Is It Ever Acceptable To Recline Your Seat On A Flight? A Guide To Getting It Right

We spoke to an etiquette expert.

Reclining on flights is a divisive issue. As soon as the seatbelt sign turns off after takeoff, you can guarantee seats will creep (or even slam) back – cue tutting, eye-rolls or even a row among passengers.

Gemma Collins isn’t a fan of the seat recline. Earlier this year, the Towie star was filmed having a squabble with a fellow passenger on board. The GC had been trying to sleep by leaning her head against the chair in front, and became frustrated when the passenger reclined their chair.

So what is the etiquette for reclining on flights? It’s a divisive topic, that’s for sure. A poll by Skyscanner found some view it as “inconsiderate” and believe it’s never ok to recline, while others think it’s ok as long as you ask first.

Some consider it 100% unacceptable on shorter flights, while others believe that they should absolutely be able to recline regardless of flight duration – one person went as far as saying anyone with a problem should pay the extra money to sit in premium economy.

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Rupert Wesson, academy director of Debrett’s, the authority on etiquette training in the UK, tells HuffPost UK: “The seats on most aircraft are designed to recline and so of course it is acceptable, but that does not mean that it should be done without care and consideration for the person sat behind.”

If a meal is about to be served there’s no point in reclining “because you will only have to put it back up again”, he says. And in his view, you don’t need to ask permission to recline – but it’s important to do it carefully and check that you are not going to knock over drinks, laptops and iPads when you do so.

“A quick glance to check will also indicate to the person behind that you going to recline which is always helpful,” he adds.