Is It Better To Recline Or Not To Recline?

by Sheri

This post may contain referral links, which means I may receive a small credit, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. All opinions remain my own.

Do You Recline Your Seat When Flying? What Is Proper Etiquette?

Seat reclining on the plane? Sit up straight? Or kick the person seat in front of you who has reclined their seat? Ahhhh choices choices.

So I recently flew to Malta with my husband and son, affectionately refereed to as Knuddi and Bear in this post.

After going standing in line to get our bags checked in, gone through Airport security, a 30 minute delay, waiting for a bus to get us to the plane, plus a screaming tired, hot and sleepy baby, we FINALLY got on the plane!

I had been hoping to move to an empty row if the flight wasn’t full because Knuddi had just fallen asleep and I figured if I was able to lay him down, he would actually sleep for the two-hour flight back to Vienna.

As fate or fools would have it, this was not going to be the case.

We’ve all experienced it – moments after takeoff the seat in front of you slams at full speed into full reclining position, knocking the drink of the little thing in front of you they call a table or tray.

So is there an etiquette in regards to seat reclining? If there was one, the guy sitting to my right and the moron behind him clearly knew nothing about it.

Take off completed, passengers have quieted down, glad the baby is asleep, sitting in peace when all of a sudden I hear “Hey mate, don’t kick my seat, stop kicking my f&*%ing seat!” (guy to my right – Seat 6F)

“Bist wahnsinnig?-  das ist nicht First Class” –  Translation  – “Are you insane? This is not first class” (guy  in Seat 7F)

As far as I know, restrictions have not been placed on economy class flyers reclining their seats, his argument was null and void.

So there they go screaming back and forth at each other at the top of their lungs where all you want to say as a mother is “SHUT THE HELL UP YOU SCREAMING LUNATICS!!! MY BABY IS TRYING TO SLEEP!!!!!!! 

Of course, doing that would only increase the chances of Knuddi waking.

Mind you, the aisle seat in row 7 is empty so 7F could have simply moved from the window to the aisle seat as was suggested to him. His response was “nope, I paid for the window seat so I will sit here”. ( Loving his sense of maturity – *roll eyes here*)

They continue their screaming match, hurling insults at one another until Bear has had it and gives a piece of his mind to both of them. He then heads off to the front off the cabin. I am thinking “what now?”.

He returns with the steward and stewardess who until now have not reacted to the yelling and screaming six rows from where they are sitting. Did they not just hear all this?

They calmly try to speak to both of them while 7F is still kicking the seat in front of him and threatening never to fly with this airline again.

Well thank God! That will decrease the chances of people being subjected to flying with this illogical scene-making moron. What a disgrace.

And by the way, Knuddi is awake.

Obviously, everyone on the plane would be better off if no one would recline. What do we gain when we tilt your seat back 5 degrees? Isn’t it offset by the discomfort when the person in front of you does the same?

A little consideration goes a long way. On both sides. Both 6F and 7F had the option of  treating each other with a little more respect. Sitting in an economy seat means everyone is equally uncomfortable as everyone else.

Seat reclining has caused a lot of airplane brawls! therefore the last thing I wanted was for this flight to be turned around back to Malta after just 20 minutes of flying. The thought alone of going through another delay had to be blocked out of my head.

Jesus take the wheel.

The seats are tiny, the cabin , though air conditioned – stinks, with the combination of airplane food, sweat, perfume, farts, and body odor of a hundred traveling bodies – yuck.

That’s already bad enough so why make it worse?

So should you stay upright or enjoy a little reclining action on the flight? Well, that depends on the trip. Short journeys don’t merit the full recline. IMO.

At the same time, if the person in front of you want to recline their seat, don’t be a complete jackass about it. You knew this was a possibility when you booked your flight. grow up.

Deal with it. Be civilized. Do unto others as you wish they would do unto you.

Do you sit upright or do you recline? Share with me in the comments section below.


