How to beat seat recliners at their own game

Dec 21, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.


It’s Plane Etiquette 101, but too many people don’t bother to glance behind them — let alone give a verbal warning — before slamming their seat back on a plane.

Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more travel tips.

I’ve lost count of the number of times my reflexes have been tested as I snatch my iPad or glass of red wine out of harm’s way. And I’ve heard sad tales of cracked laptop screens and tablets that were caught between a reclining seat and a hard place.

Some seatback slammers know they’re being inconsiderate and don’t care, but I like to believe most offenders are infrequent flyers who simply haven’t figured out what happens when they press that little button and push back.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for the TPG daily newsletter.

Photo by ArisSu/Getty Images.
(Photo by ArisSu/Getty Images)

 

This is why I’ve decided to start making the first move.

Now, rather than hope for a considerate person in front of me, I introduce myself before takeoff and ask if they can let me know before they tilt back.

At first, it felt strange. A smile and a nod are usually the most contact you have with anyone sitting around you on a plane, so actually speaking to someone feels like a break in protocol.

Some people look a little confused at first, but they get it when I explain that my device could be damaged or I could end up covered in red wine if I’m not ready for them to recline.

One of the key points to make in this preflight introduction is that you’re not expecting the person to sit upright throughout the flight. As lovely as it is to have the extra space, this isn’t about asking them to give up the right to recline so that I can do some work or watch a movie.

I always explain that I’m more than happy for them to put their seat back and am only asking for a heads-up before they do.

Some firmly believe a person should not recline their seat on a day flight or a short flight. Personally, I’m all for comfort as long as the other person tells me they’re moving back. As the seat domino effect kicks in, I’ll let the person behind me know I’m about to do the same.

As more airlines ditch seatback screens and encourage BYO inflight entertainment, the potential for accidents and arguments increases. By taking the initiative, you can hopefully sidestep some heated moments and make a change one fellow passenger at a time.

Asian man hand holding smart-phone start up working on board of airplane near window seat and wing
(Photo by skaman306/Getty Images)

 

So far, everyone I’ve asked has either left their seat up throughout the flight or turned around and given me fair warning before reclining.

One day, I may be unlucky enough to sit behind someone who doesn’t appreciate this travel tip and may even delight in causing a little havoc for me.

If that happens, there’s a fair chance I’ll stare daggers at them, then remind myself that most people will do the right thing once they know what it is. Then I’ll go right ahead and introduce myself to the next person I sit behind — and look forward to the day when someone does the same to me.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/ The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.