When Is It ‘Not Okay’ To Recline Your Aeroplane Seat?

When Is It ‘Not Okay’ To Recline Your Aeroplane Seat?

Last week, Australian sporting legend Grant Hackett was ejected from a Virgin flight after an in-air altercation with another passenger. Apparently, Hacket took umbrage at the seat in front of him being lowered and expressed his displeasure by giving the offending passenger a /”nipple cripple”. While Hackett’s alleged actions are completely inexcusable, there are definitely unspoken rules when it comes to fully reclining your seat on aeroplanes. We want to hear what you think is (and isn’t) okay.

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Some people only recline their aeroplane seat during the nominated sleep period when all the lights are dimmed. Others think it’s acceptable to keep it lowered for the entire flight, regardless of what the passenger behind them is doing.

Most of us know to keep our seats up during mealtime, but otherwise all bets are off. However, there is a growing subset of flyers who think more consideration should be given to those around you; especially in cattle class where space is already limited. Some people also believe that flight duration should be a factor. For example, do you really need to fully recline your seat if you’re only travelling interstate?

Let us know what you think is and isn’t acceptable in the poll below!

[polldaddy poll=9390227]

We also want to hear about your experiences and opinions in the comments. Tell us what you think!


  • I hate it when people recline their seat in front of me because I am one of the unfortunate few who simply cannot sleep on a plane.

  • WIPO: When sitting behind Grant Hackett.

    Can’t believe it’s not an option on the poll.

  • Missing option – Never. There simply isn’t enough room already, and reclining your seat means my legs need to end up in the space of the person next to me. Reclining my seat in turn does not seem to solve that problem, and only means both myself and the person behind me have this problem.

  • I don’t see the problem, the seats are pretty well designed and it doesn’t reduce leg room by much. The top of the seat reclines, not the bottom. It’s not like they are sliding the seat backwards like a car.
    And I say this as a 6’1 man who travels regularly and needs a fair amount of leg room.

    • The seat pivots at the bottom, yes, but your knees aren’t sitting at the bottom of the seat in front, in my case they’re pressed, hard, up against the tray table.

    • Yeah I agree. I’m also 6’1 and never understand why people get so annoyed. Only time I care is if I’m eating 😛

  • just the fact we even have to ask this question shows over crowded airplane cabins have become.

    instead of nipple crippling the reclinee for trying to be comfortable in their cramped little space write a complaint to the airline, money talks the loudest but so does a bunch of unhappy customers threatening to go to the first airline to remove a couple rows in the name of comfortability

  • Never. The moment you recline your seat my knees are crushed and it can be quite painful when people do it without warning!

    • So many entitled people in this thread! If you know that this is a problem for you due to your height, then it’s exactly that: your problem, and not everyone else’s to bend to your preferences. Take some personal responsibility; pay for the exit row or an upgrade. Complain to the airlines. Do whatever you have to do, but don’t pretend that the person in front of you doesn’t have the right to use the redline function of the seat they paid just as much as you to sit in simply because you have a problem with it.

      • And you, sir or madam, are what’s wrong with the world today. You’re the one acting entitled, and selfish to boot. I didn’t choose to be over 6 for, but you have a choice wether to recline or not. Also, you didn’t pay for the reclining function, you paid for the flight. just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. The very fact that you say “complain to the airlines” indicates you accept there is something wrong with how seats recline but until the airlines change the seats you will do as you please and be damned to anyone you may inconvenience.

        • If I was 7 feet tall I wouldn’t buy a VW Bug and then complain that there was no leg room. I would buy a larger car. And yes, the reclining function is part of the ticket price, as is overhead storage, meals and all the other necessities.

          Yes, there is a problem with space in airplanes these days, but that doesn’t mean that I’m responsible for your comfort. I am polite and responsive if the person behind me asks me to raise my seat during meal times but I am not going to accept that your comfort is my responsibility. Act like a grown up and take the right steps to ensure your own comfort, instead of expecting everyone else to bow down to your wishes.

      • What an incredibly selfish opinion. I imagine you’re the same person that thinks people should pay for seats by their weight?
        I don’t have a choice about my height, and I’m sorry if I don’t earn enough money to sit in bigger seats, I should definitely not have to pay extra because some idiot in front of me wants to sit at a different angle.

        • I don’t have a choice about your height either, so why should I be inconvenienced? To quote your argument: why should I be forced to be uncomfortable just because some idiot behind me wants to sit at a different angle?

          You’re the one that should take the steps necessary to ensure your own comfort. If you have a physical reason why you can’t fit in the seat, then it’s nobody else’s responsibility to fix that (other than perhaps the airlines). If you are too fat to safely sit in a single seat then yes, you should be forced to buy two. What makes you think that you deserve special treatment, when everybody else simply deals with the problem?

          • So a disabled person should have to pay extra? Someone who is sick through no point of their own should pay more to be treated? Absurd.

          • No, I never said that at all. You’re just making up strawman arguments.


