In 2020, the story of a man jabbing the seat of the passenger ahead of him after she reclined her seat went viral. We wrote about it here and embedded the video that the passenger posted so you can see it for yourself. 

I wasn’t on the flight so I have no idea what went on before the woman started recording, but in my opinion, the guy totally overreacted. I think he should have been dragged off the plane.

I know one thing for sure: If the woman had turned around before she reclined her seat to let him know, the situation probably wouldn’t have escalated to the degree it did. That’s the polite thing to do. I get upset when I’m working in my seat and all of a sudden the person in front of me reclines with no warning at all and their seat comes close to smashing my laptop.

Below are two photos of what a smashed laptop looks like.

It happens more often that you think:

So, does a passenger have the right to recline? Absolutely. But there needs to be some common courtesy.

A lot of people who commented on the situation on my Facebook page and in the comments on the post said that this was the airline’s fault for putting the seats too close together. I remember when all the airlines started cutting legroom, shortly after 9/11, from what was a standard of about 35 inches down to 31 inches. American was the last to cut legroom because they hoped passengers would pay a little bit more to fly American to get more legroom, but guess what? They didn’t.

I have no sympathy for the guy jabbing the seat. He should have known that his seat didn’t recline before he boarded. I spend a lot of time making sure I have the best seat possible for each flight I take.

He should have assigned himself a different seat, paid a few dollars more for AA’s Main Cabin Extra (five extra inches of legroom), or splurged for a seat in business class. (Although these days even some domestic first class seats are so tight that they’re uncomfortable when the person in front reclines.)

Bottom line: Before you recline your seat, no matter if it’s a long or short flight, you should just turn around and give your seatmate the common courtesy of a heads-up. The only times I don’t do that are when I wait for the person to recline and fall asleep or to go to the bathroom. When I have a lot of work to do, and I’m in a regular coach seat, I’ll sometimes even pay the person in front of me not to recline. 

It seems like the days of common courtesy are over. Have I ever mentioned what irks me the most? When people talk on their cell phones or watch movies using their speakers like they’re the only ones on the plane. But that’s a whole other subject

What do you think?
Do people have the right to recline? If there’s something else that irks you about traveling on planes you want to share, please leave a comment.

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12 Comments On "Why You Need to Let the Passenger Behind You Know That You're About to Do This"
  1. lee laurino|

    I hate flying in those small seats and take a ship or business class (yes i have to cut out dinner out and buying anything on my trips to afford this) to survive 12+ hr trips.

    I blame the airlines for srinking the seats at the expense of the passengers to put money in their pockets.

    Perhaps it is time to sell ‘seats that recline’ and those that do not and you wont make flights worse than they already are.

  2. Georgia|

    Untrained parents with untrained children sitting behind me make a three hour flight seem like eternity. The last time this happened, the flight attendant kept my wine glass full. Parenting is a full time job. I can be considerate and helpful, but if you “check out” of your responsibilities as a parent, you are raising THREE unschooled and socially inept adults.

  3. Mariska|

    I think you shouldn’t recline your seat at all, especially on short flights. If you must, if the person in front of you reclines or anything, it’s only common decency to let the person behind you know that you’re reclining.

    I’m wondering if the two people in the video talked to each other. People act like this but won’t even say ‘hey, it’s kinda annoying that you’re reclining your seat’ or ‘would you please stop poking my seat’. Lots of peoples are assholes nowadays but I find that most of them are actually a lot less annoying if you’d just tell them something they’re doing is bothering you.

  4. vijayan|

    love it

  5. val|

    The issue that irks me is when it’s time to exit the plane and most passengers are so impatient, they will knock you over trying to get to the front before the seat belt sign is displayed.

  6. Todd|

    How much do you normally offer if you pay them?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      The two times I’ve done it, I gave them free WiFi passes. Back then it was around $15

  7. David Miller|

    My opinion – I like what Southwest has done with their seats – they have limited the amount a seat can be reclined to about 3 inches. I personally object to someone reclining into my paid for cramped space.

  8. Shopaddict88|

    I recently saw a lady in her 40’s or 50’s yelling at an older lady to get out of the aisle and when the older lady didn’t understand why, the younger one told her to ‘sit down and get out of the way’ because people were lining up to exit and she wanted her teen/adult kids to deplane first! Luckily the older lady stood up to her and told her she had no right to talk to her that way and stood her ground! I can’t believe how rude the younger one was! I think her kids were so embarassed!

    1. Johnny Jet|


  9. Barbara|

    One thing I do when I have to work when flying, is let the person in front of me know I am working and would they please let me know when and if they are going to recline their seat. This seems to alleviate issues. Sometimes they recline and let me know and sometimes they don’t recline.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Smart! I might need to add that in

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