Passenger recline and rear-facing seats

Nedra Ambassador
I will be flying with an almost 7-month-old baby next month. I have read that it's good to bring treats for the passenger in front of a rear-facing car seat because they won't be able to recline their seat.

Is it physically impossible for the front passenger to recline? (And so when they try, they get frustrated and grumpy?) Or is it unsafe for the front passenger to recline (and so even if they are physically able to, I should ask them not to)?

I have the Aton 2, which, in cars, tends to take up less room front-to-back. I am worried that I'm not sure whether it's okay for the passenger in front to recline a little, if it's possible for them to do so.

Also, any tips for getting a good seat for the car seat when flying southwest? It seems no matter when I check in, I am always in B boarding. I know families are allowed to board right after A, but I am assuming those popular bulkhead seats will already be taken by the 60 folks ahead of me -- particularly because I need a window and middle together. If the row behind them is available, is it weird to approach a person in a bulkhead seat and let them know that I will need to install a car seat behind them and it may mean they cannot recline and offer them the guarantee that if they switch with me, the baby won't recline into their space at all? Or is that creepy on a flight where they obviously went to great lengths to get their perfect seat. Should I instead just get any window seat without a person in front of it and just warn onboarding passengers that they won't be able to recline if they choose that seat?


Admin - CPS Technician
Whether or not the person can recline depends on the car seat that's installed. The Aton is so small, I imagine it will allow the person in front to recline at least part-way, very likely all the way. (Although reclining on an airplane is really a joke, IMO...not enough difference for me to even bother!) In my experience, the Coccoro left enough room for some/all recline, so I'm sure the Aton would give at least as much room.

As for letting people know they might not be able to recline and asking if they want to move, I think that's fine. You might want to put the seat in and say you're not sure if they can recline and ask if they'd like to try it.


New member
When people talk about the person not being able to recline, generally they mean that the seat encounters resistance when it hits the shell of the carseat, making it difficult or impossible to recline any further.

I picked up some good tips from this forum about dealing with another passenger's potential complaint. I'm always preparing to put on my kindest voice & offer them a cocktail and/or the opportunity to swap seats.... while still sticking to my guns about my right under FAA policy to use the carseat in the appropriate aft-facing direction.

However, on the many flights that we have taken with rear-facing carseats, including some longer and overnight flights, NOBODY has ever said anything. I think it's just not an issue for most people -- but it's great that you are well-prepared, because it does happen.

The bulkhead wouldn't be my first choice with a carseat, because of the wider and non-moveable armrests (on most but not all Southwest planes) and the fact that carryons have to be stowed for taxi, takeoff and landing, which means you can't have a diaper bag and kid stuff within reach during those periods.

Personally, I would not proactively approach the other passenger and warn them about not being able to recline, because the boarding process is chaotic enough already, and again most people just don't care very much.


New member
I'm not sure about this but I'm not sure you'd be allowed to sit in the bulkheads on WN (Southwest). They only have 737's, an aircraft I know well. The only bulkheads are those in the very front and they may be considered emergency exit "aide" seats. No children (car seat or not) under age 15 is allowed in those. Only people who can help in an emergency evacuation can sit in them.

Actually, WN has open seating so I recommend heading to the very back of the plane. Why? Less likely to fill up and if there are any seats left empty, my guess is that the one next to the mom and little kid in the car seat would be a likely candidate.

You might even want to sit on the aisle, leaving the center empty, as a hint (depends on how much chutzpah you have). Be ready to move over if needed.

Are you flying with another adult? If so, one solution is to have that person sit in front of you.

Another kind-of solution that I doubt is much useful for you is to turn the seat around. I flew 11 1/2 hour transatlantics and that's a long time to tick someone off. I also had plenty of time to un, and re-install the seat. I would say this works for a flight 4 hours or more and not to bother for less. But your flight on WN is probably pretty short. If it's during the day, the person might not even be that keen to crank his or her seat back at all. They'll probably be eating or playing games on their tablet anyway.

I don't believe in giving out "treats" to other passengers but having said that, someone did write me that they used to bring a few Starbucks coupons with them. If they needed a seat change or like you said, someone couldn't recline, they had something that was easy to bring along and could pop one out and give it as a thank-you. I would recommend that you only give it out once the situation is settled. Don't mention it until the event is over.

I hate to even mention any "treats" but if someone is nice and doing a you a favor, that sounded like a good option. It's easy to take a card along, whereas hauling a box of candy is a little more problematic.

So go ahead and head to the very back and snag a row as far back as possible. One other poster joked that they were going to get their kid to sing during boarding (to decrease the desirability of the extra seat in their row). Sitting in the back also means you are near the lavs, which is handy when flying with little ones, and when you go to deplane, there are two Flight Attendants back there. They might be able to help you off if you're right next to them. I used to do that again (for the record, I wasn't with WN) but I could only do this if they waited till the end. Hopefully, you don't have another flight or bus to catch.


New member
Nobody has ever said a word to me. I actually don't think they notice that much if the seat doesn't go all the way back. But you are allowed to sit in a seat to accommodate your carseat RF so if someone complains it's up to the flight attendant to find a seat for you or pacify the other passenger.


New member
My husband used to tell the person in front that we were installing a rear-facing car seat behind them and they wouldn't be able to recline the seat. He would tell them that information as we were boarding the plane - with 2 car seats and our twins. We were traveling with large seats - Evenflo Triumph and the Britax Decathlon - so there really wasn't any room to recline the seat.

We had one person who had an issue with it and she was able to move to another open seat.



New member
Don't know about an aton, but I flew recently with my coccoro a few times and the passengers in front could recline fully. Usually we put big brother or dad in front of her so it isn't an issue but these flights we couldn't.

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