It's my plane seat and I'll recline it if I want to

Sarah Carty
Senior Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
I’ll never stop reclining my plane seat, even for that man who complained about me. Photo: Getty Images

I think I’ve been put off flying long-haul for life.

Not only does it wreak havoc with your body clock but if your budget only stretches to a saver economy fare like mine, it leaves you with no other option than to sit touching elbows and knees with a complete stranger for more hours than anyone should ever have to.

Being packed inside cattle class has given me a new appreciation for personal space. Suddenly my daily hour-long bus journey to work doesn’t seem like such a nightmare and travelling by train is pure luxury.

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To some, this may sound entitled but I’m from Ireland, where a three-hour plane ride to Italy for a holiday used to warrant a postcard to my mum. That’s like going from Sydney to Jervis Bay for the weekend and writing a letter home about your travels.

Australia is now my home and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else, but for the last seven years, if I’ve wanted to visit my relatives, I have to sit in the same plane seat for 14 hours just to get to Dubai and then board another seven-hour plane ride to the Emerald Isle. That’s about 24 hours of traveling once you add in the stopover (woe is me).

The only glimmer of hope you have when you board is that once that seatbelt light goes off, you can recline your seat by mere inches and bask in glorious relief from sitting in a 90° angle for hours on end.

So, imagine my horror when about seven hours into a 14-hour flight from Sydney to Dubai last week, I was awoken to the sound of a flight attendant talking sternly to the man in the row behind me.

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My mind quickly raced to all those stories you read about people getting drunk and abusive on planes and the hosties having to step in and detain them, like they don’t already have a million and one other things to do.

But as I began to listen to their conversation, I realised they were having an argument about me – and it left me shaking with anger for the rest of the journey.

It turns out the man and his wife were less than thrilled with my seat being reclined – despite the fact that I had more than likely paid the exact same amount of money for my seat as theirs.

“She has every right to recline her seat, sir,” the hero flight attendant said to the man, asking him to unpress the service bell which he had pushed instead of just standing up and talking to me about the predicament.

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I was seething but still didn’t take my eye mask off – mainly because I hate confrontation but also because I was still half asleep and wondering if this was actually happening.

“But it’s a 14-hour flight,” the man replied, as if this was a legitimate argument to make.

The hostie was thankfully unimpressed with the couple and told them that if they needed more room they could easily just hit that button on the side of their seat and they would recline, just like magic.

After about half an hour (where I was actually nervous that they were going to start on me) I fell back asleep and didn’t think about it again until the end of the flight.

Now I know this is a very controversial topic – with threads online claiming it’s rude to recline your seat on a plane – but in my defence, it was a 14-hour flight, I put my seat in the upright position for any meals and I made sure the trays were collected before reclining it again.

If it was a quick plane ride over to Melbourne or even up to Cairns I wouldn’t even think about reclining, unless I’d had a big night the night before.

If the man or his wife had any medical conditions or they had any problem with how I was conducting myself on the flight, I would have been happy to have had a grown-up conversation with them about it.

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Instead they chose the path of cursing me out and jamming my screen with their fists whenever they got the opportunity.

Flying brings out a nasty side in people that you would never see on any other mode of transport but at the end of the day, we’ve all paid the same price for the seats, we’re all hating every second of the flight and only a flight attendant can tell me what to do with my seat.

Just yesterday it was revealed that Delta Airlines has decided to stop passengers reclining their seats back all the way on flights, so it doesn’t look like we’re all ever going to agree on plane seat etiquette any time soon.

So next time I take to the skies I’ll make sure to bring along some noise-canceling headphones, just in case an infuriating passengers trying to get a free upgrade by complaining about just about anything won’t disrupt the hour sleep I actually manage to get while my seat is reclined.

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