Reclining Seat Vs. Long Legs

October 5, 2007

in Seat Stories

I was on a flight from Dallas to San Jose, CA. The pilot had just turned off the fasten seatbelt sign, and the man in front of me tried to recline his seat. I say tried to, because I am six feet tall, sitting in a window seat, and there was no way he could recline without crushing my legs.

I said to him that he could not recline his seat and explained why. A flight attendant overheard me, and said, “You’re kidding, right?” I replied that I was not, and explained why. She said “You can’t tell another passenger they can’t recline their seat. He has the right to recline.” I said ,”So I don’t have the right to fly without extreme pain because my legs are crushed by his seat?”

Anyway, after that I dropped it, because I didn’t want to get in trouble for arguing with a flight attendant. The man in front of me understood, and had no problem. I thought the flight attendant was rude. So next time you can’t recline your seat, look behind you! Passengers have a right to recline, but all passengers have a right to be as comfortable as possible. There has to be compromise somewhere!

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

mitch May 6, 2008 at 12:07 pm

I was on an AA flight where the passenger in front of me jammed her seat suddenly into my knees. I'm 6'3". The lovely metal wire that holds the magazines inplace jammed into that nice soft spot on my knees. I reflexivley screamed in pain ans shoved her seat back into the uproght positoin. She called the stewardess who told me that the passenger has a "right" to recline. I replied that i had a right to get home with my knees intact.

The Stwardess ran away muttering under her breath "work it out."


paul July 8, 2008 at 12:10 pm

you people amaze me.

you have the right to be comfortable as you want?

you people have such a fanciful sense of what you deserve and what your rights are…

look at it this way, you have the rights given by the law.. that's it. if you want more rights, go vote for it.

while you are at it, why don't you say you have the right to own a ferrari and deserve to make million dollars a year?

you paid for the economy seat. you got that seat. so did others. if you are unhappy about it, try to change it by letting your money do the talking. any idiot knows this is all about business, money talks..

of course, you have the right to get not injured, but you can simply move your knees…

we only have ourselves to blame the state of economy flights.. the bargain hunting is what drove the airlines to what it is..


md July 15, 2008 at 2:47 pm

cheers Paul!

I bet this guy wanted to buy a luxury sedan for the price of a compact because his legs were too big for the compact.

But seriously…I sympathize with the fact that very tall people are at a disadvantage when it comes to the space between rows. But again…when you get your ticket…you can always explain your situtation to a gate agent and attempt to get a seat in a exit row, or other location that has more room. Heck…if you bat your eyelashes enough, and you are truly that tall and they see that, you might get lucky with a seat in first class.

Be proactive…not reactive!


GenXer July 16, 2008 at 8:48 am

I always look behind me before reclining my seat. If everything looks clear (e.g., the person behind me isn't eating or the person behind me doesn't have long, long legs) I will recline slowly.

It's true that each passenger has the "right" to recline their seat. However, if there are physical limitations (like the person behind you being 6'4") then you will just have to live with it for a few hours. Grow up, people.


empii73 July 29, 2008 at 11:58 am

uuuuugh…such pettyish people complaining


mj November 22, 2008 at 2:57 pm

If you are 6 ft 4 in tall, don't make that another passenger's problem. You have to make a decision if you want to take the squeeze in economy class. I know someone about 250 lbs and although not wealthy always travels business class. If you choose economy and your there is not enough room for your knees, you can't deprive the person in front of reclining and getting his rest


ss November 24, 2008 at 11:37 am

It is funny to me that folks say you are 'entitled' to recline and that it is the fault of the tall person that thier knees get hit, but then the same folks don't have the same issue with 'portly passengers.' If I have to put up with them in my seat, then the person in front of me can give up a portion of the possible recline to save my knees.


Kevin April 2, 2009 at 9:44 am

How about this as a happy medium. For the d-bags that insist on reclining….. Can you please not SLAM the seat back and do it slowly????? My knees would appreciate it.


Dave July 30, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Personally, I hope that anyone in front of a person like you, who calls those who want to recline their seats "d-bags," slams the seat back as fast as possible.


Joe April 2, 2009 at 11:34 am

You have the right to get a first class ticket if you want to be comfortable.

I have never seen such whining from people.

It was nice that the guy in front was reasonable and kept his chair upright. I would have done the same, but he was under no obligation and you have no "right" to be comfortable. Travel by train or car next time.


widebody April 2, 2009 at 11:40 am

the seats move only a few inches. its really not that much more comfortable to recline them. I leave mine fully upright if someone is behind me. which is usually always.


Please April 2, 2009 at 11:47 am

OK, people. Flying isn't what it used to be. If we think of it as a "glorified bus," maybe we will all adjust our attitudes accordingly.


