Why reclining your seat on a plane makes you a jerk

As if being crammed into an airplane couldn’t be any more unbearable, imagine someone in the row in front of you folding their seat all the way back and invading your already cramped space.

Although many frustrated travelers ignore the inconsiderate gesture, the behavior must be addressed.

Etiquette coaches Tami Claytor, Diane Gottsman and Jodi RR Smith have settled a debate about whether it is appropriate to recline your seat on an airplane.

“Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should,” Claytor told HuffPost. “Reclining your seat and compromising the comfort of others violates basic principles of etiquette.”

The decency expert believes that people should be considerate of their fellow human beings, even if they have paid for adjustable seats.

Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, added that passengers should be mindful of polite manners while traveling.

“We want to maximize our comfort without inconveniencing others, which is quite a challenge given the increasingly smaller seats you find on airplanes these days,” Smith told HuffPost.

Experts advise passengers on short-haul flights to avoid reclining seats unless they can guarantee that it will not disturb the person behind them. However, reclining rules vary depending on the length of the flight.

“On a long flight, it’s unreasonable to expect every passenger not to do everything they can to make themselves comfortable,” Gottsman told HuffPost. “On an overnight flight, sleep is important and reclining is acceptable, especially since everyone else is reclining at the same time.”

Some frequent flyers who are tall, have back problems, or need space to hold their small children will also be given permission to recline their seat.

However, if none of these apply to you and you are simply looking for a way to relax, check that there is no one sitting behind you or that there is a small child occupying the seat. In these cases, you can lean back.

A considerate approach that experts recommend is for travelers to start a conversation with their seatmates before extending the chair. Simply asking how far you can recline your chair without making them uncomfortable is polite and considerate.

“Try to negotiate a reasonable compromise, such as reclining your seat slightly or only reclining for a certain period of time,” Claytor suggested.

This article originally appeared in the New York Post and has been republished with permission

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