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hotel front deskA San Francisco-based frequent flier is fed up with reclining passengers and, quite frankly, so am I. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been unable to use my laptop or read a book without having to hold it up to my face because the person in front of me had pushed his or her seat back as far as it would go.

But although an October 2013 poll by flight search website Skyscanner found that just under 50 percent of fliers would like reclining seats to be removed from all airlines, IndependentTraveler.com readers are not so inclined.

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In fact, when we recently asked our Facebook followers their thoughts on the subject, the majority of respondents reported that they always recline their seats, though most said they do so as politely as they can.

Wynne Gavin wrote, “I have a bad back and need to be slightly reclined. Since I am cognizant of the person behind me, I do so very slowly, carefully and just enough to be comfortable. I’ve never had it fully reclined.”

Ron Buckles and Trisha Hynes agreed. Recline slowly and just enough to be comfortable.

Clyde Roberts said he always reclines on long flights “for a while,” but never during refreshment service — and he eyes the person behind him first. “I check to see if the traveler behind me has reclined and if so I think he/she must be ok with me doing the same.”

And Randi Weiner said that although she understands there are issues with reclining seats “in this day and age when airlines are building planes with more and more seats jammed together,” she believes that if she paid for the seat and it has the ability to recline, then she will do so.

But even reclining passengers have had issues with other recliners.

“On a flight to JFK from Europe, the girl in [front] of me did a fast, full recline and I screamed, ‘Ouch!!’ when the [seat] hit my body,” Wynne Gavin wrote. “I simply pushed the seat forward a bit so I had some more room. She said, ‘I want to be comfortable.’ I said, ‘So do I.’ She had no choice but to compromise, as each time she reclined fully, I simply pushed it back up.”

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But Gavin added she does not think banning reclined seats is the answer. “Airlines removing a few rows and creating more space is.”

Since that won’t be happening any time soon, I’d like the airlines to take a look at Sue Armstrong’s response.

“How about a reclining section on the plane — spaced to accommodate it and part of seat selection and priced accordingly.”

What’s your preference — to recline or not to recline?

– written by Dori Saltzman

12 Responses to “To Recline or Not to Recline”

  1. Forrestal says:

    Can’t go with it. I paid for the seat and I’m entitled to all its functions.

    • It is only about you, isn’t ? I am sure that you the kind of person that cuts in front of other people because your time is more important than anyone else…. Unbelievable !

  2. Holly says:

    Ban the reclining seat there simply isn’t room for it and I absolutely hate it when I can’t use my iPad or knit for hours just because the person in front of me has to recline. Why should one passenger, paying for the same ticket, have to be uncomfortable so another can be comfortable?

  3. Pinter says:

    I’ve been a business traveller for years. The guy reclining in front of me usually isn’t a bother. The person behind me who grabs the top of my seat and pulls when they get up… now that’s super irritating. Especially when I zonk out and am waken to the shock of my seat being bounced around.

  4. Kristy says:

    Reclining hurts the usable physical space for the person behind you way more than it increases the comfort of the recliner.

    I personally think it should be limited to overnights when people are honestly trying to sleep.

  5. Kaye Jones says:

    I want to know the last time any airline exec flew back with the regular people? They’d be MISERABLE!!!! They ought to try it…if they really give a damn about their fliers!

  6. Kaye Jones says:

    So….I paid too…I deserve to be MISERABLE???? I’m tall and it kills me. Stop the reclining!!!!!!

  7. June Stefanko says:

    I dislike the close proximity of the fully reclined person’s head and face more then anything else. Recliners are literally “in your face”! While I do understand the sentiment of some people that they paid for it and they are going to use it – I really think that fully reclining in coach is rude. Also, I have never seen even near a 50% reclining rate on any flights I have been on so I was surprised to see your survey data that 50% of passengers want to recline – especially on domestic flights.

  8. Bob Horgan says:

    Fly premium economy (If available) and that will solve your problem. Why waste time fighting some useless moron in cattle class for more space

  9. Geni Chariker says:

    I rarely recline. However, I think if you are going to it is a matter of good manners to ask the person sitting behind you if they mind. Also, don’t recline and unrecline every 5 minutes – be courteous and use the good manners your mother taught you!

  10. Greg says:

    It might be better to couch this discussion in terms of flight length and seat type. The only real issue should be in economy class on short flights. Flight lengths of 5 hours or more could be quite uncomfortable for some people If there were no recline throughout the flight. Statistically, economy class seat pitch is still typically 31″ – 32″ pitch on twin aisle aircraft and about 31″ pitch on single aisle models. Even those that reduce the pitch are often using slimmer seats to squeeze more folks on the aircraft. Some airlines (Hawaiian Airlines A330, for instance) use a seat that has the seat bottom translate forward as the back moves aft which helps the passenger behind.

    I think folks are justified in believing they have paid for the seat recline and it is not unreasonable to assume they will be able to take advantage of it, except during meal service. Airlines are beginning to understand the value of providing more economy seating alternatives (premium economy class, for example) to increase revenue and provide more choices.

    If we all want to continue to enjoy low fares, seats will continue to remain at 31″-32″ pitch as it all comes down to seat/mile cost for the airline and the fact that economy class has MUCH lower profit yields than premium classes. Could the airlines restrict recline on shorter packed flights? Of course, but only if the majority of fliers demand it. Meanwhile, we all need to figure out how to politely enjoy the available recline at appropriate times and provide feedback to the airlines via our pocketbooks by choosing those that provide the most personal space.

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