Flyer April 2, 2009 at 11:53 am

There are rules – even social rules, and if we do not abide by them, and hurt someone in the process, we are being rude to that person. However, as the flight attendant will tell you, as common sense should tell you: the rule here is that you are allowed to recline your seat. Therefore, if you recline and someone else is inconvenienced, it is not optimal for everyone, but it's life, and not the person who recline's fault. As for Kevin, I agree that we should recline slowly, but recline none the less.

Again, for all the tall people (including my husband, who is 6'3" and hates the recline, but fully accepts it b/c he can recline as well), you can get a first class seat with more room. So can the portly passengers. I know not all seats recline, but life's not fair. I get the non-reclined seats at times, and so will you. This does not mean the person in front of should be penalized.


34 April 2, 2009 at 12:51 pm

FYI…you don't have to wait until they turn off the seatbelt sign to recline your seat. You can do it as soon as the plane is off the ground.


Anonymous April 2, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Would people stop bitching about the other passengers and COMPLAIN TO THE AIRLINE. It's the airline's fault that they had to shoehorn an extra row or two of seats at the expense of a reasonable amount of room for passengers.


seat fighter April 2, 2009 at 2:23 pm

why do people always talk about rights, I thought we were talking about rude behavior. Go to a law website and talk about rights. It is sometimes rude to put your seat back all the way, along with many other things that you have the right to do.


Eric April 2, 2009 at 1:40 pm

You can tell who are the recliners and who aren't, can't you?!

I agree the person in front of me has the right to recline. If it bumps my knees, that's my tough luck. BUT, if that means I have to move my knees a lot, and if that means my knees keep pushing his set forward, then letting it snap back, well, that's sort of HIS tough luck, isn't it?

And if, because of the lack of space, I bang the back of his seat when I stand up to stretch, well, that's his problem too.


Dave July 30, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Eric, you sound like a baby.

I hope the person in front of you keeps putting their seat up and slamming it down on your knees. That would be your problem.


C April 2, 2009 at 1:53 pm

I had this exact situation occur on a flight in January, only I was the one reclining. The lady behind me screeched about how tall she was and how I squashed her legs. I moved over a seat because there was an empty seat in my row, but not before gently suggesting she should probably NOT BOOK A WINDOW SEAT in the future. The aisle seat…better yet the EXIT ROW has far more room for long legs. I NEVER book my 6'3" son in a window seat because it's NOT COMFORTABLE. One person's comfort does not override another's. If you need more room…make arrangements for it, don't expect others to sacrifice their comfort and space for your lack of planning.


Accipiter April 2, 2009 at 1:53 pm


If selfish people exercise their 'right' to recline their seat into the knees of tall people without any consideration for the comfort of others, then we tall people have the right to brace our knees against the back of their seat when they try to recline and prohibit them from doing so.


Dave July 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Poor tall baby. You keep your knees braced there for the entire flight.

The one thing I conclude from this thread is that tall people are children who cannot handle it when they don't get their own way.


Sumner April 2, 2009 at 6:09 pm

"One person's comfort does not override another's." Perfectly put!

The point isn't who has a RIGHT to do something. The point is what is the RIGHT thing to do. And, significantly impacting someone else's comfort so you can gain a small amount of comfort by reclining your chair is rude and insensitive.

C'mon people…we're all in this together. Let's try to show a little reasonable sensitivity to others people's comfort.


Collin April 2, 2009 at 6:41 pm

There is a comprimise: it's called first class. Get a ticket, big guy.


Sumner April 3, 2009 at 4:06 am

We all know that this discussion could go on forever and nobody would convince the other side that their opinion was wrong. Still, it's amazing to me how many people in this discussion take a "F-You" attitude to other people. No wonder rudeness is rampant.


Thomas April 3, 2009 at 11:45 am

Being 6' tall is no excuse for someone in front of you not reclining their seat. I am 6'3" and I despise it when the person in front of me reclines their seat but there is nothing I can do about it. They purchased the ticket and there is an option to recline your seat. Not to mention that I like to recline mine too. Even at 6'3" I manage albeit, it can be unpleasant for much of the time.


TallHaul April 3, 2009 at 10:57 pm

I am 6'8" but I do not mind if people recline on me or my bony, flexible knees. People should stretch and complain instead of just complaining.


TravMD April 7, 2009 at 8:45 am

I have never asked another passenger not to recline even on BA where their head practically ends up in your lap.


Laura Cardwell May 28, 2009 at 8:05 pm

I'm really happy to be petite. This will never happen to me.

It really is an awful catch-22 though, with planes designed for Japanese sized people in a world where everyone's getting bigger. The average Dutch man is 6'2 yet KLM's seats are the same size as Japan Airlines.


Sigh February 16, 2010 at 2:43 am

People are stubborn. If after 20 minutes of struggling to push your seat back into someone else's knees does not work, get a clue. Hint: there's a human body there.


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