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Zulema October 16, 2017 - 18:24

I still reline my seat if im taking a nap on the plane, never had a problem and hope to never encounter another passenger about it lol

fouronaworldtrip March 14, 2017 - 16:49

I am always very very hesitant and sorry when I recline my seat while I totally think that everyone has the right to decline them as they want. I mean, you have the option, use it! If the person in front of you declines, decline as well… it’s coach, you can’t be less comfty anyway πŸ˜€

Kate and Kris March 13, 2017 - 03:57

Oh the seat kickers! When it’s a child, I just want their parent/s to notice and ask them to stop, but sometimes……..And when it’s an adult, there is NO EXCUSE! I agree, a short flight does not warrant a fully reclined seat. Wait until you get home. A longer one is different.

saraessop March 13, 2017 - 03:46

Great topic. I’ve often wondered about this myself, having had many uncomfortable flights and movies because of inconsiderate people in front of me..

Sierra December 5, 2016 - 17:29

Yikes. I have been on many many flights where the person behind passive aggressively kicks the seat ahead of them when it’s reclined. I have a bad back and reclining the seat honestly helps redistribute the pressure on my lower spine. I don’t mind if the person in front of me also reclines. It doesn’t change how much space I would have had anyways. I just wish people would ask the person politely to either be mindful while reclining (instead of knocking your drink over) or to please stop kicking the seat. People seem to think that because they’re stressed out from traveling it’s ok to behave poorly and start arguments and fights. Like you said we all have to realize that it sucks for everyone else too.

EG III October 26, 2016 - 04:25

It’s amazing how childish some individuals can be. If I have the option to move…I’ll move simple as that. And although I do like to recline, I try to be somewhat respectful of the passenger behind me.

Olive Ole September 24, 2016 - 12:39

Hehe yes, there is a certain way to recline, turn around and look at the person behind you before recining, as a warning (it is not a question), then proceed to recline gently. Also put seat back up when/if food is being served, and recline again after the meal is over, after the warning-look to the person behind you.

I always recline,

joleisa September 24, 2016 - 06:28

OMG! I was on a similar flight a few years ago! I am sure the pilot, if he heard any of it, must have been nervous during that take off! I was so sure that my flight was doomed for failure! My prayer the whole time was, JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL.

Tamz August 10, 2016 - 07:31

I never recline my seat especially on shorter flights (even for 4 hours) unless I really really need to sleep. Whenever I do, I make sure to check if the person behind me has already finished his/her food or I ask politely if I can recline my seat. Don’t understand why everyone cant do that.

Sheri @ A Busy Bees Life August 12, 2016 - 21:44

Oh Tamz! Always the gentleman! xoxox Happy Weekend! πŸ™‚

Christine Leger July 19, 2016 - 16:49

Oh you have more grace than I do. If someone had woken up one of my little monsters, Mamma bear would have torn them a new one. A little tact and respect go along way, and both of them sound like they were behaving like children. I can only imagine the Stuarts would upgrade one just to keep the peace; way to promote mad behaviour. You are very right; these planes are the source of the problem and they blame the paying guests when they are uncomfortable. We fly next month, I am dreading having one of THOSE people on the plane with us

Lance Kerwin July 19, 2016 - 06:22

As a frequent flyer, I don’t really mind people reclining their seat in front of me. But that 7F guy you told about seems either an inexperienced flyer or lack respect I guess. There are no restrictions on economy class when it comes to adjusting seats. So everyone can recline during flight.

Anne-Sophie July 18, 2016 - 16:36

This is a funny post! I think it’s fine to recline, that’s what the seats are made to do. If the person in front of me reclines, I recline – it’s fine. I don’t get why people would get so worked up about something like that!

Sheri July 18, 2016 - 17:16

You are right Anna! It is amazing that with all the fighting and hatred going on in the world today, that people would actually take the time out of a peaceful life in order to create drama thousands of miles away from home and up in the air!

