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

aeroplane reclining seats ban

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 airlines 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 too 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?

Cramped Airline seats

So why are recliners even still trying to justify the act of reclining their seat?

It’s your right to recline? 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.

Related Articldes

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. Berick says:

    I agree with your conclusion. However, 6’2 is not average for the Western Man, not even close. For the USA the average is 5’9. The Netherlands is generally ranked the Tallest Western Country at an average of 6′. Younger men may be somewhat taller, but not necessarily. In many countries the increase in height stopped or plateaued over the past few decades. But, again, I agree with your argument. I am 6’3 and have to worry about not just fitting into my seat but suffering knee injuries if I position them in the wrong place, either for a recliner in front of me or a beverage cart or rolling suitcase coming down the aisle. And that doesn’t even consider the Comfort factor of rising above the back of the headrest on the seat or trying to slide my feet under the seat in front.

    • To be fair Berick you are right, although that data is well over a decade old now. I’m an easy 6″2 in bare feet and I’m not exactly considered tall amongst my peers. But I do take your point. But yes, trying to fit into the seat at our height is only just doable now, recliners just make an already uncomfortable but dealable with experience intolerable. The last time someone slammed back on me suddenly I was limping for a full day after!

    • Helen says:

      I’m 5″9 as a woman and every male member of my family is at least 6 foot. The younger generations are 6″4, 6″5, so yeah I think those averages are skewed by older generations who are way shorter on average. The fact is that even an average 5″9 person like myself finds economy so uncomfortable now, any reclining into that shrunken space makes it intolerable and is just completely unneccessary. Ban them. Or stop recliners from flying.

  2. Paula says:

    I agree entirely. If there were some genuine understanding, consideration amd compromise I may feel different but there are just too many rude and selfish people who do as they please and think it is their right to do so, regardless of anyone else. Ban them.

  3. Alex says:

    Agreed! Glad to see more and more people thinking like this too.

  4. Alisa says:

    Peoples rudeness and lack of consideration never ceases to amaze me. I never used to think reclining was much of a problem years ago but now I agree with you, space is just to short and it shouldn’t be allowed.

  5. Chris Egan says:

    It’s very simple, you don’t get to decide who can and can’t recline or when. That’s up to the seat and the airline who installs the seat.

    • No Chris, that is up to common decency and manners, which recliners fail at every single time. And I guess people and the airlines ARE deciding with the increase in pre reclined seats. So enjoy the decision!

  6. Frank says:

    If you are not supposed to recline your seat why provide seats that recline? Blame the greedy airline not the passengers

    • Well the point is many aren’t anymore are they? Reclining seats are not appropriate in modern economy so many airlines are taking them out. For those who still have them in, recliners should realise the onus is on them not to be rude or obnoxious.

    • Lyndsey Davies says:

      So you think if I am provided a fork at mealtimes I should stab you in the head with it? That IS the function of the fork right? Why not use it? Because the use of anything also requires logic and consideration and the question is this appropriate in this situation! Which CLEARLY is no longer the case for reclining seats!

  7. Amy Woods says:

    I always recline. I find this debate absurd. If you weren’t supposed to recline seats, they wouldn’t recline.

    • Your were supposed to recline them, 30 years ago before they started shrinking seat pitch to what it is now. Now it is just rude and inconsiderate. I’m supposed to jab the screen with my finger, doesn’t mean I do it so hard and repeatedly you get whiplash, does it? Your entire argument is absurd.

  8. Caitlyn says:

    It’s your right to recline, you paid for it. I never recline because I feel it’s inconsiderate to the people behind me but I couldn’t yell at someone for reclining even if I hate it.

  9. Gia says:

    This entire argument is so stupid. I will always recline and I’m never going to change.

    • And that attitude is why a ban is needed, because you can never reason with selfish. Good luck reclining when all airlines have non reclining seats!

    • Chris Hoffman says:

      Selfish, selfish people. This is why everyone should start punching the back of the headrests when people recline. Selfishness doesn’t deserve consideration.

  10. Steph says:

    This is just pure ableism. I had a back injury & surgery that makes it difficult to sit upright. On a plane, being able to recline takes pressure off of my back. I shouldn’t have to declare that or justify why I want to recline.

