How To Get Someone To Stop Reclining Their Seat On A Flight

How To Get Someone To Stop Reclining Their Seat On A Flight
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In recent weeks, we here at Lifehacker HQ have had several important debates over the correct etiquette on flights, like which passenger has the right to close the window shade and the ability to deplane first.

But no subject has caused more controversy across social media than the debate over whether you should actually recline your seat on a flight”even the Washington Post recently chimed in on the issue (the New York Times and NPR have had takes in the past, too).

We wrote about it back in July and opinions were generally mixed, though leaned in favour of reclining at your discretion and yours alone. “Unless it is their first flight, they know the score,” JasonMTracy wrote in our comments. “Often, the entire reason I’m reclining is that the person in front of me did, and now I need the extra room.”

I, too, am strictly pro-reclining. Of course, this should come with exceptions, like during take-off and landing for obvious safety (and comfort) reasons. And never recline during meal service; no one wants to eat with you in their lap. Unfortunately, these rules are hardly universal”but here’s an evil hack by way of Reddit that might solve your problem.

“If the person sitting in front of you on a flight reclines their seat all the way back and leaves you with no room, turn on the air con above you to full blast and point it at the top of their head,” u/medievilmusician writes.

In other words, let your passive aggression out by forcing the passenger in front of you to endure the wrath of your freezing-cold aeroplane air until they relent. Of course, there’s a chance they might ask you not to do that, but the odds that they’ll adjust their seat to avoid a confrontation are likely higher.

If that doesn’t work, or the seat in front of you reclines just a few inches short of your air conditioning’s path, it might be time to get a little more aggressive. “…. the second I see it start to recline I try to put my knees up against it and so they can’t recline it and it’s funny to watch them struggle with it wondering why it won’t work,” u/drudown49 writes. If that fails, the occasional kick to the seat in front of you, or a case of feigned restless leg syndrome, might earn you an extra inch or two, at least.

This story has been updated since its original publication.


  • Although I agree that for safety reasons and during meal service the seat back must be kept upright… But I think I have the right to recline my seat as I’ve paid for the facilities that the airline has provided. Kicking the seat is definitely not a solution and one would just be starting a loosing battle. Plus it’s just mean to direct the air vent on someone’s head. The only way according to me is to recline your own seat,as you have mentioned. It’s so comfortable!!

  • Particularly after Avian Flu and SARS, I tend to utilize the “sneeze violently and blow my nose” gag. Works about 70% of the time.

  • I like the seats that move forward when you recline so the person behind actually gets more room.

    The fault lies with airlines, there should be laws against the current designs as they are not big enough for average adult males even without reclining.

    • Or Females. I am 6 foot and have nearly had my knee caps broken when someone reclined there seat so quickly

  • If you’ve presumably already flown before and know you hate people reclining in front of you… why not try preparing yourself with some Valium before your next flights.

    Chill the heck out. Yeah it sucks but so does being a passive aggressive jerk to someone just using a ‘facility’ offered on the plane. Ya know, you have every right to recline too! Just because you dont feel the need to, doesnt mean the person in front of you is the same. Take a few Valiums… or just learn to not be an asshole. (FYI: I’m a non recliner)

  • If you can, sit cross-legged (or a variation to this to accommodate the the narrowness of the seats). It is a natural position for the body. You would keep your own seat more vertical, i.e. not recline it, and thus your own spine would stay straight. The plane trip becomes considerably more conscious as a result.

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