Keep your feet to yourself on an airplane. There is no instance when “manspreading” is allowed except when the seat next to you is open.
Manspreading On An Airplane – Not Okay
A user posted the following picture on Reddit of her recent Southwest Airlines flight. Her seatmate can be seen “manspreading,” which according to the Oxford Dictionary is “the practice whereby a man adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat.”
This is not only rude and unsocial behavior, but it is extremely odd that anyone feels so entitled to the personal space of others that they can simply occupy what is clearly not thier own.
Of course, this woman was also attacked on Reddit for being passive-aggressive and for not standing up for herself right away, but I do not blame her. It takes a certain level of mental instability to manspread in the first place, at least in economy class on an airplane when the seat you are encroaching is occupied by another passenger. If someone is rude enough to manspread in the first place, I would not hesitate to speak up, but my mind would also wander to more passive-aggressive remedies like spilling a drink…
I’ve never encountered this myself in the hundreds of flights and millions of miles I’ve flown over the years. Maybe because I’m on the taller side and it seems that only petite women encounter this, as if someone concludes they “don’t need the space is as much as I do.”
Just a plea, folks: be kind to others, especially in confined spaces like an airplane. Treat others the way you would want to be treated. I know seat pitch in economy class is tight (I flew to Germany in the last row of coach in a middle seat…), but imagine if someone else’s leg was in your space.
(H/T: View From The Wing)
I’ve never encountered this. But I have had people store their carry on items under the seat in front of me and insist that they “need to have room for their feet in front of them.” I politely take their bag out, hand it to them, and inform them of the overhead compartment.
Stuart, it seems like you have some rough luck upon boarding flights. Do whatever you can to board early, the fates just aren’t with you otherwise.
It’s more about volume. Flying 200K miles a year the past 25 years and, well, you pretty much experience and see it all over time.
I did have this happen to me as well. A black man next to me with a special hat (vertical type of that) that represents some kind of authority in his country sat next to me and spread his legs so far apart into my space on the plane. So I crossed my legs like a man and pushed my foot onto his leg forcing him to move it. He looked so surprised as I stared directly at him while doing so. He never did it again so I must have shocked the hell out of him and rightfully so.
This sort of happened to me this past summer, flying first class on Delta from the Caribbean. So, I have a spacious aile seat and the beautiful brunette woman has the window seat. I’m six foot three, and use the outer part of my underseat foot space. She was already seated when I got to my seat, and she had one bag under the seat and one bag in her lap, and after I got in put her lapbag down by my foot and tried to push it into my foot. She then asked me to move my foot. I loudly and firmly told her, “No.” I firmly and politelly told her than I am six foot three and I need the foot space and the way the seat pedestal and electronics were occupying the foot space, it was the only place where I could put my foot and sit correctly. Anyway, I had seen extra space in the overhead bing. But she was able to somehow then sqeeze her two bags into just her space and leave my space alone. She was polite and friendly, but it was like a contest of tow alpha dogs, and I wan’t going to give up my passenger rights. Anyway, she struck me as one of those overachievers who step on other people to get ahead, and I wasn’t going to have it. I’m sure she gets away with that conduct on most of her flights. So weird. A nice enough flight, but unnecessaily weird.
I take issue with the term “manspreading,” as this brutish practice is by no means limited to men! I’m a woman who takes mass transit in NYC several times a week and I encounter “woman-spreading” with equal frequency (on my dozen or so annual air travels as well). Men absolutely are not the only “spreaders” in this world!
your use of the term manspreading is unacceptable. Why don’t you use “fat person who can’t keep their leg on correct side of space”….Oh, you can’t fat shame the person….is fat shaming less acceptable than bashing a specific gender? Frankly, who cares at this time of politically correctness what the Oxford dictionary uses as a definition. How do you know this person you have demonized with the term manspreading doesn’t identify as a woman? Enough already.
Oh come on now, I’m not anti-man. And I’ll shame anyone, myself included, if they deserve to be shamed.
Then why not say spreading, and just specifying it to a men-degrading term? Could’ve easily titled “Taking up your seatmate’s foot-space is grossly unacceptable” yet you chose to go with this mysogonistic term.
Mysongistic term? We don’t traffic in political correctness on this blog.
Don’t argue with idiots on the internet! Loved your article.
I think I would have just kept getting my bag, putting it back, getting it out again, and putting it back and maybe they would have gotten the hint.
If this really bothers her, why didn’t she address it with the manspreader directly, rather than just complaining about it to strangers on the internet later?
Also curious who owns the laptop bag under the seat in front of her. If it’s hers it’s pretty rude of the guy to stick his foot under it. If it’s his, then that’s even worse.
@Mitch I can tell you why she didn’t- because women have been taught to not complain or we are Karen’s or shrews. Even in a situation like this- it’s hard to make yourself speak up to someone who a)should know better and there’s a 90% chance won’t respond well to it being pointed out and b) knowing you then you have to sit next to them for an hour+.
I get it, we are all adults but its the same issue I have with people explaining to women how to protect themselves at night when walking home or say jogging in the early morning so they stay safe from men, how about we flip that on its head and expect men to keep their hands, feet and other body parts to themselves, period. And not make it women’s problems to constantly fend off these issues.