    • Ableism! For crying out loud. As I said above if you have a condition that doesn’t allow you to use the chairs in their default sitting position safely, or without pain, then the onus is on you to make alternative arrangements like upgrading to business so you can recline or making shorter hops. It is not others responsibility to suffer for your condition.

  11. Michelle says:

    Love this! The comfort that is gained from a few inches of recline is minimal compared to the discomfort and pain I feel with long legs at 5’10.

  12. Tara says:

    Exactly! Why should the person in front of me get more comfort at my expense? Just pure selfishness.

  13. Paul says:

    Yes! Hate recliners.

  14. Tammy says:

    I saw that video too. I recline all the way and make no apologies for it. And if that guy had of punched the back of my seat he would have had his ass wooped!

  15. Brianna says:

    I personally hate it when people recline. I’m pretty small at 5″6 and pretty thin built and it’s still really stifling so I can only imagine what it is like for taller/larger people. And for those sitting by the window it’s almost impossible to get out of seat if one front seat is reclined let alone all of them.

  16. Alan says:

    People pay for their ticket they should be able to recline. No permission needed.

  17. Kim says:

    If you don’t want them to recline make the seats not to recline. Simple. Since they do, fine to recline.

  18. Kathrine says:

    Agree with you completely. I never recline out of courtesy, spaces are just too short now. Doesn’t stop idiots leaning back into my space though. Love your idea about reclining spaces only at the back (although the front would work too if it only went to the exit row seat).

  19. Bonnie says:

    I specifically get exit row and bulkhead seats where I can because they recline and do not have a seat that reclines in front of them.

    • So you are double selfish on both fronts then? You don’t want people to recline into you, but will happily recline into them, and then deny someone else that seat who is probably taller than you and doesn’t want a recliner in front of them? Seriously the selfishness of people is just shocking sometimes.

  20. Lisa says:

    Unfortunately passengers who are nice and curteous are stuck between a rock an a hard place. We have no power to do anything in return because the air crew ignore us and tgese rude individuals have no qualms about goung on the attack if we even ask nicely. Sometimes theres nothing you can do but accept that people are selfish. This is why I agree with banning reclining completely.

  21. Gary says:

    I don’t care what anyone says. I’m reclining and you can all like it or lump it.

  22. Sam says:

    Who cares? This is such a stupid issue. Its not even like it changes the amount of space you are able to use. Read a book and relax!

  23. Mac says:

    They should disable or completely replace recliner seats on flights, there is just no need for them.

  24. Will says:

    How can anyone not think it is anything but selfish to recline?

  25. Joe says:

    Just how much extra comfort does reclining actually get you anyway? I never recline.

  26. Siobhan says:

    Ban them I say. My last flight the Ahole in front reclined the second the plane was in the air and kept it reclined the entire flight. Even during meals. I asked the air crew to help and they did ask but he refused. They then just shrugged and avoided us. How can this be right?

  27. John says:

    I can’t wait to see all these recliners faces when all flights have fixed seats (It will happen). I’ll drink a big cup of their tears in front of them!

  28. Pam says:

    I never recline my seat in consideration of the person in back of me. It is just pure common courtesy at this point. No one has any room now in economy so why make it harder in someone else? My husband is tall and I see how badly it affects him.

  29. Rebecca says:

    Hands up for the recliner hate club here too.

  30. Henry says:

    Reclining decades ago when there was adequate room was fine. Reclining now is just textbook entitlement.

  31. Lorraine says:

    If airlines provide seats that recline, then you should be able to do so. I saw that video and the mans behaviour is horrific. My parents taught me manners and if it bothers the person behind you than that person should speak up politely and ask to bring the seat back up, not act like a damn child.

  32. Nicki Adams says:

    I’d say it is okay IF you ask if the person behind you minds if you recline and only if they say yes. If not then don’t. The space between seats is already tiny

  33. Heather Spellman says:

    This is all completely down to the airlines and their reduction of seat space. Why are people so angry at people reclining who are just as uncomfortable as they are? They should be angry at the airlines who dont value our health or well being, and have no respect for us. I have to recline and I’m not a millionaire so I cant fly first class or business.

    • Yes the airlines are at fault here too Heather. Unfortunately I’m not a millionaire either and I NEED space for my knees to fit without being painfully crushed, so since I can use the seat in its default function and you can’t, why does your need trump mine? If you have trouble with the default seat in economy it is you who should be upgrading to get the comfort of reclining.

