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Screaming Match Between Two Airplane Passengers Sparks Debate About Whether It's Ever Okay To Recline Your Seat

Photo: eldar nurkovic / Shutterstock.com
girl reclining her airplane seat

Airplane etiquette is one of those things about which we're all unlikely to ever see eye to eye. But that hasn't stopped a heated debate from arising online following the latest viral video of an altercation between airplane passengers. 

People are debating whether it's ever okay to recline your seat on a plane after two passengers fought over it.

Partly because of the ease of filming everything that happens around us and partly because nearly everyone is … well, rather terrible nowadays, disputes on planes about everything from seats to window shades to service dogs seem like they've become the rule rather than the exception. 

The latest viral airplane altercation centers on one of the hottest travel etiquette debates there is — reclining your seat. It's something that annoys almost every single one of us, even though it's well within our rights to do it.

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A woman got into a fight with passengers she said kicked her seat the entire flight because she reclined it.

The video is brief but packs tons of drama. It shows a woman embroiled in a heated argument with the people sitting behind her on a flight as passengers deplane. "The whole trip she pushed my seat!" the woman yelled at the couple.



When the man behind her tried to defend himself and his partner, the woman became even more agitated. "You seen it," she yelled, "you know she did!" When the man continued trying to talk to her, she snapped completely. "I'm allowed to put my seat back!" she yelled three different times, becoming more emphatic with each round and finally pounding her chest for emphasis. "I. Am. Allowed. To. Put. My. Seat. Back!"

Her wild-eyed rage is certainly relatable — who among us hasn't gotten to the end of a nightmare flight with exactly this level of fury coursing through our veins?

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The response to the video revealed just how different our notions of air travel etiquette are.

The rageful young woman definitely had her supporters. In fact, the majority of people, even those who hate it when people recline their seats, seemed to be firmly on Team Seat Recline Lady. "ABSOLUTELY 100% with her!" one person wrote. "Yes you are 100% allowed to recline," another said.

Many felt that the fact that the seats reclined in the first place automatically handed the win to the angry woman. "The seats are there to recline," one person wrote. "The person behind can ask but can't be mad if they say no." Another wrote, "They recline for a reason! If you don't like it, don't fly!"

There didn't seem to be much disagreement on whether people had the right to recline their seats. But whether or not they should? That is a different question.

"You have the right to recline it, regardless, I’m not going to ask the person behind me," one person wrote. "But do I get annoyed when someone does it to me 100%"



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Many others echoed similar sentiments. "I never recline mine because I’m not taking two inches away from the person behind me," a TikToker commented. "And I use my tray, so when you recline I can’t use it." That is definitely the most infuriating part of someone reclining their seat, it renders your tray totally unusable. 

In fact, etiquette experts have cited this as one of the main reasons why people shouldn't recline. (Yes, etiquette experts have actually weighed in on seat reclining.) Speaking to USA Today, etiquette expert and podcaster Nick Leighton mentioned the possibility of breaking someone's laptop when you recline your seat, a thing flight attendants have said they've seen happen many times.

Etiquette experts also recommend not reclining your seat during food and beverage service for the same reason, as well as if the person behind you is especially tall, injured, or disabled. I have a friend, for instance, who is 6' 5," and if the person in front of him reclines their seat he has nowhere to put his legs but in the aisle — which is forbidden for safety reasons.



Still, this whole thing has become so heated that even lawyers are weighing in, like the one in the video above who says passengers who don't like reclined seats have no recourse whatsoever under the law. Which is pretty wild given how petty this all is. Like, is it really this serious that we need a lawyer's take?

Yes, seat recliners are deeply annoying, but retaliating for something they have every right to do? Come one, man. You gotta chill. And seat recliners need to check behind them to make sure they're not going to destroy someone's property or injure their legs.

This is all just common courtesy stuff, and it shouldn't be this hard, and it would make flying easier for all of us. Air travel is already nightmarish enough without this kind of drama.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.