The Great Space Debate: Legroom

Posted December 19, 2017

So, you’re on a six-hour flight across the U.S. and let’s be honest- sitting on an airplane for six hours is no fun. Lucky for you, many planes have extras luxuries that allow you to feel a little more comfort. One of the biggest luxuries you may find on a plane is the ability to recline your seat. 

With the ability to recline your seat during your trip, comes the one major issue with personal space on a plane. Who owns the four inches of space between your seat and the person behind you? This issue of space has been something so many people argue about when on a plane.

When on a plane everyone wants to believe that their space is theirs and nobody should enter their bubble. The unfortunate thing with this mindset is that when on an airplane, space is already limited.

So, we know what you’re wondering, what is the answer to this age-old debate. The truth is, unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question.

Recently two law professors, Christopher Jon Sprigman and Christopher Buccafusco, performed an experiment to see how important this space was to each passenger. What they found is that the passenger reclining was willing to pay more to recline than someone would to have those extra four inches of legroom. Recliners wanted on average $41 to stay upright whereas recliners were only willing to pay only $18 on average. This was when the recliner was told he/she had the right to recline. When the recliner was given the right to have leg room, the roles switched, and recliners were only willing to pay $12 to lounge.

Given these results, it’s hard to settle the debate. However, it is evident that regardless of the situation, it depends on who is told that they have ownership as to who would pay more to secure their recliner rights.  However, there are some ways you can maximize legroom, even if the passenger in front of you is reclining! Keep reading to learn more!

Many airlines offer upgraded economy classes with a few extra inches of legroom for a fee. Prices vary, but if legroom is paramount to you when flying this is an option to consider. Other options for you when flying to have maximum legroom are as follows:


Exit Row Seats

Competition for these seats can be intense. However, if you book your flight early enough, you can make sure that you can score an exit row seat! Exit row seats have quite a bit of extra room as they are used to exit the plane in an emergency. However, if you think you would melt under pressure when it comes to opening the exit, this may not be the best idea for you. It is also important to remember that some exit row seats do not offer the ability to recline.


Bulkhead Seats

Bulkhead seats are seats that are directly behind partitions on the plane, whether it be curtains separating the classes, or the front of the plane! These seats often have extra legroom, plus you do not have to worry about the person in front of you reclining and taking up all your room. The downside is less storage space for carry-ons.



You don’t always have to pay to upgrade your seats! If you’re a frequent flyer, you may be able to improve your seats for free using rewards points or frequent flyer miles! When you arrive in the airport, you can always nicely inquire with the gate attendant as to cancellations or if there are any cheap upgrade options. Trust us on this one though, the nicer you are to the gate staff, the more helpful and more willing to help you they will be.



When it comes to flying, although personal space is limited, you don’t have to be uncomfortable. There are quite a few options that allow you to fly in comfort even if the passenger in front of you wants to recline for the duration of the flight.


Happy Travels!