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How to beat seat recliners at their own game

Dec. 21, 2021
4 min read
How to beat seat recliners at their own game
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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.

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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.

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(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.

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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.

(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 image by (Photo by Zach Griff/ The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees