The Final Word On Reclining Airline Seats. It Is Rude And They Should Be Banned.

The controversial debate about reclining seats on airlines has once again reared its head, and after years of debating this issue there finally seems to be a general consensus. It is rude and inconsiderate to recline your seat in modern economy class, recliners are obnoxious and selfish people and reclining seats themselves should just be banned outright. 

This long held debate came up again recently after an incident on an American Airlines flight where a passenger was filmed repeatedly knocking the back of a fully reclined seat when the other passenger refused to put it back up again. It caused a social media storm with arguments on both sides getting pretty heated, but one thing is for sure now. There is no place for reclining seats in modern economy class aircraft.

The Airline’s Fault?

Seat pitch has on average shrunk by 5 or 6 inches on modern aircraft in the last 20 years due to airlines trying to squeeze more and more rows of seats into the aircraft. And I get it, the argument about increasing leg room again is a fair one. In fact in any debate about increasing seat pitch again I would be up there fighting that fight with you. Now I agree some reduction has been absolutely necessary for them to maintain profits; that is after all how we all manage to get reasonably or even cheap flights, I agree entirely with that, but they absolutely have gone too far. Seat pitch has shrunk to the point where it is actually becoming dangerous, never mind just uncomfortable!

But that is exactly why people should not be allowed to recline any more.

Regardless of the argument about if they should be shrinking seat pitch however is the simple fact that they have shrunk. A lot. Far more than the space that we used to have for reclining seats to be viable, and since that is not going to change any time soon passengers have to realise that reclining is no longer acceptable.

This is especially true when you consider each generation is getting taller and 6″2 is now considered average for a Western man! You want cheap flights? We had to lose space. We lost space, you can’t recline any more!

Other Solutions?

There are other solutions of course.

Having a recline only section at the back with a locked seat, non recline section at the front of economy would be a sensible solution, or they could fit seats that slide forward as they recline so you lose leg space if you want to recline but it doesn’t affect the person behind you. The technology exists!

But since neither of those are likely to happen and airlines will continue to ignore the issue until they get rid of reclining seats entirely, the onus is on passengers to be understanding and kind, but since that isn’t going to happen either the reclining seats should just go entirely.

People Are Just To Selfish To Be Trusted.

The selfish and inconsiderate attitudes displayed by many recliners show that common decency and manners don’t play a part in the issue any more, and since the airlines will continue to ignore the issue reclining seats should just be banned entirely.

I have written about this issue many times, sometimes jokingly referring to reclining seats as one of the biggest passenger annoyances, giving (tongue in cheek) advice about how to deal with recliners on planes that don’t involve punching the back of their seats repeatedly or debating whether reclining seats should be banned, but I am not the only one who has come to this conclusion.

According to numerous studies and surveys now, over 90% of passengers want reclining seats banned entirely on flights less than 6 hours, and 75% want them banned on all flights entirely. Even the majority of flight attendants want them banned because they are the cause of so much hassle and trouble they simply don’t want to deal with!

Even the CEO of Delta Airlines weighed in this time, the first time I have actually seen an airline’s take on the issue (correct me if I’m wrong) and said that he himself doesn’t recline, but for those who do checking with the person behind you first and asking permission is the right thing to do.

And just for those people in the cheap seats if you don’t get that permission the implication is don’t recline!

Basically speaking the absolute majority of people think recliners are rude and selfish, and think reclining seats should be banned. Is that clear enough for you recliners?

So Why Are Recliners Still Trying To Justify Reclining?

It’s your right to recline? Right? No it isn’t. Ever heard the saying ‘your right to swing your fist ends where the next mans nose begins’? He was a smart man that Oliver Wendell Holmes. What that means is your rights end as soon as they infringe on someone else’s rights, in this case my rights to personal space and not having physical harm or injury caused to me by a heavy seat weighed down by your fat arse directly pressing on my knees. It is a fundamental tenet of rights and human rights law.

You paid for your seat and have the right to use the functions of it? Well I paid for mine too cupcake and you are stopping me from using the tray or the TV properly, and I have a right to use those functions.

You find sitting up uncomfortable? Well guess what? We all do! We are all relatively uncomfortable sat up in the confined spaces of economy, but at least the default of us all sitting up means that we are all on an even basis and us all being in that default position isn’t causing pain or discomfort to someone else just so you can get a tiny little bit more comfortable! In other words we aren’t sacrificing someone else’s comfort for our own!

You have a sore back? Well I have sore knees due to you reclining on them. I’m not causing your bad back, you are directly affecting the pain and injury in my knees. If you know you have a medical condition beforehand where the default sitting position will cause you pain, the onus is on you to make other arrangements. Pay to upgrade to business where reclining is not an issue, or take shorter segmented flights. The default position is uncomfortable for me too but I can put up with it provided no extra discomfort like a reclining seat is added, so I am the one who gets to use that default position without paying more.

Time For An All Out Ban.

There is no question about this now. The majority of people want it, the majority of airline crew want it, and airlines are finally starting to see that it may be a better option.

It really is time for an all out ban on reclining seats. Ironically we are now in a tie where we may be getting a ban through the back door, and banning or locking seats may soon not even be necessary.

The Rise Of The Pre Reclined Fixed Seat.

Many airlines now, from Ryanair and EasyJet to British Airways and Lufthansa and many more are now using pre reclined seats. These are seats that passengers can’t adjust at all but already have a slight degree of incline set at about an inch or two. These have been traditionally associated with low cost airlines on short routes but are making their way into major carriers on longer and longer flights.

This isn’t out of an altruistic move by airlines to make passengers lives a little more comfortable on flights though, this is because these seats tend to be cheaper, lighter, thinner and much more cost effective than traditional seats. Basically they use up less fuel and are cheaper to install and maintain. You can always trust airlines to do what is economically best for them, so there will be no need for a reclining seat ban now that the airlines are seeing they can make more profit by not having reclining as an option in the first place, and that is why it won’t be long before these seats get rolled out more and more.

But they do have two big advantages for passengers. The first is that the thinner and lighter seats give back some of that precious seat pitch that has been lost over the years. Basically they are thinner and give more leg room. Second, and most importantly, they don’t recline.

So recliners can feel free to use the function of their seats, when they no longer recline!

Did you enjoy this article? Do you think these actions are reasonable or do you think they are over the top? Are you a dreaded recliner? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

10 Commandments Of Jetiquette. (Or How To Behave On A Flight!)

Aeroplane Seat Wars: The Passive Aggressive Guide To Dealing With Seat Recliners.

Is It Time Airlines Banned Reclining Seats Completely?

The 10 Most Annoying Things About Flying.

Is The United Airlines PR Debacle A Line In The Sand For Passenger Rights?

Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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Posted in Travel Talk
142 comments on “The Final Word On Reclining Airline Seats. It Is Rude And They Should Be Banned.
  1. Mark says:

    Everyone is going on and on about that video. She deserved all she got and more. Airline seats are tight and it is so rude to recline you seat, especially in that instance where he obviously had no room. Have some respect.

  2. Lee says:

    The attitude of recliners is just beyond a joke. Have they heard themselves? I’ll do what I want when I want because I paid for it. People are just horrible.

  3. Seb. says:

    I’m 6’4 and I barely fit in these seats as it is, I am literally squeezed in in the default upright position, but as long as no one reclines I can manage. It is always uncomfortable but I manage. I never recline either and even if I did it wouldn’t be any more comfortable as it doesnt increase the leg space. And if someone tries to recline it is agony for me as there is nowhere for the seat to go except into my knees. All I do if they try is lift my leg so my knee is on the upward tray, that stops any seat moving back. When they look back I j7st say please don’t. If the crew get involved (rarely) I just say move me to business and I’ll lower my leg, until then it is my space to use how I choose.

    I paid for it.

  4. Ben says:

    The right to recline ends where my knees begin. Any punch to the back of the head after that is self defence.

  5. John says:

    All these people whining about a bad back. I’m a Navy Vet and have an old back injury. Sitting upright for long haul flights is painful, but it the same time the slight recline does absolutely nothing to help or relieve that pain so I always try and break up the journey into shorter flights where possible. This is why I don’t see the point in anyone reclining. If I can bear it for the length of a flight and not cause the poor soul behind me absolute hell in the already cramped space then surely others can.

  6. Trev says:

    I’m 6″4 and as you said I’m probably only just considered tall with my friends, but not by all that much. All my male friends and family are over 6 foot, and flying is made absolute hell for all of us by god damn recliners. Just do what I do and cram your legs into the seat on front without spreading your legs. Then, when the person in front of you attempts to recline they won’t be able to as your knees act as a locking mechanism.

  7. Aaron says:

    I can’t believe this issue has cropped up again! It is literally every few years an incident goes viral. I’m with you, just ban them and these incidents won’t happen.

  8. John says:

    Definitely rude. I wish they would just ban them immediately.

  9. Dan says:

    Yes! There is no question now. Just ban them, then we can get rid of this ridiculous ‘it is the function of the seat’ argument.

  10. Pete says:

    Cant’ believe this issue has come up again. It is all the airlines fault!

  11. Chloe Gunner says:

    I have to agree with you. I’m not against reclining exactly but agree that the way things are now with the lack of room in economy it is just completely rude.

  12. Jim says:

    Did you hear about the new flat beds in economy on some airlines? What’s your take on them?

  13. Neil says:

    I’ve watched the viral video of the woman reclining and followed this case with a lot of interest, especially now that she seems intent on suing anyone and everyone on that plane. Honestly I really hope she does for one very important reason. I agree with you wholeheartedly that she was far more in the wrong than the guy was (even though they were both petulant children) but what he did by the absolute technical letter of the law was assault. Now if she sues him he can COUNTER sue and claim that SHE assaulted him by reclining into him, and on balance she was far more the aggressor and far more likely to lose that case. If that happens then there would finally be a precedent for all recliners to be hit with assault charges. Can you imagine how quickly airlines would get rid of reclining seats then? 😂

    • That is an excellent point Neil, I’d love to see some precedent on that myself! By the very definition she and her supporters are using, they are assaulting people every single time they recline, not to mention invading someone’s personal space, which can technically be seen as assault in and of itself.

    • Sean says:

      If what she did was technically assault, then surely the guy can claim self defence?

    • Mez says:

      And what about the fact that she definitely broke the airlines behaviour policy and possibly privacy laws by filming him and then just putting it out on social media? Surely that can be counted as slander too? I really don’t think she has thought this through properly!

    • Martin says:

      This woman (and I refrain from using any other word out of politeness) is definitely just looking for an easy payday!

    • Scott says:

      The guy should have just started coughing all over the top of her head! If she didn’t like that she can remove herself from her space! Haha!

    • Lee says:

      To be fair that woman seems completely unhinged on Twitter. She’s fighting with everyone now! 😀

  14. Jake says:

    The best solution for all concerned is to either fit non reclining seats or lock the current seats so they don’t recline. A very cheap and easy solution to all of this mess.

  15. I quite agree. No reclining.

    I’m very sorry for the lady in the video though because that man was extremely aggressive so he was in the wrong too.

    At the end of the day, economy flights are going to be awful and we’re all pretty much in the same position of discomfort, so for etiquette and personal space awareness, don’t recline.

    If you need more space, choose to fly business class.

    p.s. Kudos to airlines moving towards “fixed” seats!

    • Agree on every point! Yeah they both absolutely acted like children, I wouldn’t call him any more aggressive than she was, prodding the back of a chair is not aggressive at all and was a reaction to her selfish action. But as you say we are all in the same boat, knowing what reclining does to those behind you is just rude. Recliners have no right not to expect a reaction now. I can’t wait for the day that all flights are non recline!

  16. Carl says:

    Would this be considered as not social distancing now? 😂

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