Liana July 18, 2016 - 09:13

Your post mademe laugh! It’s so true: the smell, the space, the people, EVERYTHING is bad on economic class! I mean, low cost tickets are not pricey for a reason! And I perfectly get why people recline their seat, but come on, sometimes you gotta to think about the others around you! That’s so selfish to misbehave like that, and so rude! But reclining during long flight is usually what I do, because the person in front of me do so, so what the hell!

Sheri July 18, 2016 - 14:30

Yes Liana you are right about that. It is cheap for those reasons and comfort is nothing any of us should be seeking on a an economy flight. The worst place to sit at is the end of the plane – seat do not recline there. For a long haul flight I would have to recline. I cant suffer through that.

Subhadrika Sen July 18, 2016 - 06:02

Let me be honest the title captured my attention from the very first go. I have never given it a thought about reclining or not during flights. I usually sleep it off on any flights. But I think flights, espcially for long hours can be very irritating and strenous so one must sit the way one is comfortable.

Inka July 18, 2016 - 04:15

What a fun post, thank you for sharing the bitter truth. I have to say however that as I mostly do long haul flights, there is a NEED to recline the seats. I just can’t sit there so many hours and sit straight. It is a little bit of a give and take, why fuss about something as small as that, there are bigger issues in this world. And honestly the person behind also has the option of reclining, to get that extra space. I guess it is a chain reaction. However I have found that in recent years the space between the seats has gotten smaller. Or it feels like that anyways.

Sheri July 18, 2016 - 14:34

Yes you are right and the chain reaction goes all the way form the first economy row to the end. The thing that was especially annoying on this flight was that the guy screaming could have just moved to the empty row behind or swapped his seat across and sat in an aisle seat. Some drama queens will never learn how to behave.

Stella the Travelerette July 18, 2016 - 02:51

Haha! This post really made me laugh. I’ve never traveled with a baby, but that aside, I have similar stories hearing people argue over reclining seats. I only recline if it’s a flight so long I need to sleep or if the person ahead of me reclined and I won’t have any room otherwise. But I honestly don’t understand people who get so upset about it.

Rashmi&Chalukya July 17, 2016 - 14:33

We have too experienced discomfort when the person infront us reclines but what you had to face was totally unexpectable, I would definitely not forgiven them if they had let there nonsense argument woke up my baby πŸ˜‰

Kate & Mark - Vagrants Of The World Travel July 17, 2016 - 11:02

This is a funny post of epic proportions that shouldn’t have been in the first place. No matter what mode of transportation you chose, the person in front of you will almost always want to recline their seats. You can’t do anything about it because both of you have paid the price, particularly if it’s a long flight or bus ride or whatever. No need to be ill-mannered because of it. You should, of course, say something about your intention to recline your seat. Just simple courtesy to observe and the altercation could have been avoided.

Vyjay Rao July 17, 2016 - 10:12

Had this kind of experience many a time, some people seem to lack basic courtesies and are bothered about their own comfort. I for one have made it a habit to sit with the seat erect, I rarely recline it. This is good for my spine as well πŸ™‚

Karen S Booth July 17, 2016 - 07:00

I had to laugh at this post Sheri, as I have been there on so many occasions, and usually on short to medium haul flights, it’s weird, but people seem to be better on long haul flights? I’m very polite but my patience has been tested when the seat in front has been banged down in front of me JUST as my drink has been served and I find myself sipping it on my chest almost! I think we all have to remember that we are travelling with lots of other people and we all have to be a little more careful of being overly selfish, if that is ever possible!

theglobeater July 16, 2016 - 12:14

Your post really had me smile, especially when you talked about the smell on airplanes, that’s so true unfortunately!

I generally tend not to recline, but if the flight is going to last more than 4 hours I would do so.
I can totally relate to your nightmarish experience, as I had a similar one last year. Plus I was on a long-haul flight and being at the very back of the plane I couldn’t recline my own seat while I had the one of the person in front of me fully reclined on my face and the person on my left constantly ranting about it.

