Travel A right or a privilege?


So Sweet!
Aug 2, 2007
Born in the USA
When flying, do you view reclining your seat as a Right or a Privilege?

As the lady states in the article I see it as a function of the seat and a function that I will use if/when necessary. I do not agree with her that if you recline your seat you are selfish/inconsiderate. Now if I recline my seat and the person behind me says, "excuse me, can you raise you seat a little bit?" and I ignore that request, then I would see that as an act of selfishness.

CNN) -- The passenger in seat 9C was ready for a nap after takeoff, so he pushed the button on his armrest and reclined -- straight into the path of someone who apparently wouldn't have it.
Tensions grew quickly on the American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Denver on November 22, court papers show.
The incident adds fuel to a debate that seems to divide air travelers into two camps: those who say that reclining their seat on a plane is a right that comes when they buy a ticket and those who believe it's a privilege that shouldn't be abused.
As Brian Dougal leaned back on the Denver-bound flight late last month, he felt someone bump his seat, according to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Colorado.
"Are you serious? My knees are up against the seat," said the man behind him, identified as Tomislav Zelenovic, according to the complaint.
Dougal suggested that Zelenovic also recline, slide into an empty seat next to him or move his legs to the side. Dougal told the man in 10C that he paid for his seat and was going to recline it.
Zelenovic then shook the back of Dougal's seat and grabbed his right ear, pulling it back and down with enough force to knock Dougal's glasses off his face, according to the complaint.
When the plane landed in Denver, police officers escorted Zelenovic off the flight. He was charged with assault "by striking, beating, or wounding on an aircraft" and has pleaded not guilty. Zelenovic's attorney declined to comment on the case for this article.
Heated debate
Few arguments over reclining seats go that far, but as cabins grow more crowded and cramped, it's easy to find eye rolling, seething frustration or downright resistance coming from behind travelers who choose to push the armrest button.
Steve Collins, an Australian broadcaster who runs the blog Grumpy's Getaway Guide, argues that he shouldn't have to put up with passengers who lean back and invade his personal space.
"I don't recline my seat, primarily because I have respect for the person behind me, and I simply hate it when the person in front of me shifts their seat as far back as it will go," Collins recently vented in a blog entry titled "Ban the reclining seat on planes."
He may be a fan of low-budget carrier Spirit Airlines, which made headlines this spring when it announced that it was installing "pre-reclined" seats on some of its planes as a space- and cost-saving measure.
The seats permanently recline about three inches, but their occupants can't lean back more (or sit up more upright, if they wish.)
Fliers with long legs often find the reclining seat particularly terrifying. In a recent article about the plight of tall travelers, some said that they ask passengers in front of them to be considerate and not lean back. When someone still insists, some just push back.
But many air travelers say that reclining is a right that comes when you purchase your seat.
"I regard the invasion of the person's space sitting behind me as an unfortunate, but easily tolerated, side-effect of my attempt to achieve a modicum of comfort while flying," wrote travel guru Arthur Frommer in his blog this year.
Frequent flier Ben Schlappig says he doesn't lean back in coach on daytime flights as a courtesy to others, but he doesn't expect anyone to return the favor.
"There's a reason the button is on your seat, and certainly everyone (except possibly the person in the last row) has the same 'right' in that regard," Schlappig recently wrote in his blog, One Mile At a Time.
Etiquette expert's take
So, is reclining your seat on a plane a privilege or a right?
Neither, said Lizzie Post, etiquette expert, author and spokeswoman for the Emily Post Institute.
"It's not a right; it's not a privilege; it's a function of the seat that you purchase," Post said. She personally wishes airlines would stop allowing the seats to recline but said she understands that part of flying is the possibility of sitting behind someone who puts their seat back.
"The courteous person will choose to not recline their seat for the entire duration of the flight. ... [But] I do think that the person who, unfortunately, has the seat coming back into their lap has to get over the fact that that's just the reality of the situation."
If you want to recline your seat, there is no obligation to turn around and assess whether the person behind you would be cramped, Post said.
If you're the passenger who feels uncomfortable when someone in front of you puts their seat back, you can ask whether they plan on being reclined for the whole flight, in which case you might start looking for a different seat, she advised.
A little planning might help, too: Before booking your flight, consult the charts on, which point out which seats do not recline. If you can book a spot behind them, you're set. If not, be prepared for someone who might lean back.
"It's one of those things where the airlines have put us into an uncomfortable position, and that's it. We have to live with it," Post said.
What's your take on reclining seats? Let us know in the comment section below.


Dec 10, 2008
I have mixed feelings about this one. I never ever recline my seat while meals are being served and people are still eating, of course.

Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. I have had people recline their seats while I've been eating and I've been too scared to say anything, though, and that's annoying!


A taste for the arts
Oct 7, 2006
San Francisco
This is a tough one. If a person in front of me reclines their seat all the way, I really can barely use my tray to eat, read, use a laptop, etc. And I am a small person!

The real problem is that there just isn't enough room for anyone on crowded planes, seats reclined or not.


