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The Etiquette Of Seat Reclining

A topic of great debate amongst travellers is the issue regarding seat reclining. Some people are avid defenders of allowing people to recline their seat whenever they want, while others believe it is rude to recline the seat as it takes away precious room from the person sitting in the seat behind you.  So what is the etiquette of seat reclining?

The debate regarding seat reclining has gotten so bad that fights have broken out mid-flight, with flights being diverted and passengers kicked off. So let’s get a few things straight and in an effort to keep the peace and allow you and your other travellers to enjoy a peaceful flight, we have created a brief seat etiquette guide that will hopefully help keep both sides of the debate happy.

Photo credit: Atomic Taco on Visual hunt

Lifehacks to Seat Reclining

Frequent flyers sick of having their knees bashed and bruised came up with novel ways to stop seats being reclined.  As a seat is reclined, it pivots from the base of the seat, also where the tray table pivots.  This means the tray table does not move as a seat is reclined, so savvy travellers started wedging drink bottles between tray tables and the seat and one entrepreneur launched the Knee Defender which clipped onto the tray table arms and stopped the seat moving perfectly.  But as popularity of these devices rose, airlines started to see an escalation in passenger rage and some airlines even banned the use of the devices all together.

Try and Keep the Seat Upright for Short Flights

Occasionally, you have a flight where you are on a plane for a half hour, 45 minutes, maybe even an hour and half. Most of the flight, your seat has to maintain an upright position in an effort to comply with airline safety rules. This means you have maybe a half hour of reclining time. If you can resist, keep the seat in an upright position for that time.

Not engaging in seat reclining on a short flight will allow you to keep the peace with your fellow travellers. Those sitting behind you will not have to deal with a seatback shoved in their knees. This will prove extremely helpful if they have to go on to a longer flight, as they will be happier and calmer on the next flight. Some airlines have already begun restricting reclining seats. UK airline Monarch has installed ergonomic seats that don’t recline, and easyJet is following suit.

Timing is Everything on Longer Flights

Seat reclining on longer flights can be difficult. It all comes down to timing.

Many people on longer flights are tired and want to recline in their seat. This means that most of the people on the flight are already reclining back. If you wish to recline back, do so because there is a good chance the person behind you is also reclining. A safe rule is to be courteous to the passenger behind you. A quick ask if it is okay to recline will be much appreciated and go a long way to keeping the peace.

Of course, if you are engaging in an activity that doesn’t require the seat be reclined back, such as reading or doing work, you should keep the seat in an upright position. It will keep you comfortable while working, while allowing the person behind you to enjoy a little extra legroom. During a night flight, most passengers will likely wish to recline to assist sleep. Just remember to only recline to a comfortable position, as there is little call for reclining to the maximum. If you want to lie down, you need to pay for a better seat! See our blog on flying Business Class for less.

There is only one real rule regarding seat reclining on longer flight and that rule comes up during meal times. If a meal is being served, all travellers should put their seats in an upright position. This will give the person behind you the ability to place their food on their trays and not have to eat out of their lap because they don’t have any room!

Use these seat etiquette tips and you will hopefully be able to avoid conflicts on your next flight.

When it comes down to when to and when not to recline, it’s a mix of common sense and courtesy.  There is no need to recline on short flights and during long-haul flights, asking your fellow passenger if they have finished their meal and if you can recline is the best way to get the recline action.

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