The most annoying flight experience though was not related to seat reclining, but was rather due to a group of young boys who kept yelling and making noises during the safety demonstration, which caused the stewards to stop it for three times in a row and resulted in the plane to be delayed of half an hour …

Christina July 15, 2016 - 13:02

Sheri, what a nightmare! We were on a 10 hour flight to Jordan and this was exactly the same scenario that was running through my head when I was thinking about all the possible scenarios that could ruin our trip. Thankfully, it was just my over active imagination. I must say I always recline my seat but I hardly ever do the full recline (unless it’s a 10 hr flight lol). But I always look back first. If it looks like I will be crushing the persons knees though, I just suck it up and pray that I have better luck next time.

Sheri July 16, 2016 - 07:01

I think I would have to recline on a 10-hour flight. It is hard to make yourself comfortable when flying unless you are in business or first class, so I would definitely recline just not in a rough and impolite way – which is what I think the main cause of tension and fights are between passengers.

Blair Villanueva July 15, 2016 - 10:06

Nowadays, I dont understand people who doesnt know simple manners, just thinking of their own benefits. One of the reason I choose to fly first class, coz I don’t want to think of them

Blair Villanueva July 15, 2016 - 10:01

Ah I just have no patience dealing with stupid people, so just to not (or at least minimize) my trouble, I choose to fly first class. Can’t buy manners.

chantae July 15, 2016 - 05:48

OMG what a bunch of whiners on that plane?!? Yelling at each other over this stuff :O Sounds like your baby was the most mature one out of the bunch, haha. I totally agree with the little stink capsule – airplanes REEK and I hate the entire process D: Personally I recline and it doesn’t bother me when others recline because I think it’s just a “thing” we all do on planes? I’m 5′ tall though so it’s probably not as annoying as it is for someone 6’6.”

Have you heard of the knee defender? it’s a contraption that you put in front of you to prevent people from reclining. LOL

Reply July 14, 2016 - 15:10

Hahaha! I LOVED this post. Now I have a disability in my back in which if I sit upright my back will be killing me. It depends on how long the flight is. If it is a LONG trip I will recline but I ALWAYS ask the person behind me if they are ok with it.

Komang Ayu July 13, 2016 - 20:14

long journey for 2 hours. I’ve never been on a plane. I do not know the atmosphere in the plane. but I think it would be nice if you could go by plane. someday I’ll try it. hehehehehe …

Jen Morrow July 13, 2016 - 12:19

I am quite tall so for long flights I will always upgrade to first or business class. And reclining is the only way I can hope for a bit of sleep!

Kat July 13, 2016 - 04:17

Good thing I haven’t experienced this yet, and the longest flight I’ve been to is merely 3 hours. I had a similar incident but on a night bus here in our country. The old ladies sitting at the front fully reclined their chairs so me and my friend couldn’t move much, even sit up straight. Can you imagine that?

You’re right, a little consideration goes a long way. I understand that some people reclining their seats may not be aware how uncomfortable and stifling it is for people at the back, but I think this can be resolved through friendly and civilized talk.

Achintam karmakar June 7, 2016 - 13:45

Hahaha….it’s was something which made me laugh for hours…Aswm article …keep on posting like this article more

Postcard Pretty March 31, 2016 - 04:54

This post made me laugh! I am a self-confessed recliner But I always have this mini heart attack on flights, whether or not the person behind me minds if I recline. Local planes are particularly small with almost no leg space. I have to look at my back and ask politely and apologetically if I could.

