Etiquette experts reveal when you should never recline your seat on a flight

Reclining your seat is one way to make an uncomfortable plane ride more bearable.

However, according to a group of experts, there are several instances when you should never extend your seatback.

There are several instances where it is never acceptable to recline the seat on an airplane


There are several instances where it is never acceptable to recline the seat on an airplanePhoto credit: Getty

In an article in United States todaytwo etiquette experts shared the exact moments when reclining an airplane seat is never acceptable.

Podcast host and etiquette expert Nick Leighton explained that you shouldn’t recline your seat if the passenger behind you is working on their laptop.

He said, “No one likes their laptop breaking in half.”

Before you recline your seat, it’s best to check what the passenger behind you is doing.

If they are on a laptop, ask before moving your seat backwards.

This is because if you suddenly move your seat, you could be held liable for any damage to the laptop.

On a recent trip, a passenger’s laptop was destroyed when the person in front of him reclined his seat.

Rosalinda Oropeza Randall, who is also an etiquette expert, added: “Avoid sitting back when the majority of passengers are enjoying their snack or meal.”

If you suddenly recline your seatback, you could end up spilling food and drink on another passenger’s lap – leading to an argument and a dry cleaning bill.

The etiquette experts also explained that it is never acceptable to recline a seat when there are small children behind you or the passenger is injured.

It’s also not a good idea to lengthen the backrest if the person behind you happens to be tall.

Last year, a woman was furious when a tall passenger sitting behind her during a flight prevented her from reclining her seat.

The two people were on a short distance when the woman tried to recline her chair.

The tall passenger asked her to put her seat up because her reclined seat was bumping into his knees.

While the incident divided opinion online, there are ways to recline your seat that may be more polite to those sitting around you.

Passenger Lisa Blossat Harrison said she always checks who’s behind her before sitting back all the way.

She said: “I’m going to look backwards first and then carefully step back a little bit just to take the pressure off my back.”

And frequent flyer Ben Schlappig added: “When you recline your seat, do it slowly and make sure the person behind you knows. By no means be an idiot.”

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A flight attendant told Sun Online Travel how to get the person in front of you to put their chair back up.

Meanwhile, a design student drew up plans for double-decker seating arrangements to keep the seat tilt from affecting others.

It's best not to recline the seat when the person behind you is working or eating


It’s best not to recline the seat when the person behind you is working or eatingPhoto credit: Getty

Emma James

Emma James is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma James joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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