Airline Passenger Brazenly Occupies Extra Space Underneath and in Front of Their Seat

The space underneath the seat in front of you usually belongs to you. It’s storage area for your personal item, like a laptop bag or purse.

Airline passengers in the U.S. are allowed to bring on one carry on bag and one personal item, unless they’re flying Spirit or Frontier Airlines (you need to pay for the carry on bag) or are flying on a United Airlines basic economy fare (carry on bags are disallowed, a punishment for being cheap). Your carry on goes in the overhead bin above your seat, if there’s space available, and your smaller item stays at your feet.

However I’ve run into passengers seated ahead of me who believe that the space underneath their seat belongs to them. They use both the space under the seat in front of them and the space underneath them. But that is not how this works. That is not how any of this works!

Even more problematic is someone that believes they can take the space underneath the feet of the passenger in front of them for storage. Then the passenger one row ahead can’t put their feet on the ground!

It seems to me if you’re confronted with this passenger,

  • You can absolutely put your feet down on their belongings.
  • There’s no longer a social prohibition on fully reclining your seat for the full duration of the flight during which it’s permitted.
  • Gosh I hope you don’t spill any coffee.

Of course, if the passenger won’t move – they may have usufructuary rights over the space underneath your seat, but not over the space in front of your seat – it’s best to seek assistance from a member of the cabin crew.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Is AI writing these things? The flow is hard to follow.

    For the humans reading this…

    Twitter account posts photo of feet from the occupant behind sticking out beyond the seat in front
    Twitter account complains, head belonging to those feet says ‘i bought the seat and the space under it’ (note: the space under head/foot’s seat isn’t what he’s using)
    Twitter account responds to him saying “you failed to buy the space under my seat”

    In other words, two hopelessly confused passengers (and a confused blog author). Reading the Twitter account both are petty and aggressive.

    Sure he probably shouldn’t stick his feet quite that far. But she’s wrong about him not having access to the space ‘under’ her seat. And he’s wrong about having access to the space under his seat. Which he’s not using in this case.

  2. The photo show items sticking out from under the seat. This in my mind would be a hazard if “God forbid” there is a emergency and the person in front needing to evacuate. This is a time to call the flight attendants.

  3. @jns that’s hilarious! May I (with your permission) use that in so many other such contexts? “Some people think that they are Christopher Columbus and will claim almost anything.” LOL.

  4. Time to spill some hot coffee.
    Maybe a couple pieces of chewed gum, mounting dew….

    You want petty? I am the KING of petty.

  5. FlyOften beat me to it. I would have baptized those shoes with a complete bottle of water. “Oops! Sorry”

  6. I would just open their bag if I could and insert my barf bag inside and close it.
    You want to get petty with me? Then you don’t know me at all.hee hee hee!!!

  7. @SA, permission granted although I don’t know if I saw something similar somewhere. Use it as you wish.

  8. Any object stored in your space in front of your feet obviously was left by some passenger and must be moved to an overhead storage compartment in the back of the plane.

    But yeah, hot coffee spills and stomping on is permitted if someone behind you puts their feet into your space. Yeah before you have a Rapid Unscheduled Reclining of your seat fully should help with that message,

  9. Wait until he falls asleep and then tie his laces together around the seat frame.

    You’re going nowhere!

  10. How the hell is that even possible? If I tried that I’d have to break both my shins to fit my legs under the seat in front of me given the angle.

  11. Oooo… Somebody learned a new word!
    And so did I, but I can’t imagine when I’d use it. I’ll file it away with portmanteau, litotes, ullage, and demonym.

  12. Better yet go to the bathroom pea in a bottle or some kind of container open the bag and ooopsi I spilled it inside, sorry..

  13. “Gosh I hope you don’t spill your coffee” see also: passive aggressive threat that you may take steps to scald or burn somebody or leave them with wet/ ruined clothes all coz you can’t just be a non petulant child, who should know better, and just wait until the FA comes to do the pre takeoff checks at which point she’ll resolve the issue in mere seconds leaving neither party in any doubt as to how things work.

    Whilst I’m aware of the etiquette so it wouldn’t be an issue I can assure you Gary that if you played that passive aggressive threatening crap with me you’d find yourself put in your place verbally double quick with an assurance that should such a thing happen I’ll be sure to ask the crew to have your ambulance waiting at the gate when we land. Just before I relaxed with a smile safe in the fact that if you wanted to act like a pr*ck it was you who made the initial threat and wouldn’t feel so cocky when you were offloaded.

    Jesus Christ man.

  14. Easy solution, be the bigger jerk; say nothing, then relocate the bag at your feet to the opposite end of the aircraft.

  15. After reading this, I’m glad I never fly Coach class on El Cheapo Airlines.
    I always fly Business on 5-star Airlines.

  16. I experienced this same thing, and we had paid for extra leg room seats. So, I pulled out the offending bag (which had no id tag), and handed it to the next flight attendant that came by. I let them deal with it.

  17. The airline stewardess should make a clear statement about placement of personal belongings before taking off in an attempt to alleviate the problem.

  18. In many years of air travel, I’ve only had one person stuff their carry-on under their own seat, where my feet usually go. I asked the idiot to move his stuff and he refused. Called the stew who explained how things really are w/r/t carry-on’s. Problem solved.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: to all the brave mouths here, you need to act in a way that will not get you thrown off the plane. Peeing in their bag, stomping on feet, spilling coffee, etc are definitely soul-satisfying but the flight crew and the air marshals may simply tote you off the plane. Go ahead and do it but be forewarned.

  19. If airlines gave more room to coach flyers I wouldn’t need to eat as if the tray is under my chin in order to enjoy the horrible plane food. Don’t blame passengers who try to make use of minimal space. We are not child size.

  20. There should be an ediquite test and certification for being able to be an airline passenger. You must be certified to fly. A pilot has to train very hard maybe passengers should too.

  21. People just suck these days. I’m pretty sure he didn’t pay much for that space what an entitled little arse.

  22. @Clayton…
    Stipulating to all you said! Of course, that would be followed by:
    1. Your arrest
    2. Your prosecution
    3. You never flying commercial again
    and unlike Gary, who’s alot classier than I…
    4. Me team finding out everything about you, and your family most likely paying the price for your keyboard warrior “claims”. Cheers!

    FYI, with that much misdirected anger toward Gary, why in the world would you be following his blog?

    Jesus Christ man.

  23. After reading all of these replies I think I’ll stick with Fats Domino’s lyrics, “I’ll be walking to New Orleans”.

  24. There is no such thing called “respect” in today’s world. Instead, “control” over everything and everyone should be substituted. The human race is just a gathering of “ass****s who think their s**t doesn’t stink.

  25. Came to suggest re: feet extending past the seat that the passenger in back might not realize how far their legs are stretched. Also, if they are tall they might not have much choice as NOT stretching might put their knees inside the seat back in violation of the laws of physics. Anyone within the 95% of humanity has a reasonable expectation of fitting in a seat – and a reasonable chance that a coach class seat today is too small.

    Neither possibly, however, justifies rudeness to the passenger in front. If unintended a simple apology and relocating will suffice. If unavoidable that apology and explanation will have to do.

  26. I am so glad I am not flying anywhere these days. Being on a plane seems to be like one of the most unpleasant experiences you could aspire to.

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