Airline Passengers Should Ask Before Reclining Seat, Delta CEO Says

Delta CEO jumped into the fray sparked by a viral video of a passenger on another airline filming the passenger sitting behind her repeatedly punching the seat after she reclined, saying passengers “have the right to recline” but they should ask for permission before they do so.

“The proper thing to do is, if you’re going to recline into somebody, you ask if it’s OK first,” Bastian told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Bastian, who is tall and often travels in coach, says he avoids reclining his seat when flying.

“I think if someone knows there’s a tall person behind them and they want to recline in their seat I think the polite thing would be to make certain it was OK,” Bastian said. “I never recline, because I don’t think it’s something as CEO I should be doing, and I never say anything if someone reclines into me.”

The debate on personal space on flights and whether reclining is OK was reignited this week after an American Airlines passenger on a flight from New Orleans to Charlotte, North Carolina, filmed the man sitting behind her punching the back of her seat after she leaned back.

“Here’s a great jackhole! He was angry that I reclined my seat and punched it about 9 times — HARD, at which point I began videoing him, and he resigned to this behavior,” Williams tweeted.

“The other jackhole is the @AmericanAir flight attendant who reprimanded me and offered him rum!” Williams added.

The issue sparked a large debate online with people weighing in on both sides of the question: If you have the option to recline, should people be able to do so?

Many users pointed out that the seats recline for a reason, while others pointed to the lack of personal space and how reclining the airline seat makes things much worse for the passenger sitting behind them. Another user pointed out the man seen punching the seat in the viral video was sitting in a row in which his seat would not recline.

Air cabins have become more crowded in recent years as thin margins force airlines to cram as many passengers on board as possible.

American Airlines said in a statement it was “looking into the issue.”