Expedia study reveals deep divide over airplane seat reclining

reclineDo you recline your airplane seat at will — crushing the knees, electronics and spirit of the person behind you?

Or do you complain about the people who recline their seats?

As it turns out, there’s a good chance you do both! A new study released today by Expedia, ranking the most egregious airplane etiquette violations, says that 35 percent of Americans have experienced “major discomfort” on an airplane thanks to the person in front of them reclining their seat, and 42 percent of respondents would like to see reclining seats banned or at least restricted.

However, even with those complaints, a full 80 percent of respondents to the Expedia survey say they have reclined their seats.

It’s even worse than that. The Bellevue-based company explains in a summary of its findings: “Seventeen percent of Americans admitted that they would recline their seats even if the passenger behind them was noticeably pregnant; 23% would do so if the passenger was elderly or frail; while 36% would do so even if the passenger was particularly tall. Forty-five percent of Americans give no warning when reclining, while 22% do warn their neighbors (but do not ask permission) and 33% ask permission.”

But seat reclining — a.k.a. the “Seat-back Guy” — actually isn’t the worst airplane passenger offense, according to the survey. Here is Expedia’s full 2013 list of “Most Annoying / Offensive Airplane Etiquette Violators.”

Just wait until they let us talk on our phones!

  1. Inattentive Parents: 41%
  2. Rear Seat Kicker: 38%
  3. The Aromatic Passenger: 28%
  4. The Boozer: 26%
  5. Chatty Cathy: 23%
  6. Audio Insensitive: 19%
  7. Seat-back Guy: 13%
  8. Carry-on Baggage Offenders: 13%
  9. The Back-Seat Grabber: 12%
  10. The Queue Jumper: 12%
  11. The Armrest Hog: 11%
  12. Mad Bladder*: 11%
  13. Pungent Food Eaters: 9%
  14. The Mad Dasher**: 9%
  15. The Amorous: 9%:
  16.  Overhead Bin Inconsiderate: 9%
  17. The Undresser: 9%
  18.  The Pre-Boarder***: 6%
  19. The Seat Switcher: 5%

* “Mad Bladder” refers to the window-seat passenger who makes frequent bathroom visits. 

** “The Mad Dasher” is the passenger who jumps up the moment the plane reaches the gate, leaning on the chair-back in front of him while waiting anxiously for the plane door to open.

*** “The Pre-Boarder” is one who boards before his assigned zone or row is called.

Brownpau photo via Flickr.

  • http://timandjeni.com/ Timothy Ellis

    Here’s a solution to the nuisance of reclining airplane seats (that will never happen):

    Airplane seat designers should redesign the seat so the only way to get a reclining position is for the seat bottom to slide forward while the top of the seat back drops but doesn’t tilt back. Instead the bottom of the seat back angles forward.

    That way, if you choose to recline your seat in an already extremely restricted space, the only person you’re taking space away from is yourself.

    • Griffin

      Alaska’s Recaro-made seats (in their newer aircraft) already do this. Every action has consequences :-)

    • Lawrence Lam

      Cathay Pacific’s seats are like this. I don’t like the loss of leg room due to these.
      My prediction: Seat leans become restricted to Premium Economy seats, and regular Economy seats lose their lean.

  • http://ClaussConcept.com Jason Gerard Clauss

    You know, it’s funny. The Federal Government has no problem enacting laws that make travel more miserable, but refuse to legislate better inflight experience to counter-balance it.

  • Guest

    If airlines don’t want me to recline my seat, then they should remove the button.

    I recline my seat on every flight. EVERY. FLIGHT.

    I have never once encountered a person who asked me not to. This is a standard feature of every aircraft on which I’ve flown. As this thread shows, most men who object do so passively, which is great, as I always wear passive-aggressive-cancelling headphones when I fly.

    If a man ever gets courageous enough to request that I not recline, he can engage the flight attendant to transfer to a different seat. Your rights end where my ass begins.

    By the way, if you need more room irrespective of the man in front of you, fly business class. If you work in tech, you can afford it. Not only are the seats, the food, and the amenities better, you also fly with richer (better) people.

    • Barbara

      You sound like a real asshole.

    • JoshM60

      Actually, YOUR rights end where the knees and/or laptop of the passenger behind you begins.

      BTW, if you crunch a laptop by leaning back, YOU are responsible because YOU initiated the crunch. It apparently happens all the time.

  • Jeff

    I will never not recline my seat. I don’t know when the absurd issue of not reclining your seat out of courtesy came into being, but as long as I pay for a seat with limited legroom—– I’m going to recline. As for asking permission or advising the person behind you? Let’s get real!!!!

  • E. F. La

    I’m an unabashed “blocker.” I’m tall, so my knees are usually right up against your seat back anyway, and I just leave them there to prevent you from reclining into my space and making virtually anything I try to do impossible. Rest assured, it’s nothing personal. I understand you should be able to sit as comfortably as I, but that also means I don’t have to sit less comfortably than you for the duration of the flight. If you want to complain, go ahead. All anyone will ever see is me, sitting polite and upright in my seat like a good boy, and there is nothing you or an airline employee can do to require me to sit in a less comfortable position that tilts my pelvis and causes me back pain. Your rights end where my knees begin.

  • Barbara

    I refuse to recline my seat out of courtesy for others. Just two days ago I was on a flight from Newark to Los Angeles, and the inconsiderate asshole in front of me reclined his seat, making it impossible for me to open my laptop enough to actually see the screen. I had to literally pull it forward, prop the bottom part up on my chest and do “T-rex arms” to type. It was so uncomfortable, and I could barely focus out of my growing hatred for the jerk in front of me.

    If you fly economy, for the love of god, DO NOT RECLINE YOUR SEAT!