Sheri - A Busy Bees Life March 31, 2016 - 19:49

Have you ever asked and the person said “NO YOU CANNOT?” lol

Cai Dominguez - Travelosyo March 29, 2016 - 00:20

Hahahaha! This is a funny story. Ill be irrate if ill be inside that plane for 2 hours and hearing then shouting with each other. To answer your question, nope i never reclined my seat. I’m fine with it straight:)

Klaudia March 28, 2016 - 23:31

Hahahahaha , brilliant post . I MUST share that one , all my (FB) friends are “flyers” πŸ™‚ we call them swallows , as they arrive in october and leave around easter time . Not the worst thing in the world , spending all winter here , but that’s off topic . I can so picture that situation , people nowadays are so aggressive . Same with pushing when queueing to board …. you have got your seat number and everything , so why giving yourself and everybody a hard time ?! Horrible situations when travelling always ..are they all nervous ? ..fear of flying ? stressed ? Folks is weird stuff !

Sheri - A Busy Bees Life March 29, 2016 - 17:43

It really is funny to watch people rush and fight to be the first on the flight or pushing each other when we all have boarding passes which state exactly where you are sitting. It is a subconscious thing and I believe most people do not realise they do it, and if they are doing it intentionally then good heavens!

Georgia March 28, 2016 - 19:00

Oh this was so funny!! I never recline only because I am as tiny as a child and don’t need to recline but I don’t mind people reclining, they paid for the seat. I despise when people kick my chair though or when people do that jerking back in their seat in front which makes the chair jolt, that annoys me more than anything! We all need to respect each other on planes because let’s face it your not going anywhere for the next few hours so stop being so foolish! haha

Sheri - A Busy Bees Life March 29, 2016 - 17:41

I am with you on this one Georgia. Once that place takes off, we are all in it together. No escaping each other, so we should all try to make the best of it.

Missy March 28, 2016 - 16:10

Although there is no rule against reclining, I don’t do it. I’m quite a small person but when the person in front of me reclines, it’s already so uncomfortable, so I don’t do it to anyone else. There are many of these unwritten rules, but sometimes people are just too self absorbed thinking β€œwell, I have the right so no one will stop me.” This got me thinking that maybe the next time this happens to me, I will ask the person in front of me politely not to recline, and let’s see what happens…

ASKSonnie March 28, 2016 - 11:41

Courtesy could have prevented the spat between the two passengers. But it seems courtesy has been thrown out of window nowadays, in favor of asserting their individual right.

Milton Coyne March 28, 2016 - 09:31

I may not have that kind of experience yet because I haven’t been on a plane yet but I guess for me, it would be a case to case basis…. if the flight will take only an hour or two, then there is really no need of reclining the chair but if its a long ride then I might need to rest my body for awhile (i bet the others will feel the same so they might recline the chairs too)
I agree, the golden rule should always be applied here “Do unto others as you wish they would do unto you.”

Marjorie March 28, 2016 - 07:01

To be honest I don’t really recline my seat on the plane even if I want to, though I am speaking from an experience of a 1 and a half hour flight. I have yet to experience a long flight, so I don’t know, maybe I would recline my seat.

But I get your point. It doesn’t hurt to be civilized and there is no rule about not reclining your seat, I just hope people would be more decent about it.

Sheri - A Busy Bees Life March 29, 2016 - 17:34

I agree with you Marjorie. On along-haul flight 6-8 hours or more you would likely recline because you want to sleep a little, but maybe not full recline. We are all different in sizes so I like to take consideration for the person sitting behind me. πŸ™‚

kareen liez datoy (@blessedliez) March 28, 2016 - 05:32

Oh my. This is an irritating experience but glad that you didn’t join their screaming. LOL! Really, there are people who are inconsiderate. In my own opinion, we should not reclining our seats so we can’t disturb those at the back.

Sheri - A Busy Bees Life March 29, 2016 - 17:33

No I would never join in to their screaming. I have read too many reports on the news of flights being turned around for people screaming and fighting on the plane. Don’t want to end up on CNN or The Daily Mail πŸ™‚

aika loraine March 28, 2016 - 05:24

hi there! it;s my first time to check your blog. Full recline is a no, no. That’s my opinion. It’s just we need to respect the people behind us. If we would recline, i guess everybody should so there would be space for everybody. geez.

