Not even if I'm on a super-long flight, like my 5-hour flight to Iceland last May! Not even if the seat behind me is empty. I just can't bring myself to do it.
I cannot express the rage and frustration every time that seatbelt light goes off and the seat in front of me immediately snaps back with a ker-THUNK, stealing >20% of my personal space.
As a BIG person (6'5" - I fill a coach seat snugly but don't "overflow") I go out of my way to make other people's flights as non-miserable as possible, because I know sitting near a big person sucks. When possible, I pay the extra few bucks for exit row seating so I'm not knocking knees with my neighbour. And my elbows are always tucked in beside my armrests to avoid jabbing my neighbour in the ribs or risk starting an "armrest war".
The seat-recline is the ultimate slap in the face to the person behind you, and it is never appropriate to recline your seat:
- On ANY short-haul flight (less than two hours);
- ANY time you are not sleeping on a long-haul flight;
- ANY time you are a small child;
- ANY time there is a big person behind you;
- ANY time you recline, only to lean forward and stick your nose in a book (why!?!)
Small people and other would-be recliners: imagine, spatially, experiencing an airplane as a big person. Your knees touch the seat ahead of you no matter how straight you sit. You can't cross your legs or shift around. Your elbows have no lateral room - they stay tightly locked at your sides. Then to top it off, a seat reclines and puts a headrest in between your face and your meal tray. Oh, and the metal from your meal tray also slams into your knees.
I want all you seat-recliners out there to think about something the next time you fly. There's a fair chance the person behind you will both hate you for reclining your seat, and be too polite to say anything about it. If you let your children recline their seats, well, you're a monster.