    • Alan says:

      Oh, well if you HAVE to recline, weĺl never mind the rest of us eh? You just carry on princess. Get comfortable. We’ll all just be back here suffering.

  34. Susan says:

    The seats recline!! If airlines don’t want passengers to recline, stop the seats from reclining!

  35. Bailey says:

    Some of the selfish answers here. SMH. How hard is it to understand that the shrunken space in economy is not suitable for recliners any more? This is just common sense!

  36. Ramone says:

    I am so sick and tired of people saying ‘well they are supposed to recline’. I really don’t give a shit if the seats recline. The plane doors open, doesn’t mean you should do it mid flight. The plane has a button to call the crew, d9esn’t mean you press it non stop. It is called common sense you absolute idiots! I don’t understand why people think that it’s okay to have their seat smashing someone’s knees behind them. That hurts. A lot! Now THAT is assault. Unlike what this idiot woman in the video is now claiming for a nice big payout. Recliners make me sick.

  37. Peter Freidman says:

    Everyone likes to recline their seat on the plane. Why are people getting upset?

  38. Kevin says:

    Notice its usually the short people bagging all the extra leg room seats and then STILL reclining? Absolute scum.

  39. Nicola Turner says:

    But what about long flights? You need to re line on them to sleep surely?

    • Nope, I take long flights all the time and I can sleep sat up no problem. If I have a window seat I will lean into the window but if not I can manage. Is it perfect? Of course not. But that is the situation we ALL find ourselves in in the default position in cramped and uncomfortable economy, it IS doable and I don’t make anyone else’s situation even worse.

  40. Olivia Jacobs says:

    Wow, the sheer number of people with absolutely no consideration for anyone else commenting about their ‘right to recline’ or ‘their comfort’ as if they are the only ones who matter, and then can’t see how that is the definition of selfish?! WTF?

  41. Emma says:

    I am totally with you. Ban all reclining seats now. I’m only small but on my last flight some dude reclined all the way back and it was horrible, cramped and I couldn’t move to get out. At least I wasn’t having my legs crushed (I’m 5″4) but it was still horrible. People are just the absolute worst.

  42. Vicky says:

    Yes the airlines are all at fault but surely people have a responsibility to be considerate too?

  43. Alex says:

    Is it really so hard just to not be a completr arsehole? All flyers should now recognize the limited space in economy and understand that their comfort should not come at the expense of anyone else. If you can’t handle that, pay to upgrade your seat.

  44. Matthew says:

    I fly a lot, at least once a month and I think it is incredibly rude when the person in front of me reclines. I know, the seats are built with the ability to recline, but that doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

  45. Dave says:

    Recliner: I paid for my seat I’ll do what I want!
    Translation: I paid for the privilege to treat you like shit and act like insufferable scum so suck it.

  46. Mary says:

    I have a bad back and find it extremely uncomfortable to sit upright. I need to recline the seat.

    • So? I have sore knees when you recline! I need you to stop squashing me and sit up. If you have a pre existing condition that means you can’t sit in economy in the default position everyone else sits in, then it is your responsibility to make arrangements and upgrade.

      • Kyle says:

        So you’re ok with someone reclining in front of you as long as they don’t touch your knees? Wow, how absolutely charitable of you. Should they get written and signed permission too? Everyone has the right to recline as far back as they want. Screw your comfort. And most people can’t afford 1st class you prick.

      • Well don’t you just sound lovely Kyle? And yes if everyone asked permission and asked could they recline just slightly to the point it would start pressing on and hurting my knees then stop, yes I would compromise with that. But in twenty years of travel I can count on the times recliners have been that polite on one hand. So yes they better get permission, and no they don’t have the right. Try reading the article.

  47. James says:

    Just because it’s an option doesn’t mean it should be used.

  48. Karen says:

    I fly a lot, always in coach. I never recline and I always pray the person in front of me doesn’t as well. Its such a selfish thing to do.

  49. Steve. says:

    Recliners in general should be shoved into a confined space and tortured for 3 days. Recliners who flop back without warning should be boiled in oil after that. Recliners who flop righ4 back for the whole flight should hace all that done while being castrated. Or sodomized. Or both

  50. Louisa says:

    It is YOUR RIGHT TO RECLINE! If airlines don’t expect you to recline then they shouldn’t offer reclining seats!

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