1) Seriously Consider Not Reclining
Understand that any marginal increase in your flight experience comes directly at the expense of the person behind you.
2) If You Feel Compelled To Recline, Be Respectful
a) Your decision to recline should be informed by the situation behind you. Empty seat? Recline away. Harried mother with a child in her lap? I’m going to go with no. Business traveler attempting to work on a laptop? Maybe not. In the front of the plane with plenty of room behind seats? Sure.
b) Be polite and ask the traveler behind you if they mind.
c) Recline slowly. The one frequent flier I know who supports reclining gets a pass because he’s usually flying internationally (more on that in a bit). His advice is to be controlled in the process of reclining. He writes, “You do not recline quickly or all at once. You recline slowly and incrementally, giving the person behind you time to make the necessary adjustments. You must be sure you are not making contact with a computer or other objects. You raise your seat during meals.”
d) Under no circumstances should you lean forward for an extended period of time while your seat is reclining, as some crazy person did on my last flight just across the aisle.
3) Sometimes It’s Totally Fine To Recline
a) Are you on an 11-hour flight? You can recline. You’re expected to sleep.