Aug 7, 2008
i've never reclined my seat, out of courtesy. i think it's a right to a certain extent, but it's amazing how inconsiderate people can be. i almost wish that the seats couldn't recline lol.


Dog Chauffeur
Jun 7, 2008
6600 Feet Above Sea Level
This is a tough one. If a person in front of me reclines their seat all the way, I really can barely use my tray to eat, read, use a laptop, etc. And I am a small person!

The real problem is that there just isn't enough room for anyone on crowded planes, seats reclined or not.
Ditto. This is also why I try to get seats on exit rows because there is much more legroom. If I am on a short flight (most of the time I am flying less than two hours) then I will only recline a little bit and only if I am taking a nap. On longer flights/red eye flights I think it's completely acceptable to recline all the way. I've never had someone recline their seat in front of me and think "OMG what a selfish a$$hole." I just see it as an annoyance I have to deal with in order to get to my destination faster.

ETA I do think it's your "right" to recline since you paid for the ticket. If they stop making reclining seats then it is no longer your right.


wind sylph
Jul 25, 2010
Upon a Zephyr High
It depends on the length of the flight. Most of my flying is at a minimum of 6 hrs (when I go east cost to west coast). I usually fly international, to Asia, so my flight times are much longer. The seats grow very uncomfortable on longer flights, especially for short people where our heads don't hit the headrest but the space between the headrest and the back of the seat. And when the seats are made to be ergonomically built, it actually pushes the head too far forward for short people.

I think it's courtesy to put your chair up during dining segments of the flight and not put it back until after that time is over. I've been on a lot of long flights and most people understand this and comply. But I don't think it's fair that someone has to keep their seat up for the whole flight if it's a long flight. I'd rather have less space for my legs than have my neck craning forward for hours at a time.

So I think it's part of what you pay for your seat. Instead of blaming the other passengers for trying to get some modicum of comfort on an overcrowded plane, the real issue is the airlines that keep shortening the distance between rows in order to cram more seats into the plane.

When I buy tickets, I try to get an aisle seat so I can stretch my legs out into the aisle if it gets really cramped (plus I don't have to crawl over everyone for trips to the bathroom and like having to stand to let others in and out of their seats as it gives me an excuse to stand and stretch, which isn't really allowed anymore).


Jul 6, 2007
I think it's crazy to think that people aren't going to recline their seats. I'm really tall and seriously, it's not that bad. All of the flights that I've been on recently that had meal service made an announcement before service asking everyone to put their seats up. I think that's a nice solution, because it can be difficult to eat when the person in front of you is reclined.

I don't know, I feel like it's kind of inconsiderate to even ask someone to not recline their seat. It's only happened to me once and I was VERY unhappy. I was on a red eye and the man behind me asked me to put my seat up and I said I was trying to nap and he just said "well I don't have any room." I felt like that wasn't my problem/fault, so I called the flight attendant and asked if she could move me to another seat (which she did after a very tense argument between the three of us). I've seen lots of arguments like this - many a lot more heated than my situation. Once, basically the same situation as mine played out a few rows ahead of me but it was a full flight and no one was willing to move (obviously, who would knowingly move to seat where you wouldn't even have the option to recline?). The flight attendant ended up saying that the first passenger had the right to recline her seat and the man behind her shook the seat on and off through the whole flight and called her names loudly enough that I could hear him 3-4 rows back. How awful!

It's such an uncomfortable situation. I feel like when you ask the person in front of you to not recline, you're asking them to sacrifice their personal comfort for yours. And make them feel like an a-hole if they don't want to put the seat up.

Beach Bum

Feb 17, 2006
this is actually a really great topic!
I personally wouldnt recline most times cuz i know it annoys me..LOL...but sometimes i need to in longer flights...just to rest.


Mar 30, 2008
I feel like when you ask the person in front of you to not recline, you're asking them to sacrifice their personal comfort for yours.
The person who's behind you could feel the same way. Tall people are uncomfortable enough on flights as it is and it's worse when the person in front of them reclines all the way. Yes, it's a function of your seat, but you can also think of the other person's comfort, not only think of yourself in terms of what you paid for. Maybe the guy you reclined on really had no room, and he didn't want to be rude to the person behind him by putting his seat all the way back.

I don't recline on domestic flights, because they're short and most people don't sleep. I have long legs that touch the back of the seat anyway when it's not reclined, so when a person reclines on a short flight, I must admit, it annoys me. Especially when the back of the seat is just a few inches from my face. On long international flights usually everyone reclines so it's not a big deal.


Jan 12, 2006
I recline partially. Just enough to not sit totally straight up.
My poor DH is a big boy. And it never fails that who ever's in front of him immediately reclines completely as soon as it takes off. When they AREN'T reclined he's already got his knees against their seat. He's not a chubby guy, but he's about 6'2" and 220lbs - just a burly dude.
I don't see how people bigger than myself can even ride comfortably.

They do need to stop the seat from reclining so far IMO. It's impossible to get out of your seat, particularly if you are in center or window, when the person in front of you is reclined.


Dec 7, 2008
I think its a bit of both and it just takes a bit of common sense/courtesy from the person doing the reclining and the person behind the reclining.