Reclining Seats on Planes May Soon Be No More — Here’s Why Airlines Are Getting Rid of Them

“Losing the ability to recline can be a blessing in disguise,” aviation and travel expert William McGee told 'Condé Nast Traveler'

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of a passenger reclining seat on plane


Stock image of a passenger reclining seat on plane

The controversial debate of reclining your seat on the plane may soon come to an end thanks to airline companies wanting to cut back on costs.

With airlines like Southwest debuting a more streamlined seat design for 2025, it’s only a matter of time before reclining seats disappear completely, aviation and travel expert William McGee told Condé Nast Traveler during an interview published on Monday, April 15.

“This trend has been occurring for several years now, and I think it will continue. Lighter seats are what the airlines want, because with the cost of jet fuel they are always looking to reduce weight onboard,” McGee, a senior fellow for aviation and travel at the American Economic Liberties Project, said.

He adds that lighter, non-reclining seats require fewer mechanical parts, and thus airline companies also save money when it comes to maintenance.

Related: Larry David Addresses Whether or Not It's Okay to Recline Your Seat on a Plane — and His Answer Sparks Debate 

<p>Southwest Airlines/TikTok</p> Southwest Airlines' streamlined seat design for 2025

Southwest Airlines/TikTok

Southwest Airlines' streamlined seat design for 2025

Certain airlines like Delta, United, American and Southwest have already been cutting back on the number of inches a seat can recline, according to the outlet. Economy seats used to recline back four inches and now the standard is two inches.

Pre-reclined seats are also becoming a trend. In 2019, Spirit Airlines introduced its new cabin interior that featured seats that “pre-recline on every row,” the company said in a press release at the time.

The seats are designed at a slight angle to “allow for a wider range of healthy postures and movements,” and “offer an additional two inches of usable legroom compared to industry-standard flatback seats,” per the release.

Related: 'Unethical' or Brilliant? This Viral Plane 'Hack' Punishes Passengers Who Recline Their Seat

McGee pointed out that airlines have been cutting back on other luxuries in the last two decades, from free seat selection to included in-flight meals.

“Consumers have been losing much more than seat recline in economy class,” he said. “It's just that in this case, losing the ability to recline can be a blessing in disguise for others, because tighter seats have made reclining unfair to fellow passengers.”

Related: Airline Passenger Who Allegedly Got Away with Reclining Seat During Takeoff Ignites Etiquette Debate

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of a passenger reclining his seat on a plane


Stock image of a passenger reclining his seat on a plane

Not only would airlines be spending less on maintenance and extra jet fuel costs with non-reclining seats, but they would also avoid the arguments that tend to arise among passengers whenever someone reclines.

A viral video shared on X in November 2023 is an example of the controversial etiquette debate in action. In the clip, a passenger claims the person sitting behind her pushed against her seat  “the whole trip” because she reclined.

"I'm allowed to put my seat back," she repeatedly said in the video.

Earlier in April, another airline passenger got called out on Reddit for reclining his seat during takeoff even though it’s against Federal Aviation Administration policy.

The Reddit user wrote, "We were in active taxiing and readying for take off. The [flight attendant] already told him to bring his seat up and he did, briefly, then immediately reclined again when she left the immediate area. EVERYONE knows you’re not supposed to recline during takeoff and landing.”

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PEOPLE got to the bottom of the divisive topic during an exclusive interview with travel expert Nicole Campoy Jackson in September 2023.

“I'm not in the no-reclining school of thought, but I think we can recline with courtesy and understanding that we're all in tight quarters,” Jackson told PEOPLE.

“After you've taken off, take a glance at the person behind you before you recline. If their laptop is out or they have a drink on the table, now is not a great time to recline and it certainly wouldn't be okay to do so without giving them a head's up. During mealtimes, definitely bring your seat back up if you have reclined it.”

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