Travel Etiquette: Do you recline your airplane seat?

Travel Etiquette: Do you recline your airplane seat?

Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Amanda Stancati

We asked, you answered! 

Is reclining your seat on an airplane OK or not? Do you ask permission? Are there social cues? What if you’re on a long-haul flight and you want to be comfortable? What if your legs are getting squished in an already tight seat?

I NEVER recline my seat. I think it’s inconsiderate to the person behind me. I would like to see airlines do away with the reclining seats. Comfortable? That word really doesn’t apply to anyone outside business class, sadly. – Lori

I haven’t traveled much, just for a bereavement. I did ask because I heard someone else complain and I realized that the fold down tray for food or whatever was there and interfere with their comfort. – Nora

I find, in regard to reclining my seat, a simple turn around and ask “Is it ok if I tilt my chair back a bit” usually eliminates most concerns. It also lets me see if there is something on their tray that may spill or fall. A bigger issue for me is when kids seated behind me continually kick the back of my seat. The same concept though holds true, a simple turn around and ask to stop usually works. – Peter

My wife, Anita, and I just booked a two week vacation in Costa Rica, through your Fairview St. location. We selected seats in the emergency exit area to get more leg room. These seats do not recline so we don’t have to worry about the people sitting behind us. – Bill

I recline if the person behind me reclines. Sometimes I ask. On shorter trips I don’t usually bother and now on longer ones I have gotten used to those neck pillows so I don’t need to recline – Nancy

Every second year I travel to Europe and every year this flight seems to be longer and longer….you definitely need recline your seat especially on long flights and if you like to sleep. It’s the airlines that make flying more and more uncomfortable as they like to maximize their profit. – Teresa

I believe that airlines should design seats that cause little or no discomfort for the person behind you. I have worn an entire meal in my lap from the jerk seated in front of me. And no apologies either. – Yvonne

When travelling, I am very conscious of those in front of me and behind, also….I hate it when the seat ahead of me is practically in my lap!!!! Having short legs is to my advantage in these situations – perhaps short legged passengers should pay less!!! – Kelly

I don’t find it makes that big of a difference whether their seat is up or back. Maybe I haven’t flown on flights that the seats recline very far. – Teresa

I have flown commercially for over 50 years. Way back when, when there was lots of room between seats, the reclining of the seat in front affected me very little. I am a large person now. When the person in front reclines, I am hemmed in to the point where if I was claustrophobic, I would have a serious anxiety moment. Can’t recall the number of times the person in front reclined their seat, only to sit leaned forward anyway. With the ongoing reduction in per seat space allowance, I think the time has come for seats to have fixed seatbacks. If someone needs that extra seatback angle adjustment, offer it in the premium class seating, and let those who insist on this feature pay for it. I get especially annoyed with those who recline their seats before the wheels even turn to leave the gate, in spite of the attempts by the cabin crew to get them to keep their seatback upright. – Wally

Share your point of view in the comments below!


  1. I have a bad back and need to recline my seat for comfort.

    • What about the person with bad knees behind you who has to sit with his knees scrunched up to his chest? I’m sure a 2 inch recline really doesn’t make that much difference to your back.

      • yup … it does

        • me me me me me me!

  2. Totally agree with Wally’s comment that it is now time for the airlines to do away with reclining seats. Offer them in first class where there is more room between rows. I bet there would be a lot of people who suddenly realize that little bit of recline really doesn’t make that much difference to their comfort.

  3. I suffer from severe migraines and have to have my seatback reclined. I only recline as much as I need to so I can relieve the strain on my neck. I certainly do not think I should have to pay for premium seating because of a medical condition.

    • Reclining your seat will do absolutely no difference to your migraines. Your looking for sympathy! Just take your pills and don’t let it out on other people. If your medical condition is that bad than yes, you should pay for premium seating!

  4. I am over 6 feet tall. When seated in many planes my knees are against the back of the seat in front of me. More than once the person in front has violently slammed their seat back into my knees as they try to recline but cannot because there is simply no room due to my height and length of my legs. Sorry you are not comfortable when you cannot recline, but there is nothing I can do about the length of my legs and I am never comfortable in crowded planes even if seats are not reclined

    • travel business then…

      • Why should I have to pay business class prices because the length of my legs makes it impossible for the person in front to recline. Perhaps the passengars who expect reclining seats should have to pay a premium price or fly business class for the added perk of a reclining seat.

  5. Better seats but they don’t have to recline.


  7. I am over 6 feet tall, had my knee replaced twice, and yes i always pay more the the bigger seat or the longer leg room, but sometimes it is never enough.

  8. The way I see it is that if people have a problem with leg space on a plane or too tight a seat ,then they should fly First class! Yes it might cost a little more but you have nothing to complain about . As for the seats reclining ,you really have to be polite about it. I have had the person in front of me suddenly recline their seat while I am eating.(Making my tray fall on to me.)If you are in a short flight ,like four hours or less ,there is no reason why you would need to recline your seat and make it harder on your fellow passengers. Basically just be polite

  9. I have neck issues and cannot sit straight up like that for long periods, reclining my seat is a must and is the person behind stretches their legs forward knees should not hit seat back.

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