Delta Air Lines CEO: Passengers Should Ask Permission to Recline Seats

View of the cabin of a Joon Airbus A320 taken at the Air France Industries maintenance building in Roissy, on November 30, 2017, on the eve of the first commercial flights of the new airline subsidiary of Air France. / AFP PHOTO / ERIC PIERMONT (Photo credit should read ERIC …
ERIC PIERMONT/AFP via Getty Images

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian has weighed in on proper airline etiquette after a 45-second social media video showing a man pummeling the back of a woman’s airplane seat went viral.

The CEO said that while customers have “the right to recline,” they should always ask permission before reclining their seats.

“I think customers have the right to recline,” Bastian said on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “I think the proper thing to do is if you’re going to recline into somebody that you ask if it’s okay first and then you do it.”

The video Bastian was referencing was a controversial viral video on Twitter that got millions of views. Thousands of people retweeted the man punching the back of a woman’s seat on an American Eagle flight because she reclined it:

Although Bastian runs the largest airline in the world, he says he does not recline because he is not in his position to do so.

“I never recline, because I don’t think it’s something as CEO I should be doing,” Bastian said. “I never say anything if someone reclines into me.”

Bastian’s response was mocked on Twitter, with some blaming airlines, not passengers, for the issue with seat comfort because they do not provide enough space for passengers:

“Guys: the blame for lack of cabin/reclining seat-related comfort is the airlines. Not your fellow passengers. Blaming them is like blaming the steerage passengers on the Titanic,” tweeted Clare Jeffery of Mother Jones.

“Dear Delta CEO, if you put a recliner on a seat, people should be able to use it (and not have it slam into the person behind them). If you don’t want people to recline, don’t include it, but if you include an amenity, nobody should have to ask another passenger’s permission,” tweeted entrepreneur Carol Roth. 

Bastian’s commentary and the controversy surrounding it comes as airlines increasingly find ways to decrease the amount of legroom in their cabins.

In October, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was recruiting volunteers for a study to determine if tighter space on planes affected in-cabin safety.

Before news of the study broke, the FAA ruled that the smaller seats did not impact consumer safety, which caused a federal judge to step in and say, “That makes no sense.”

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