Survey Reveals Passengers' Actual Thoughts When It Comes to Reclining Seats, Sharing Armrests, and More

Two-thirds of passengers think it’s rude to recline their seat — but do it anyway.

Interior of airplane with passengers on seats

Pollyana Ventura/Getty Images

The age-old question of whether to recline or not to recline your airplane seat has plagued travelers for years. Well, turns out, more than two-thirds of passengers think it’s rude — but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing it anyway.

In fact, more than 77% of travelers recently surveyed said they did think it was rude to fully recline their seat, according to a study from The Vacationer shared with Travel + Leisure. Of those, more than 27% said they would still lean back, but politely ask if it was ok first, and just over 3% said they didn’t care and would recline without warning anyway. 

In total, more than 22% of passengers surveyed said they didn’t think it was rude to recline and just over 45% of passengers said they wouldn’t recline at all.

But reclining isn’t the only controversial airplane behavior when people are crammed together in small economy seats. Take the question of who gets the armrests: conventional practice has been to give the middle seat passenger use of both middle armrests, but more than 63% of people surveyed said they either never abide by that or abide by it only sometimes.

And when it comes to coveted overhead bin space, more than 57% of surveyed passengers said they would at least consider storing their luggage many rows in front of their seat (which is, of course, better than storing it behind you). A whopping 15.66% said they always do this, while just over 16% said they would do it only if they were boarding late, and more than 25% said they would do it only if it was a full flight.

When it comes to onboard etiquette, shoes often come up as a sticking point. It’s not uncommon on long flights for travelers to take their shoes off and get comfy, so it may be a bit surprising that more than 63% of travelers surveyed said they would never take their shoes off during a flight. Turns out, younger Americans in the 18 to 29 year old age bracket are “much more likely” to remove their shoes with more than 45% saying they’ve done it.

And while all these practices may be somewhat controversial, the survey found “seat kickers and disruptive drunks” (an easy way to get kicked off the plane) were actually the most annoying for travelers. 

To conduct the survey, the company polled more than 1,000 Americans in August.

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