Passengers’ screaming match sparks plane etiquette debate

To recline or not to recline? Which side of the aisle do you fall in the plane etiquette debate?...
To recline or not to recline? Which side of the aisle do you fall in the plane etiquette debate? Photo: X
A 12-second screaming match on a packed passenger plane has relaunched one of travel’s most controversial debates: When is it ever okay to recline your plane seat?

A heated “argument” appeared on social media last week, sharing the awkward — and loud — stand-off held in the packed passenger plane. At the end of the flight, as travellers start getting ready to disembark, something sparks a “ding-dong” between the two. ”The whole trip she pushed my seat,” one fed-up woman begins loudly denouncing the passenger in front. “You’ve seen it. You know she did.”

Rising to her feet, the pushy passenger responds:

“I’m allowed to put my seat back.”

The clip, which has reverberated around TikTok, X and other social media platforms since Thursday, has been seen almost 9 million times. Still, there is no consensus on who was in the right.

Some comments back the woman’s fight for the right to recline.

Others side with the recliner, in front, telling her to stick her ground.

The poster of the video, Ian Miles Cheong, was more fed up with the behaviour of the traveller who spent the entire flight venting her frustration on the row in front.

“She’s allowed to put her seat back. You don’t get to kick it repeatedly just because you want more space.”

Many comments sided with the semi-recumbent passenger, who wanted to lean her seat back. The logic being, if you’re provided with a reclinable seat, it’s perfectly permissible.

“If the seat is reclinable, recline it,” wrote one person.

If you failed to move your seat over fear of offending other travellers, you were a “sucker”, was the view of some.

Others said it was an unwritten rule of plane etiquette that you do not recline your plane seat, unless travelling at night.

The more nuanced argument was that both women’s anger was misplaced. Their real enemy is the person who tried to fit 320 passengers into an A320.

“Putting your seat back in coach is an unspoken thing most people don’t do. It’s really the airline’s fault because they’ve made coach so cramped and tight that putting the seat back shouldn’t even be an option,” was another view, siding with the woman in front.

While it’s no secret that airlines have tried to get more “economy” out of their cabins packing more seats into cabins.

According to, the fullest economy cabin belongs to the Filipino carrier Cebu, whose A330s pack a whopping 436.

However, many airlines have realised that reclining seats is a pinch point for many customers and, in an effort to stop ugly scenes like the one recorded, have installed static, non-reclining seats. Since 2011, Jetstar has flown some routes with no-recline A320s, with similar moves by other budget carriers such as Spirit Airlines and Ryanair.