Flight Etiquette 101: Seat Reclining Courtesies and the Golden Rule

It’s one of the biggest causes of conflict on a flight, and you’ve probably encountered it more than once if you’re a frequent business traveler: Should you recline or not recline your seat?
The topic is a hot button with seasoned travelers, so we thought we might suggest a few ways you can be considerate of others as you contemplate whether or not to push that little button on your armrest.
First, consider the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” In other words, think about how your actions could impact the person directly behind you, and then wonder if you would like the same thing done by the person in front of you. If you’ve ever felt hemmed in, or had your laptop slammed shut, because someone else exercised their “right” to recline, ask yourself, what would you have liked done before they leaned back into your space.
That’s possibly the biggest courtesy in seat reclining: Offer the person behind you the same courtesy you want from the person in front of you.
Of course, that may mean there are times when you shouldn’t exercise your right to recline, like during beverage and meal service. Imagine not being able to eat because you can’t see your tray, or get your drink past the other person’s seat back.
Should your seat have the ability to recline several degrees in between fully reclined and fully upright, you may not even have to use the entire range to find that modicum of comfort. If you’re considering reclining, try a few of the different options during the boarding process, when most people are otherwise engaged.
Another options: Turn around in your seat as you push the recline button to see how far a slight recline invades the person’s space behind you. This may give you the chance to ask if they would allow you to recline.
Finally, if you determine you need to recline, please do it slowly! Consider looking back before you do so as a way of alerting, albeit non-verbally, the person behind you.
While some people are not big supporters of reclining, we understand that some want or need to. We offer these suggestions so you can be one of those travelers others appreciate, rather than curse.
What are your thoughts on reclining? Do you believe it should be allowed, or strictly forbidden? Or, do you fall somewhere in between? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.
Photo credit: camknows (Flickr, Creative Commons)