In Travel on Wednesday 11th Apr, 2018

To recline, or not to recline: The great plane seat debate

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Have you ever reclined your seat on a plane, only to be welcomed with several smart remarks or a swift kick in the back of the chair? The questions of to recline, or not recline is one many modern-day travellers are faced with during a flight. 

Like most things, there’s a certain etiquette around reclining your seat on a flight, but unfortunately not everyone abides by it. 

If you’ve ever been trying to eat your meal only to have the person in front of you shoot their chair backwards, you may be against the seat recline, even if it’s just for meal time. 

It’s caused brawls on planes, screaming matches between passengers and the invention of a controversial device called the knee defender, which limits the extent to which the seat directly infront can be reclined. 

So is it rude to recline? 

Well, it’s often expected that your seat remains upright during meal times whenever someone is behind you (particularly in economy class), but during the rest of the flight, however, it’s fair game. 

Traveller writer Ben Groundwater explained how he was on an overnight from the Gold Coast to Tokyo recently, “when there was a visious kick” to the back of his girlfriend’s chair. 

He wrote: “She looked around, and the guy in the seat behind her began ranting about how she couldn’t recline her chair because he didn’t have enough room, and then tried to forcefully move it back to the upright position.”

Unfortunately, the man “didn’t give up” and continued to kick her chair throughout the flight, and “even hiss insults in the darkness”.

Groundwater argued that the person infront of you is “absolutely allowed” to recline their seat, and if you don’t like it “recline your seat aswell”. 

“For anyone who doesn’t like it, there’s only one solution. It’s called business class,” he wrote. 

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened on a flight. In 2016, police were called to escort two people off a Jetstar flight, after a fight broke out mid-air over a reclined seat. And in 2014, two passengers were kicked off a United Airlines flight because one passenger was using the knee defender. 

In January, British Airways introdued non-reclining seats, to avoid the inevitable confrontation between passengers. On flights up to four hours, economy passengers will sit in a position described by the airline as “pre-reclined at a gentle angle”, with no option to change that angle. 

If you’re on a long-haul flight and you’re planning to pop your seat back, Smarter Travel says to always “glance behind”.

Why? It lets you make sure you’re not going to break anyone’s knee caps in the process, gives the person behind you warning that the seat is on its way down and lets you find out who is behind you. If the person is all legs, the site says “you might show some mercy”. 

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