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To Recline or Not Recline

"Ladies and gentlemen, we invite you to sit back, relax and enjoy your flight."

Jason Hetherington | Stone | Getty Images

That's a very common announcement heard throughout airline cabins shortly after takeoff and it encourages everyone to get comfortable. But many travelers today balk at the idea of their fellow passengers sitting in the row ahead and reclining their seat.

For those sitting in first class, it's not so much of an issue given the seat pitch — the amount of space between rows — is generally enough to negate any encumbrance of personal space. But for the rest of us traveling in coach, it might make for an uncomfortable flight.

There have been air rage incidents in the past where flights had to be diverted due to passengers getting into altercations over this very issue. But does it really have to come to that? If the seat has a button allowing you to recline, isn't it an unspoken right?

Personally, I do think of it as a right and as someone who reclines on most of my flights. I do it with conscious consideration of the person sitting behind me.

Before pressing the button, I take a glance behind me to see if my fellow traveler is doing anything that might make reclining my seat uncomfortable for them, such as working on a laptop with their tray table down or holding an infant. The mere action of taking such a glance provides the person sitting behind you a fair warning that you might be ready to recline and I feel it's an appropriate first step.

If the coast is clear and I decide to settle back, I do so slowly to avoid the person behind me having to suddenly adjust what they're doing to accommodate my seat intrusion. Once reclined, I pause for a moment to gauge any reaction from them and if there is none, I'm satisfied I've been successful and happily settle in.

Many people disagree with me and feel airline seats shouldn't recline. There are even companies out there that sell devices to prevent the person ahead of you from reclining, but I think that's just a bit too passive-aggressive and inappropriate.

Where do you stand on this issue?


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