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The Truth About Reclining Your Airplane Seat in Economy

To recline, or not to recline?
To recline, or not to recline? | © Kay / Unsplash
To recline, or not to recline? That is the question all economy travelers face and one that causes heated debate among even the most frequent flyers. Luckily, there is finally an answer that will keep everyone happy.

When asked to choose between your own personal comfort and that of others, it can feel like a catch-22, especially when it has to do with flying. You’re stuck on an airplane for X number of hours and the choice you make will affect your whole journey. Are you a terrible person for pushing that button to lean back a few extra inches, or just exercising your basic human right?

Wait till everyone's eaten to recline your seat © Bambi Corro / Unsplash

“Everyone has their own view on the reclining seat,” Julian Kheel, senior editor at online travel platform The Points Guy (TPG), tells Culture Trip. “My personal opinion on the matter is that the seats are built with a recline function. If you weren’t supposed to recline them, they wouldn’t be built that way.”

Before any non-recliners get too upset, Kheel did suggest that there’s a right way and wrong way to do the deed. “If you push the button and shove back as quickly and as hard as possible, you will be annoying,” he explains. A more polite alternative is to “Slowly and gently recline, maybe even halfway at first. This way you’re at least giving the person behind you a warning that you’re coming at him or her and are more likely to avoid a confrontation.” The best time to do this is after the meal is served, giving the person behind you the opportunity to eat in peace before you push back.

What Kheel suggests is to feel free to be comfortable but to do so in a thoughtful manner. This way, at least in theory, everyone’s happy.