Q On a recent flight, I was reclining my seat when the woman behind me stomped her foot and let out a martyred sigh. I immediately put my seat upright and suffered for the rest of the trip. Was I a sucker?

A Forget India and Pakistan. Never mind North and South Korea. No border is as hotly disputed as the precious real estate that lies between the would-be seat recliner and the defender of personal space in the row behind. For those who dare to recline, the response is often anything but laid-back.

In this atmosphere of animosity, you were perhaps less a sucker and more a self-preservationist to remain upright. But since you paid for a reclining seat, it was certainly your prerogative to use it. As Southwest Airlines spokesperson Chris Mainz says, "It is the right of every customer to recline."

Of course, this doesn't entitle you to touch down brazenly in someone's lap; make your moves slow and easy at all times. During meal service, remain upright so you're not pinching the space of a fellow traveler already feeling pinched by a measly meal. We're all victims of the airlines' cattle-car conspiracy. With a little common courtesy, we should be able to get diagonal and get along.

Have a travel etiquette gripe? Send it to Miss Malsy at otr@viamagazine.com

This article was first published in January 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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