A reader, Karen, actually inspired this post by sharing her frustrations of the passenger behind her becoming angry when she reclined her seat back during a long flight. I too, have had several accounts where passengers behind me have rudely nudged my seat, telling me to move forward. I even had a scenario where the man behind me “told on me” and had the flight attendant ask me to move my seat forward for the passenger-behind-me’s comfort. What’s the right thing to do here?
I understand common courtesy, such as moving your reclined seat up during meal time, when the person behind you needs to use the restroom, or if their knee caps are buckled under the back of your seat, but when is it fair to have to “sleep” completely upright because of the person behind you when the rest of the plane is reclined in dreamland?
The way I see it is, I “purchase” the seat; therefore, I should be able to use all of the seat’s features, including the pre-set recline feature. I respect the person behind me, but they should also expect the person in front of them to recline as they please.
Reader Karen C., from Texas, comments, “As a frequent flyer, I have been approached on several occasions by the passenger behind me and asked to ‘sit up.’ One time in particular was in economy on a flight from Thailand to the US when I had thankfully dozed off in the middle of the night. The gentleman behind me began violently shaking my seat and asked me to sit up. The ANA flight attendant nearby nodded so I ‘sat up’ as requested (and no, he did not get up to use the restroom). I am wondering what the rule is in regards to this situation. I never recline on short flights or during meal service, and I always recline slowly. Personally, I feel that I paid for a seat with a recline button and should be allowed to use it.”
After doing some research and finding related articles of this topic, there seems to roughly be a 50/50 split on the passenger’s “right to recline”. Some take Karen’s stance, and others disagree by saying that they have a right to “adequate knee space”. This seems to be an on-going heated debate, and in an extreme case, two passengers even got into a fist fight in-flight over a reclined seat, which prompted an emergency landing in 2010.
I personally know several people who spend the extra money (or miles) to fly business or first class to avoid these awkward scenarios all together.
Where do you stand? If the passenger behind you asked you to “sit up”, do you comply? Please share your thoughts.