Nightmare passenger refuses to let flyer recline on international flight

Another day, another nightmare at 30,000 feet. This time, an inconsiderate passenger is under fire after a video showed them desperately trying to prevent a female flyer in front of them from reclining her seat back.

In the viral clip, filmed on August 13 on a flight from Paris, France to Los Angeles, California, a woman can be seen pushing her arms against the seat in front of her as if holding the door during an attempted break-in.

When the seat’s occupant protests, the relaxation denier scoffs, “I’m sorry but no.”

Taken aback at the rudeness, the aspiring leaner says she’s going to inform a flight attendant, whereupon the recline decliner dares her to “talk to somebody.”

The seat stiff-armer then declares, “I said respectfully, can you please stop moving it back? Respect the person behind you.”

Unfortunately, seat reclining has been a point of contention among frequent flyers. In November, travel blogger The Points Guy posed a query on seat reclining on his Facebook forum, sparking a major debate on the topic. Some passengers called it an in-flight right while others dubbed it a major space invasion.

The passenger presses the woman's seat upright.
The plane passenger kept her fellow flyer’s seat at 90 degrees.

“It helps with my lower back problem,” said seat lean advocate Karen Skelly. “I can’t NOT recline on a 4- or 5-hour flight if I’m expected to be able to walk off the plane.”

However, naysayer Christine Scott labeled the practice “selfish and ridiculous,” declaring: “People who recline their seats on airplanes are the same ones who hold up traffic while they take multiple attempts to back into a parking space.”

Others shared anecdotes of accidents caused by people reclining with reckless abandon. “[I] ended up with my dinner and white wine all over my lap,” Shana Opdyke-Carroll while describing a red-eye flight to Europe.

Daphne Laure recalled, “I’ve seen a woman get her MacBook screen crushed because the person in front just slammed his seat back.”

Reclining one’s seat can also prove dangerous, according to one flight attendant who recounted an instance where a passenger broke his seatmate’s nose by leaning back too fast.

The reclining block.
The incident occurred during a flight from Paris, France to Los Angeles, California.

So what is the proper reclining etiquette? Currently, the general consensus among flight experts is that people are allowed to tilt their seats back, but should be considerate of posterior passengers when doing so.

Switzerland-based etiquette coach Julia Esteve Boyd summed up reclining protocol like this: “It can be irritating or uncomfortable for the person seated behind. However, it is completely reasonable to recline your seat if you want to.”

However, the author said that prospective recliners should exercise proper etiquette, such as looking before you lean and going back gradually rather than letting the seat fall back.

“If they’re eating or drinking, for instance? Just wait a few moments until they’re finished,” the manners maven instructed. “Or, if you’re ready to go to sleep right then — just be careful. Don’t recline the seat too quickly.”

She added that it’s considerate to wait until the dinner and drink service has concluded and to refrain during short flights (reclining is to be expected on long-haul flights such as the aforementioned).

The latter tip is perhaps particularly important given that airline seat pitch — the distance from a fixed point on one seat to the corresponding one in front of it — has been downsized from an average of 35 inches decades ago to an average of 30 or 31 inches, with some carriers only offering 28 inches, per TPG.

This isn’t the first passenger to cause a nightmare at 30,000 feet.

So far, 2023 has been a banner year for barbaric behavior in the skies with recent unruly passengers including an in-flight urinator and a selfish passenger who forced a plane to turn around because they left their bag at the airport.

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