Ed Bastain, the chief executive of Delta Air Lines waded into the debate on whether to recline or not to recline your airplane seat when he appeared in a segment on CNBC’s Squawk Box on Friday to discuss the airline’s performance. In the last few days, a viral video of a man punching the seat in front him because the passenger sat in that seat had reclined has divided opinion and taken over the internet.
Wendi Williams had videoed the man repeatedly punching her seat in a fit of rage on an American Eagle flight because she had reclined her seat on a short flight between New Orleans and Charlotte on January 31. To make matter worse, Wendi claims a flight attendant sided with the man and even offered him a free alcoholic beverage.
While some people agree with Wendi’s right not only to recline her seat when the option is available but to go about her business without being assaulted or threatened, other’s have sympathised with the man and argued Wendi was out of order for reclining her seat in the first place.
Wendi says she was more than happy to keep her seat upright while the man was eating but because she suffers from a bad back she decided to recline for the remainder of the flight. Critics, though, say no one has the right to recline their seat… especially on short-haul flights.
The incident has split opinion and given the reaction of the flight attendant, it would seem that airlines don’t even know what the proper etiquette for reclining your seat is.
Bastian, however, says he thinks passengers do have to recline, although he does add some caveats.
“I think customers have the right to recline,” Bastain said in an interview on business news channel CNBC but then conceded that recline can be a major pain point for passengers, going on to say what Delta was doing to reduce that tension:
“We’ve been testing reduced recline and seeing response on that. We actually have a fair amount of our fleet on reduced recline as a result of that but I think that the proper thing to do is that if you’re going to recline into somebody that you ask if it’s okay first and then you do it.”Ed Bastian, Delta Air Lines CEO
When pressed on that point, Bastian again says he thinks the recliner should always ask permission first before reclining their seat:
“I never say anything myself,” Bastian said about people reclining into his space but continued:
“I think if someone knows there’s a tall person behind them and they want to recline their seat, I think the polite thing would be to make certain it’s okay… I never recline because I don’t think since I’m the CEO of the airline that I should be reclining my seat and I don’t say anything if someone reclines into me.”
Bastian, however, couldn’t say what would happen if the person behind declines to give permission. Instead, he appears to suggest the actual etiquette is to make the person behind aware that you’re going to recline before actually doing so.
The debate, it seems, will continue to rage on.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.