By Steve Hopkins
‘Should I pay extra for seats with more legroom so that people in front of me can recline?’
Reclining a seat on a plane is the small relief that makes a journey almost tolerable for most travellers.
But one passenger has ignited a fierce debate around etiquette, by suggesting that travellers who put their seats back in economy are “annoying and inconsiderate”.
Writing on Reddit, where many seat debates have taken place in recent months in the AmITheA****** sub-reddit, a man, who is 6’5, explained that he normally buys economy tickets for shorter flights as he has “no issue being uncomfortable for a while”, even though he has long legs.
The man added that he takes “care to never intrude on other people’s space around me”, but on a recent 4-hour international flight he had his “knees crammed into the seat in front of me”.
He explained: “The passenger directly in front of me tried to recline, but realised that my knees were preventing her from doing so.
“She turned around, gave me a dirty look, and attempted to recline again with more force. I was a little annoyed but apologised and told her I could not move my legs out of the way without encroaching on the spaces beside me.”
He explained that required him to move his legs to the side “into other people’s spaces”.
The man said the person in front accused him of “doing this on purpose just because I wanted more room for myself, calling me an a****** and saying that if I could not fit into a normal economy plane seat that I should pay extra for an emergency exit seat so that people around me can have more free space”.
At this point in the story, the man made a rather contentious statement, saying: “If I’m honest, I feel that people who recline their seats in economy are annoying and inconsiderate, so I didn’t exactly bend over backwards to accommodate for her.”
The man was clear that he did not check if the flight had any extra emergency exit seats, as, usually, “I do not often run into issues with seats beside me, although this issue with people in front of me not being able to recline has occurred before, though not always, and has earned me some dirty looks from those in front of me in the past”.
He concluded the post by saying: “So, am I the a******? Should I pay extra for seats with more legroom so that people in front of me can recline even though this is not always a problem?”
It prompted more than 3,000 comments.
And people were divided.
One wrote: “As a frequent traveller on 14-hour flights and short enough that I can stretch my legs out in economy, I will say that people who recline are a*******.”
“Someone almost snapped my laptop because it was on the tray table and I had to slam it shut before they reclined. I don’t know why you’d design them that way but honestly, between being kicked by kids behind and having a seat slammed into my face if I try to lean forward to stretch my back, there’s never a time where reclining is more comfortable than the inconvenience they cause.”
Another said: “Unpopular opinion but reclining the seat full-back is just rude these days. The lack of space between seats these days is appalling. I’ll try to get one with more leg room but it’s not always possible.”
But lots of people said they needed to recline seats for their health.
One person wrote: “Some of us have medical issues (scoliosis in my case) that make it unbearable to sit fully upright for long spans of time. It takes several days of pain for my back and neck to recover to their normal pain level after travelling and being unable to recline the seat.”
Another added: “I need to recline in any flight that’s more than 4 hrs or I won’t be able to walk straight for 2 days after the flight, there are some airlines I won’t take because the seats recline too little to avoid my back pain.”
The original poster later wrote in the comments: “I might be the a****** because I realise that people ordinarily have some room to recline on flights and that if they get me behind them, then they are just unlucky and they can’t. I worry that I am the a******, in other words, because my being behind people effectively takes away their ability to recline, which they normally would have.”
He also wrote under his original post: “Wow this was controversial—some people think it’s unacceptable to recline at all and others think it’s a basic right. I will keep this in mind on future flights.”