      • If you object to me crapping in the public baths, it’s exactly that, your problem!

        Take some personal responsibility for the fact that you don’t like turds in the pool and bring a plastic bag with which to scoop up my poo.

        I paid to get into the swimming area, and I have every right to defecate when I wish.

        • If you can find a public bath that will sell you a ticket to crap in the pool, then there’s no problem. I buy an airline ticket that allows me to pay for the features offered; overhead storage, meals, entertainment and a reclining seat. The money that you pay doesn’t allow you to dictate other people’s right to use those advertised and paid-for features. So your “cute” (read: obtuse) answer doesn’t really hold water (or turds).

          • You understand that you are arguing that all uses of any thing you have paid for are definitionally socially acceptable?

          • No, I’m arguing that your perception that other people’s reasonable use of something as unacceptable is complete rubbish.

          • You don’t believe that having paid for the seat justifies your antisocial use of it?
            OK, so why *did* you mention your payment?

          • It’s not antisocial use. You’re trying to shape my argument into something it’s not and it’s not working. If anything, trying to force other people to not do something they are entitled to do is antisocial. Why don’t you try arguing *for* your own viewpoint instead?

          • 1: Complaining that you don’t want to support your view closely resembles an admission that you cannot support your view.

            2: Argumentation is not force, so an argument that something is antisocial is not force.

            3: We’re discussing your view in this sub-thread because you presented your view at the start of this sub-thread, making this thread *about* your view.

            4: I’m not trying to mischaracterise your argument, I’m trying to work out what your argument *is*. Your argument appears to be that nothing you have a right to do can be socially reprehensible. If that’s not your argument, what *is* your argument?

          • The teenagers have had a very bad influence on you, you’ve been reduced to their level.

            Everyone who reads this realizes that if you had an actual argument, you’d just point to it, instead of trying to pretend there’s one and playing ‘Where’s Wally’.

          • Your last post really made no sense. You’re just wasting your time. My argument is clearly stated and you’re simply trying to troll for attention by spouting rubbish. Try returning to the actual topic if you want to continue, as arguing semantics is a sign that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

          • I just re-read your post carefully.
            Unsupported statements are not an argument.
            Rhetorical questions are not an argument.
            Where *is* the argument?

          • I underestimated your lack of understanding. I thought you were trolling, but clearly you’re just not very bright. Certainly that would explain your continued attempt to attack without presenting a proper counter argument. Sadly though, my time is better spend doing pretty much anything. If you’re still finding it hard to address the issue rather than your inability to understand, go back and read the original article.

          • Your statement that I cannot launch a counter-argument is correct;
            Because you have yet to present an argument!
            Rhetorical questions are not an argument.
            Unsupported claims are not an argument.
            Accusing me of stupidity or arguing semantics is transparent diversion, grow up.
            Support your claim with an argument, or admit your claim is unsupported.

          • No, you can’t launch a counter argument because you’re a troll who believes that being deliberately obtuse is amusing! Much like the tall airplane passengers whinging about others, you should take responsibility for your own misgivings and take action on your lack of understanding, rather than blaming it on other people.

          • They seek him here,
            They seek him there,
            Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
            Is he in heaven? Or is he in hell?
            That damned elusive
            Go back and read my first post you deliberately obtuse

          • I re-read your first post.
            There are several claims, but only one argument.
            Your argument is that inconveniencing another is acceptable because money was paid.
            But you later claim that’s *not* your argument, which leaves zero arguments in your first post.

          • Nope. You missed the point again. Try re-reading it without deliberately missing the point, it’ll do wonders for your self-esteem.

            I get what you’re doing though; you can’t form a reasonable counter argument yourself so you’re just attempting to be annoying. You know, it’s called trolling, which I called you out for several posts ago. However what you don’t realise is that I work with teenagers, so I can do this all day lol

  • Missing option: when the dickhead in the seat infront of my reclines all the way so that my head is nearly touching the back of his seat and I can’t read my book or look at the screen properly due to lack of room.

  • I spent a flight from Melbourne to Sydney once with someone’s hair almost up my nose. He could have reclined a little, if he had to, without disruption, but I couldn’t see my legs anymore because his head and seat back were between my face and my knees. On an hour and a half flight! And he wasn’t sleeping, he was chatting with his fellow travelers.

    I eventually asked him if he could move a bit (I wanted to read, but I wasn’t going to be able to without resting the book on his head), and he shifted it up a little bit, reluctantly. But it’s infuriating to have to. If he’d looked up, he would have seen how unimpressed I was…

    I don’t really approve of reclining existing economy seats for any reason. On short flights, reclining more than an inch or two is depriving the person behind you of space for their arms, their belongings, and ruining their access to inflight entertainment. I can sort of understand it for sleeping, but you have to remember that there’s often a person at the back of the row of seats who can’t recline their seat properly because of a wall/bulkhead. So when everyone in front of them tilts back to get away from the back of the seat in front, the poor bugger at the back is stuck with no space and poor sleep. Not that the small amount of recline is likely to make a huge amount of difference to sleep quality on a long-haul flight.

