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Awesome Etiquette: Please Return Your Seat To The Upright Position

If at all possible, it's best not to recline your airplane seat to avoid encroaching on the space of the passenger behind you.
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If at all possible, it's best not to recline your airplane seat to avoid encroaching on the space of the passenger behind you.

We recently fielded a question about something many of us have struggled with when flying. A listener shared that, while traveling recently, he reclined his airplane seat just a bit in order to relieve some back pain. The passenger behind him was not too happy about this and proceeded to bump the chair and extend a leg on the armrest. So what is proper etiquette for reclining on a plane?   

This is such a gray area. It's your seat which you paid a lot of money for and it's made to recline. On the other hand, you need to consider that a small seat adjustment becomes an imposition on the person behind you if they're eating or working on a laptop.

We've been discussing this topic for a long time and have come to the conclusion that it's not considerate to put your seat back if you can help it. Rather than reclining, try some of these tips:

  • Lean forward onto your tray-table or adjust your hips to get relief
  • Put a sweater or blanket behind your back for additional support
  • If you suffer from back problems, consider investing in a seat with extra leg room so you can recline
  • If you must recline, turn around to let the person behind you know that it won't be for long

The rude behavior our listener experienced, when his chair was being bumped and a foot was placed on the armrest, was definitely uncalled for. In these confined situations, you do have more license to let others know when they're encroaching on your space, but how you do it is very important. If we all take a breath, put a smile on and give each other some extra latitude, we'll all be a little better off in these tight spaces.
If you have an etiquette question for us, send it to:

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