Life Travel How to recline respectfully when flying

How to recline respectfully when flying

It's very simple: just ask. Photo: Getty
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An expert in etiquette has warned plane passengers to recline with care after an in-flight argument reportedly turned violent this week.

Punches were allegedly thrown on a Jetstar flight on Wednesday after a 42-year-old woman attempted to recline her seat, to the annoyance of a 27-year-old man behind her.

A spokesperson for Jetstar told The New Daily the airline would not tolerate “disruptive behaviour”, but said the rules of reclining ultimately rested with passengers themselves.

Passengers had to restrain the pair before AFP could board. Photo: AAP

“Like all airlines, our seats can be reclined in flight at customers’ discretion, aside from when seats must be in an upright position for take-off and landing,” she said.

The spokesperson said Jetstar’s rules were no different from other carriers, and noted that there was no policy against reclining your chair when the person behind you was eating.

But Melbourne etiquette expert Susie Wilson told The New Daily there were a few very simple tricks to showing respect in the air.

 ‘It’s a rare commodity’

The two passengers, who were eventually met by police on the Sydney tarmac, had been flying from Phuket in Jetstar business class – proving that even increased leg space doesn’t solve the etiquette dilemma.

Fellow passenger Scott Haywood told Melbourne radio station 3AW a number of bystanders were forced to restrain the pair before Australian Federal Police could board the plane.

“In the area there were about 12 of us who saw it all and they were certainly laying into each other,” he said.

On most domestic planes, tray tables are difficult to use if the passenger in front fully reclines their seat, making meal time a big no-no for pressing the silver button.

“How would you feel if someone threw their seat back while you were eating?” asked manners expert Ms Wilson, who runs the Antoinette Champagne Finishing School in Melbourne.

Don't put your comfort ahead of other people's. Photo: Getty
Don’t put your comfort ahead of other people’s. Photo: Getty

She said the decision should be as simple as consulting the person likely to be affected.

“When I fly, I turn around to check, and let the person know that I’m sitting back.”

“Just see if it works for them – it’s very simple.”

Ms Wilson said the most common reason for people not wanting to be reclined on was if they were using their tray table to write or eat.

She also emphasised stress as a significant factor to consider on planes.

“People are often experiencing a lot of emotions when they fly, it’s a stressful environment,” she said.

“Let’s just help them out.”

Unfortunately, Ms Wilson said in her experience, people who check before they recline are a “very rare commodity”.

“People need to be educated,” she argued.

Airplanes – they don't need to look like this. Photo: Getty
Airplanes – they don’t need to look like this. Photo: Getty

Tips for reclining with respect

Worried you’ll offend a fellow passenger by trying to relax? Just follow the rules from Independent Traveller below and you should be fine.

  • Careful of kids: Children are often jumping around on flights, so it’s worth checking to see if a child’s hand or fingers might get caught when you push back.
  • Only go as far as you need: If you don’t need to push your seat all the way back, don’t. Reclining slightly will give you more comfort, and could help the person behind you stay comfortable too.
  • Just don’t do it at mealtime: This is a blanket rule. If people are eating, you can wait.
  • Recline slowly: Both for safety, and to disturb the person behind as little as possible.
  • And finally: A little consideration goes a long way.

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