    For reclining to be a valid option in economy requires a dramatic redesign of the entire cabin and seating structure, which I don’t see happening any time soon.

  • yeah instead of trying to cram 400 people onto one flight how about cutting that down to 300 so that people in cattle class can actually have some fucking leg room.

  • It sucks when you get a recliner in front of you, but so long as it’s not during meal time I’m ok with it. “Late at night” is a somewhat relative term, as you don’t know where the passenger in front may have been travelling from. It’s easy to say “the sun is up, so don’t recline” but for someone on the last leg of a 20 hours journey they might have a somewhat different attitude…

  • I’m 6’7 and it definitely reduces legroom. I’ve almost had my knee cap shattered several times by a passenger in front of me reclining – basically because in Economy, my knees are already flush up against the back of the chair when it’s not reclined. It’s not their fault – the airlines allow it – but they either need to increase leg room or remove the reclining function. There are plenty of people out there around my height in a similar situation who unfortunately can’t afford to fly business class (or even pay for the exit row upgrade) all the time.

  • I never knew there were so many non recliners! I just assumed it was always okay, because otherwise, why would the chair do it? We’re always being told when/how to do things on planes, so if it’s not okay to recline, you’d think we’d be told that too.

  • I’m a regular flyer and personally don’t tend to recline. If I need to because the person in front has and it is hindering me reading a book. I let the person behind me know.

    It is just common courtesy – a bit like the courtesy wave, we need the courtesy warning for the recline, or as I like to refer to it, the CRoW.

    Using the CRoW minimises the chance for a nipple cripple brought about by the person sitting behind you get covered in their own drink that was previously sitting on the tray table before your reclined. It is also just the right thing to do.

    Long live the CRoW.

  • Unless you’re in business class, never. There isn’t enough room to do this, if you do it, you’re an inconsiderate asshole.

  • You could have reclined your seat to reclaim your “lost” space. The only person who can’t is, as you say, the person at the back of the row (I’ve been that person).

    Reclining seats is the only thing that makes air travel at all bearable. Without them, it’s agony.

  • You people complaining about your knees touching the chair in front of you before it is reclined, i hate to break it to you, but you aren’t even meant to be sitting there.. in the event of a forced landing, you’ll lose your legs.. as others have said, it’s your problem, so either choose another way to travel, or pay for the extra room somewhere else on the plane. it’s like people complaining about people on phones on trains – people pay to be there, and can use the time how they please.. no-one complains if you offend their eyes, why should you complain if someone offends your ears?

  • I recline a little when the lights are off during anything longer than 10 hours. As a courtesy people should raise their seats at mealtimes and not recline until their own tray is taken away as I saw happen to my fellow passenger who was still hunched over their meal.

    My worst experience was on a 4am flight to a minesite on a Fokker 50. The guy in front of me was so huge that when he reclined, his added heft meant the seat flexed enough that we were making eye contact. Thank God at least one of us (him) managed to fall asleep to make it 1% less awkward. The type of guy I am and the type of guys like him that catch a FIFO flight at 4am meant I was totally okay with it though.

  • Yeh, it’s pretty easy to just turn around and check whether the reclining is going to really bother the person behind. Most of the time they’re going to have no problem with it anyway.

  • If recliners interfere with your legroom just kick the back of their seat like a petulant 3yr old.

  • The only time I don’t recline is if someone tall sits behind me, I’m 6’1 and the only way I can be comfortable is if I recline to get my shoulders in a better position and the adjustable head things to cup my neck as I’m a ex broken neck sufferer and will put my neck over your supposed comfort. but I’m in the NT, if I’m flying it’s not a half hour flight

  • I’m quite tall and when I sit in economy, my knees are firmly up against the seat in front of me. It’s rather uncomfortable, but I can put up with it on short domestic flights. But because my knees are pressed into the seat in front, that person is never able to recline their seat. Rather amusing when they complain to the hostess. I guess we all suffer.

  • I’m a regular passenger across Australia. The only time I get truly annoyed is when someone reclines before meal service is finished; this includes the “instant recliners” that drop their seat into your lap as soon as the seatbelt light goes out. Please don’t. And don’t recline when they take YOUR tray away. I still have my tray.

  • I think it really depends on the length of the flight, the type of seats, how much space there is and how the seats recline. There are A LOT of differences between airplanes and airlines. On one flight someone can recline and it’s no issue, while on others I am either looking at their faces or I have no space to put anything in front of me, like a book or a tablet or the table. I also understand that some people need to recline sometimes just to fit properly in the seat or because they have back/shoulder issues, I don’t mind that usually, it’s the ones that have to go ALL THE WAY back and are just chatting or farting around for no good reason.

    And the blame should always go to the airlines. They have options as to space between rows and how far and what kind of recline a seat can do. They choose some of the god awful configurations to torture us out of our money.

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