the rear of the plane makes getting out without injuring yourself or others much more do-able.

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