Exactly. There are several ways to address this including a bit of tact: Reach down to the bag as if to pick it up, look up to the left, and ask him “excuse me, I’d like to get my bag. Could you please move your foot?”
Then escalate from there to an open request to keep his foot in his place, and to calling for the sky warden, er, FA.
But note that many people may simply lack the ability to express themselves directly because they’re used to society protecting them. For us men, we’re used to standing up for ourselves because, well, who else is going to do it?
How else are you gonna get validations from blue check retweets if you just asked kindly and he complied?
No way. It’s a SW flight, with some dude wearing cheap shorts, slinging a chubby leg that he’s clearly been scratching at right above his lame frat-night tattoo on top of his sockless feet. Read the clues, this is an inconsiderate neanderthal, and speaking to him will not make the situation better.
Mending bridges and understanding each other through egregious stereotypes and misplaced assumptions. Awesome, we’re building back better now!
That’s pretty rude of the person. I feel like when you buy a seat, you’re basically renting the space allocated for the seat. but that’s just my opinion.
Side note, my employers realized how common it is to be squished between two people in economy and did a rough study on employee performance after a longhaul flight in economy vs business, so they when we’re flying for work, we usually fly in PE or J. It’s a nice perk to the job.
I generally take the aisle seat and position my aisle side foot on the aisle side of the metal seat leg of the seat in front of me. I hope this is okay, otherwise they’ll be a picture of my foot on an upcoming post.
I flew a lot for business pre-pandemic and I can tell you it’s a common experience for women in coach. I never had a woman encroach upon my space. However, I’m not as nice as the traveler in the story. I would ask politely for them to keep their arms/legs/feet in their own space. Sometimes I had to remind them after an hour or so but never had anyone refuse.
Incredibly, I had the opposite experience last year. Seated in the back of a UA 777-200, where the seats are slightly misaligned, the woman seated next to me actually told me I could put my foot in front of her if I wanted. I’m not tall, and didn’t need to, but I thanked her for the very kind offer!
Missed opportunity to play footsie 🙁
Could this actually be the issue (see picture linked below, although it is from 2018)? As I recall, Southwest planes have an “offset” set of support legs under the three seat “bench” making foot and bag space underneath the seat in front of you somewhat awkward? I’m not trying to defend manspreading behaviors, just calling out that things don’t always look the way they appear.
This actually happened to me on my last flight, just a couple weeks ago, flying Delta from MSP to PIT.
I’m by no means a small guy (~6′ 1″, broad shoulders), but the gentleman who sat down next to me was a body builder. He shoved his huge backpack (not sure how that counted as his “personal item”) under the seat in front of him, and had head to the front of the plane to check his roller bag. As soon as he sat back down, his right foot ended up in my footwell and stayed there the entire flight.
Given my seatmates hulking physique, I chose to remain silent on the matter and suffer through it.
I would assert myself on something like this. Put my foot down literally. People need to keep track of their space.
Man spreading does not bother me personally. My hubby is is 6’3” and it is uncomfortable for him. I’m 5’ So when I fly by myself it still doesn’t bother me. If I have an aisle seat and they have the middle one … I’ll ask if they would like the aisle seat. You’d be amazed how many will trade seats for the leg room.
I recently experienced this on a 3 1/2 hour flight from Seartle to Houston. My dog was in it’s carryon bag under the seat in front of me so I only had about 6 inches of space left for my feet. I made sure I only used my space. However, the man who occupied the center seat spread out as much as possible into my space. He then proceeded to jiggle his legs the entire trip. I tried to get him to move back into his own space, but also didn’t want to be an unreasonable “Karen” about it. After all, he was a big guy. So I endured and tried to sleep…impossible attempt because of that blasted jiggling. It did make me angrier when I noticed that the guy didn’t spread out onto the male passenger in the aisle seat. I sure was glad to get off that flight!
This author, if not a robot writer, is unaware what is happening here UNLESS he’s also a stringbean. I’m 6’3 myself, and cannot have a window seat because I will slam the top AND side of my head all flight. I’m a large (not fat) man and my shoulders occupy 1.5 seatwidths. I hang well into the aisle and often get slammed by carts because I CANNOT stay straiggt in my seat if anyone is in the middle. My femurs literally CANNOT fit seatback to seatback, FORCING me to cradle the guy ahead between my legs and if the jerk in front reclines at ALL they will break my knees…
My point is that THESE ARE NOT HUMAN SIZE SEATS anymore. If you choose to spread and don’t need to, stop that. But if you’re a tiny woman or skinny twit, understand that many folks really CANT help it. How obvious does this have to be when some men ask if I want to put my arm over their shoulders to interleave neither of us fitting?
You should buy two seats or a first class seat. It is unacceptable that you spill over into the space of others, even if it is not your fault.
Everyone knows what airlines are like. Stop making excuses and go business class. My husband is 6’4″ and does just fine in Economy Plus. If you are taking up one-and-a-half seat for your shoulders your body is terribly out of proportion and you need to see a doctor. Or face the reality that those chubby cheeks in your avatar photo go with a chubby body.
It happens in first class and business class that are on smaller aircraft and are not pods or cubicles. It happened to me, I’m six foot three, last summer in 1st clase on Delta from the Caribbean returning to JFK.