TikToker ignites huge plane etiquette debate: 'Single most selfish thing a person can ever do'

A recent survey shows more than half of Aussies avoid doing this one thing during a flight.

British influencer Ambar Driscoll speaking in her TikTok (left) and aeroplane seats (right).
British influencer Ambar Driscoll has sparked debate online after sharing her recent experience with seat reclining on a plane. Photo: TikTok/Ambar Driscoll/Getty

A social media influencer has divided the internet after reigniting a longstanding debate about whether it’s appropriate to recline your seat on a plane. British creator Ambar Driscoll recently shared a video to her 234,000 TikTok followers where she implored answers to the age-old question: is it rude to recline on a long-haul flight?

“How is this even a debate? Obviously you recline your seat,” Driscoll said in the opening of the video, which has now been viewed over 600,000 times. “I always recline my seat on a long-haul flight, but also because the person in front of me always reclines their seat.”

She explained that on a recent 14-hour red-eye flight from Singapore to London, her fiancé – prominent British-South African YouTuber and investor Caspar Lee – was involved in a debate with the passenger seated behind him after attempting to recline his seat.


“The girl behind him reaches over and says ‘excuse me, do you mind not reclining your seat please?’,” said Driscoll when describing the encounter. “Casper was in shock … and then she said ‘I need my personal space’.”

Lee explained to the passenger that he needed to recline his seat in order to sleep, and refused to adhere to her request, prompting her to call a flight attendant in an attempt to resolve the issue.

According to Driscoll, the flight attendant explained in an “aggrieved tone” that she “can’t ask any passengers not to recline their seat”.

“Everyone has the right to position their seat any way they like,” the air host reportedly said. “You can recline your seat if you like for more comfort.”

It’s true that generally, unless the seatbelt light is on, plane passengers are entitled to seat reclining as they please. However in a 2022 study by Compare the Market, 41.1 per cent of Australians admitted to taking issues with seat recliners, while more than half of Aussies (54.2 per cent) claimed to avoid reclining their own seats for this reason.

In America, a 2023 study by The Vacationer found that a whopping 77 per cent of people found it rude for passengers to fully recline their seat.

“So what do you think, to recline or not to recline?,” Driscoll asked her followers at the end of her video.

Among more than 1100 comments, fellow TikTokers shared their divided opinions on the controversial topic.

“My view is that it’s fine for me to recline but very inconsiderate for the person in front of me to recline,” one follower joked in a comment that gained more than 7000 likes.

“Reclining your seat in economy is the single most selfish thing a person can ever do,” another said, to which a third commenter wrote “you get what you pay for”.


However another follower was firm in stating that “the people saying it’s selfish to recline your seat clearly haven’t been on many long-haul flights”.

“I never recline and I tell the person in front to put their seat back up because they’re not about to start a chain of reclining,” one commenter countered.

“I’m 6 '1 so my legs get crushed if someone in front reclines,” another wrote.

More than half of Australians claimed to avoid reclining seats on a plane. Photo: Getty
More than half of Australians claimed to avoid reclining seats on a plane. Photo: Getty

Others were more diplomatic, with one follower explaining “if you’re flying two hours, don’t recline your seat … but if you’re flying long haul you absolutely can recline your seat”.

While there is no definitive answer to the prevailing debate, it seems that as long as economy plane seats are capable of reclining, passengers will continue to recline without regard for any grievances fellow passengers may have.

Maybe it’s time to save for that business-class seat after all.

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