On The Plane: The Different Styles Of Those Who Recline & Those Who Get Reclined On

Sitting in a tin can with less and less room with each new type of plane means that personal space is a precious commodity. We’ve already written about manspreaders on planes and what to do about them in “How To Stop A Manspreader On A Plane In Three Easy Steps”, but reclining seats “behind the curtain” of first and business class add a whole new level of encroaching on others.

After hundreds of hours of observation over the years, we’ve been able to categorize not only the various types of flyers who recline their seats, but also those behind them.


The ones who feel too guilty to recline

If they think their reclining will be an inconvenience for the person behind them, they just won’t recline. It seems to be a little codependent on the surface, but more often than not, they’re just tying to be nice.

The Apologizers

Passengers fill the cabin of an Airbus A380 as it sits at a

Before they recline, Apologizers may strike up a conversation with the person behind them and apologize for reclining. Maybe their back hurts. Maybe they need to recline in order to sleep. Whatever the case, they mean well.


Minimizers try their best. They may recline, for example, while sleeping, but as soon as they’re awake, they pop back up into a non-reclined position. Like Apologizers, they’re doing the best they can and it’s kind of hard to fault them.

The Sneaks

These people sslloowwllyy recline, hoping that the person behind them won’t notice (but of course they do).

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When confronted about reclining, Sneaks may play dumb (“Oh, was it reclined? I hadn’t noticed”), after which they may bring their seat back to an upright position (and then they’ll start sneaking all over again, or they might just leave it where it is).


Rambos are the ones who recline the second they’re allowed (and sometimes before – until the flight attendant catches them reclining too early) and stay there for the duration of the flight. If you say something to them, Rambos may snarl something about it being a free country, it’s their right to recline, or “Don’t you know who I am?“.

Yeah, Rambos are self-centered A-holes.


If those who recline are “recliners,” then those who are being reclined upon must be “reclinees,” right?

The ones who grin and bear it

Not a plane reference but the same gist. From Braffination/Reddit: ““Heading home on the Q train yesterday when this young black guy nods off on the shoulder of a Jewish man. The man doesn’t move a muscle, just lets him stay there. After a minute, I asked the man if he wanted me to wake the kid up, but he shook his head and responded, ‘He must have had a long day, let him sleep. We’ve all been there, right?’”

These people who have someone reclining into their space are sort of like the Guilty recliners above – at first glance they might seem too meek to say anything but dig a little deeper and you may find a kindhearted person who truly doesn’t mind.


Complainers gonna complain. It could be to their seat mate (whether they know him/her or not), it could be under their breath, or they may go the aggressive route and they might say something to the recliner him/herself.



Tattletales tell the flight attendant. Unfortunately, that rarely turns out well for the tattletale.

Oh, yeah?

People with the “Oh, Yeah?” persona are the ones looking for revenge. “You’re gonna put that seat practically in my lap? Well fine, I’m going to kick your seat. Or pull on it when I get up to go to the restroom every 30 minutes. Or do something else that I hope ticks you off because you dared to encroach on my personal space.” “Oh yeah?” people are the ones with the tendency towards passive-aggressiveness.

There are some people you hope are not paired together. Having a Too Guilty To Recline or a Grin And Bear It will be fine with just about anyone. Sneaks, Complainers and Tattletales all run their own risks, depending on who they’re sitting in front of or behind. But if you have a Rambo sitting in front of an Oh, Yeah? Well, that could eventually come to fisticuffs and make it into local headlines. And then we’ll write a post about it 😉

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As for me, as a recliner, I either don’t recline, or I’ll be a minimalist. As a reclinee, I’ll generally grin and bear it.

OK, time to fess you – what kind of recliner and/or reclinee are you?

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

7 thoughts on “On The Plane: The Different Styles Of Those Who Recline & Those Who Get Reclined On”

  1. As someone who’s 6’5″, broad shouldered, and closer to 300 than I’d like (feel free to blame the last on me), I don’t recline. It’s mostly out of empathy, since normally my knees are already hitting the seat in front of me anyway and I wouldn’t wish that on someone else. Unfortunately, the people in front of me don’t normally feel the same, which frequently leads to some aching knees for a couple of days after a long haul flight. It’s also tough for the person in front of me because my knees have nowhere to go but into their back, so nobody wins.

  2. I never recline – I’m 6’5″ and understand what it does to the person behind me. I grin and bear it as the reclinee. Also, post flight I’ll usually thank the person in front of me if they haven’t reclined.

  3. I’m only a Rambo in first and minimalist in coach. Regardless of class, I see the space behind me as my space and I’ll use it if I want to. In First, you have more legroom and your not depend on the tray table coming down from the seat back in front of you. Call me what ever you want to call me, but I don’t care what the attorney sitting behind me thinks. Pretty much everyone in first makes more money than me, lives more comfortably than me, so reclining is my way of leveling the playing field.

  4. This is why i pay for Exit seats, nobody in front of me and no I never recline as feel too guilty anyway.

  5. Depends. A simple dat flight I do not recline. If sleep yes but I do check behind me. Just be polite. And new seats less and less recline anyway. That said most of the time i can recline to full flat anyway.

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