Downtime

How to Passive Aggressively Convey Your Displeasure at a Reclined Airplane Seat

A woman reclining an airplane seat and a man uncomfortable behind her.
Jason Hetherington/The Image Bank/Getty Images Plus

The “is it OK to recline your airplane seat?” debate has been raging for years now, but it surfaced with new vigor recently alongside a berserk viral video in which a man repeatedly punched the reclined seat in front of him. Below is an edited transcript of the passionate Slack conversation Slate staffers had about this topic.

greg.lavallee
have you guys seen this

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dan.kois
My feeling is of course she shouldn’t have reclined but he needs to exhibit a little stoic self-respect

tom.scocca
He’s an aggro fool, the thing you do is intermittently wham your knee into it as you move around

lizzie.o’leary
hmm you are all wrong. I recline. I just do it politely and ask for permission.
and, like, don’t do it to a very tall person, someone with a baby, etc.

heidi.grothaus
If you recline, you should only do it when you want to lean back. The people who recline and then sit up/lean forward or leave their seat reclined when they go to the bathroom are truly the worst. If you demonstrate awareness and respect, you’re good to recline imo.

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dan.kois
Lizzie, has anyone ever said no?
Because they all WANTED to say no

lizzie.o’leary
Some people have been like uhhhhhh
So I don’t do it to them

dan.kois
I do not think asking someone’s permission to commit a crime upon them makes the crime OK
so I am Against this philosophy

lizzie.o’leary
I will not ask you before I shoot you in the face dan

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dan.kois
i would be like uhhhhhh

greg.lavallee
I saw someone suggest turning your AC vent on the back of the neck of the person in front of you. They’re onto something

dan.check
the clear solution is to take 60 vicodin before takeoff so you can wake up on the runway in italy

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tom.scocca
also the conditions have changed since the reclining wars began
The things they’ve done to seat spacing are inhuman
There’s now the genuine nightmare experience for me of…not being able to reach my bag under the seat in front of me?
Like my spine can’t bend forward in the space anymore??

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dan.kois
yeah i always have to pick up my bag with my feet

ashley.feinberg
correct thing to do is wait a bit, stand up as if the chair had never been reclined, make sure there’s a heavy jostle, and then act shocked and confused about this thing that was suddenly in your way

dan.kois
Once I politely asked the person in front of me if they wouldn’t mind putting their seat back up as I was trying to work but couldn’t open my laptop, and they turned around, looked me in the face, and said, “Fuck you.”
so, you could try that

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heidi.grothaus
Another thing to do is put your tray table up and down at frequent intervals and push real hard to make sure it’s locked in its upright position.

dan.kois
i mean, if they get up to go to the bathroom and leave the seat reclined, you are legally obligated to push their button and unrecline their seat

dan.check
If someone with a reclined seat gets up to go to the bathroom, it’s fair game to push the seat back into its full upright position
You don’t even have to press the button—just push hard.

daniel.schroeder
messing with a reclined seat makes people want to double down on the recline though

laura.bennett
sorry to report I will both recline luxuriously when my seat permits it AND engage in strategic jostles to communicate my displeasure when the seat in front me reclines
I enjoy both in equal measure

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lizzie.o’leary
Laura I did not think it was possible to both-sides this

laura.bennett
and yet here we are
there’s different satisfaction to be gained from both the recline AND the righteous annoyance what can i say

heidi.grothaus
I think both sides-ing this is akin to hating pedestrians as a driver and hating drivers as a pedestrian

lizzie.o’leary
all I know is I will betray all my democratic principles to be comfortable on an airplane

katie.rayford  
I am currently on a plane where the person in front of me has reclined if anyone wants me to try any methods out in real time

ashley.feinberg
try whispering in their ear “you can lean back even more if you want”
i bet you that fixes it

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