Sheri - A Busy Bees Life March 29, 2016 - 17:22

Hi Aika. I am glad you stopped by to read my article. I think the problem is really spac eon these airplanes. If only the seats were further apart a full recline would not be an issue. Maybe the airlines could consider removing the recline on flights less than 3 hours, where it may not necessarily be needed. It is a cost saving issue, and that is why there are classes, economy, business., first class. We all just need to be considerate of each other.

ROBERT LEE March 28, 2016 - 03:52

I think it is about being sensitive. Communicating better is also a key. Instead of telling off the offending person, perhaps the use of a polite tone and words would have worked better and situation resolved.

Now not everyone is aware but being sensitive is what we could all have more of. For example, reclining seats is allowed. But in so doing, gotta be mindful of the person seating next to you and the one behind. A little courtesy goes a long way.

Sheri - A Busy Bees Life March 29, 2016 - 17:20

You are right Robert. Nowadays it sees to be every man for himself. No one takes the time out to be considerate of others and their feelings. It is a shame as this world could be a much better place if we all treated each other with kindness – the way we would want to be treated. I appreciate your feedback.

Chandrangsu Biswas March 26, 2016 - 21:29

Ha!ha! That’s too funny.. But it’s damn true about most of us :p

heidi March 26, 2016 - 14:10

So funny! I love flying basically because I have a car phobia (another story for another time) I recently flew to visit family and the woman sitting next to me gave me stink eye the entire time for reasons foreign to me. Transit of any kind is it’s own entertainment for sure.

Sheri - A Busy Bees Life March 26, 2016 - 17:06

Heidi, you should write about your carphobia. I know two people that have it. It really is interesting. If someone gave me the stink eye a whole flight long I would feel so awkward, maybe a little intimidated? Unless I was in a bad mood, then maybe she would get the stink eye returned πŸ™‚

Vivi.m March 7, 2016 - 16:51

This was really funny and I too never know the answer!
I think the best is if the person reclining doesn’t recline the WHOLE way back, there’s still someone behind them and this isn’t a bed…

Realweegiemidget March 7, 2016 - 12:04

Great post, made me laugh… πŸ™‚

Sheri - A Busy Bees Life March 7, 2016 - 12:06

Glad to be of service πŸ™‚

Sheena March 7, 2016 - 00:39

You made me LOL a couple times, esp with the airplane smells! I’m not a very large person, so I tend to just keep my seat up on shorter (less than 3-4 hour flights)… unless the person in front of me reclines theirs and I’m in the middle seat. Then I just feel claustrophobic and HAVE to recline! I’m not sure there’s any actual etiquette about it, but the button is there, and people ARE going to use it.. so definitely no point screaming and waking up babies about it! πŸ™‚

Sheri - A Busy Bees Life March 7, 2016 - 11:18

Exactly right Sheena! I think the way people go about it is key. Some are aggressive, while others choose to take a more polite approach.
I say the button is there to be used, just don’t be a beast about it. LOL πŸ™‚

bluerobin March 6, 2016 - 23:33

This is so funny and so true. I was recently on a 15 hour flight (in that case, you NEED to recline, even if it is just 5 degrees). The minute the seatbelt sign went off the guy in front of me reclined, and there is a big difference when you are sitting straight and the person in front of you reclines. My friend turned to the people behind us and asked if they would mind if we reclined our seats. The elderly man sitting behind my friend said that nobody had ever asked his permission before. Needless to say, they were totally fine with us reclining (could they really have said no??). I think perhaps just giving the curtesy of a warning or asking “permission” would go a long way for most people…

Sheri - A Busy Bees Life March 7, 2016 - 10:58

Nowadays, people are shocked by politeness, LOL. Which as you say can go a long way in avoiding confrontation. I would absolutely have to recline on a 15 hour flight, I cannot imagine sitting in an upright position on that long a flight. I wish long haul flights would provide planes with extra room. Not everyone can afford business or first class. Thanks for sharing.

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