Reclining Seats vs. Non-Reclining Seats: What Passengers Can Do

We’ve heard plenty about fights breaking out over a very simple issue that can be summed up in two lines of dialog:

  • “You are reclining your seat in my space!”
  • “Too bad!”

In at least two cases we’re aware of, planes have been diverted which in turn disrupted the flight plans of everyone aboard. There are two better ways to handle this.

The Compromise Solution

Divide the flight time: If the flight lasts an hour, ask the person directly in front or behind you about splitting the time, so each gets 30 minutes in their preferred position. Agree to set your phone alarm when time’s up.

Working shift: If you must work on a laptop (and need the space a reclining seat would otherwise take up), be honest about how much time you’ll need. Agree ahead of time to a certain schedule and stick by it.

The Seat Switching Solution

If the person in front of you absolutely must recline, suggest the two of you swap seats. Even if you switch seats for a short period of time, it may be enough for both of you.

Note: If you can’t have a recliner in front of you, be sure to check out the seat position of the passenger in front of your nemesis; if they’re reclining as well, this will not work.

When All Else Fails

Don’t take matters into your own hands (unless you want to wind up as a ‘bad passenger’ item in FareCompare’s weekly Not Your Average Travel Stories). Push the call button and speak to a flight attendant. He or she may not want to play referee, but it is part of the job.

If that fails, remember that life is short and ask yourself, which you’d prefer: 1.) Being in a somewhat uncomfortable position for an hour or two. 2.) Showing up hours late to your destination when the flight was diverted due to adults acting like children.

We know what we’d pick. Tell us what you think.


Published: September 2, 2014