Space is tight, and tensions are high.
While it may seem like a small thing, seat reclining can actually be a serious stressor on flights. In an ideal world, passengers would have ample space and wouldn’t need to consider this at all. However, space per passenger on airplanes has been shrinking for years, and that has made seat reclining an issue. Rule number one: Be considerate. When you board a plane and settle into the shared, tight quarters, you should make an effort to be aware of and sensitive to your neighbors. Other points of etiquette to keep in mind are as follows…
Check Before You Recline
It’s polite to show some regard for your next-row neighbor, so be sure to check behind you before attempting to recline your seat. This will ensure you don’t accidentally collide with your neighbor as they reach down to get something from underseat-stowed carry-on luggage. It also gives them a heads up before you press the button to move the seat back.
Sometimes Upright Is the Only Choice
Choosing to recline your seat is your call, but it’s important to do so carefully and to keep your neighbor in mind. If choosing to recline your seat inhibits the movement of the person behind you or makes contact with their knees (perish the thought), you may need to keep your seat in a more upright position or only partially reclined during the flight.
No Reclining During Meals
This is non-negotiable. You should always place your seat in the upright position during mealtimes. Only think about reclining it again when the flight attendants have passed by to remove food trays. This will ensure the person behind you has access to the tray on the back of your seat.
Keep It Polite
If the person in front of you has reclined their seat, crushing you and causing you discomfort in the process, the first step is to point it out to them (politely!) and to ask them to move their seat up. Travel can be stressful, so keeping the conversation concise, calm, and courteous is the best way to avoid getting the flight attendants involved. If you have asked politely and the person refuses to move their seat, you may need to ask a flight attendant for assistance.
WATCH: How to Deal With a Rude Seat Recliner on a Plane, According to an Etiquette Expert
What are your tips for seat reclining on airplanes? Do you have any tried-and-true strategies for plane travel?