Reclining Seat Rules

March 26, 2010

in Flying Hell Commentary

While I don’t like it when they person in front of me reclines their seat, there is not much I can do about it. Some will argue that since the seat reclines, they have a right to use that function. Some will argue that they paid to have enough room to survive a flight, and it is rude for someone to recline their seat into that space. Some obviously complain when the reclining seat causes them pain. These are kind of gray areas where each side has an argument to make, but I think there are a few things that are more black and white. Here is a (partial) list compiled from my own experiences:

1) If you must put your seat back, don’t SLAM it back. I’ve had my laptop shoved painfully into my chest. On another occasion, the seat broke the hinge on my laptop screen. On other occasions, I’ve had my knees crushed because I wasn’t given time to get them out of the way.

2) Once your seat is back, please don’t bounce in your seat. You have my legs pinned and when you bounce, it hurts! On a recent flight, I was seated behind a young woman who put her seat back and then spent half her time sitting straight up in the seat. Every 2 or 3 minutes: BAM! She would fall back against her seat back causing me significant pain. The way she was figeting, I thought she was a young teen, but when the flight was over and she turned around to get her stuff, it turns out she was actually the adult mother of the kid sitting (still) next to her. Which brings me to my next point:

3) If you must put your seat back, at least USE IT while it is in the reclined position. It is upsetting to be pinned behind the seat of someone who has it reclined, while they spend the whole time sitting straight up. Even if it is your “right” to put the seat back, basic consideration should dictate that you understand that you are making the person behind you uncomfortable. So if you are not going to USE the reclined seat, then please put it in the upright position.

4) Please don’t dump your hair over the back of the seat. This has happened to me more than once, where I end up with someone’s hair in my lap. Unpleasant. A few years ago I was sitting behind a woman with very long hair. She put her seat back and then flipped her hair over the seat, where it covered the book I had in my lap. I asked her to move her hair to her own side of the seat, which earned me a dirty look. An hour later, she did it again. Again I asked her to move it. The third time, I got her back. Well, actually she got herself back for me. I had my airline meal on my tray, and she dumped her hair right into my dinner, which thankfully, included gravy. I might have made sure that most of the hair resting on my tray got it’s ride in the gravy, but I can’t remember for sure ;-).

5) Finally, do not think you are so special that you can put your seat back during take off and landing. Besides the fact that you are disobeying the orders of the cabin crew, violating FAA regulations and creating a safety hazard, these are the two brief periods in the flight where you unequivocally DON”T have a right to have your seat back. Since you are going to crush my legs for the next five hours, at least grant me these few (legally required) minutes of respite.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot… just as it is your right to put your seat back, it is my right to use my reading light and air jet. The fact that you have placed your head in the path of both is not my problem.

– Demotage

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Clare March 26, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Very nicely done, Demotage. I especially enjoyed the hair/gravy part. 🙂


King Herod March 26, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Good for you and your revenge on the hair flipper.

I don't think that seats should recline these days anyhow, with airlines stuffing us in like sardines.


Gregg - admin March 26, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Demotage actually wrote a story about the hair flipper: Hair Flipper Freaks Over Gooey Mess<a/>.


Love It! March 26, 2010 at 6:22 pm

I honestly do not get it. Flipping your hair over the seat is just asking for something oh-not-nice to end up in it!


TheBigM March 26, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Well said! Makes sense to me!


Jon March 27, 2010 at 5:29 am

Rule 6 should be that the seat is put up during the meal.


DeltaFoxtrot March 27, 2010 at 10:32 am

Jon – what meal?? 🙂


Jon March 28, 2010 at 12:46 am

The flights I go on to, from, and within the UK all have some form of meal or snack. (I should note that I don't fly on the no frills airlines.)


Jodi March 29, 2010 at 4:06 am

I have really long hair and I admit it hurts when I sit back and pull my own hair, but I flip it over my own shoulder, not the back of the seat! That’s just wrong not to mention totally gross!


AppleKornKid March 29, 2010 at 10:14 am

Great stuff, all very good points. As iritating as it is when people put their seats back I do realize that it is their "right to do so" I just don't make it a pleasant experience for them. i.e. I bump, squirm, jostle, breath on the back of their head..etc…


Teddy March 30, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Yeah, reclining seat etiquette is tricky. I personally make sure the person behind me is passed out before I bother to lean back.

In addition, I usually go for window seats. There's an addition few inches between the seat and the wall that allows you to use the wall to sleep on.


scubapups April 1, 2010 at 2:02 pm

I think you shouldn't recline on a flight of less than 2 hours (unless it's after 9 p.m.) It's just common sense on planes with more rows than they were designed to carry. And about the dangly hair: eeewwwww! I've had it a few times too. I'm really sensitive to stinky hair. I've noticed that the most egregious recliners have the smelliest hair!


xxx April 11, 2013 at 9:54 pm

ahh the hair flippers,

i like to open my tray table then close it on the hair, then take a nice 15-20 minutes bathroom break.


Stories April 15, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Great list. Should be sent out to all flyers


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