Ask before you recline your seat, says airline boss

Cathy Adams
Footage of a woman being 'punched' by a male passenger onboard an American Airlines flight has gone viral: Twitter.com/AmicaAli

Passengers should ask before reclining their seat, an airline boss has said.

Ed Bastian, the CEO of Delta Air Lines, weighed in on the plane seat reclining debate that kicked off last week when a video showing a man repeatedly punching a woman’s reclined seat went viral.

“Customers have the right to recline,” the US airline boss told CNBC’s Squawk Box.

“The proper thing to do if you’re going to recline is that you ask if it’s OK first.

“I never say anything myself though.”

When asked again if he thought asking the passenger behind first really was proper plane etiquette, Mr Bastian added: “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 OK.”

However, he said that he never reclines his seat, adding that as the CEO of an airline it’s not something he should be doing – but that he would “never say anything if someone reclines into me”.

Mr Bastian said that a ”fair amount” of Delta’s fleet was already on a “reduced recline”.

The footage that started the fierce debate on passengers’ right to move their seat back was filmed onboard an American Airlines flight from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Charlotte, North Carolina, when passenger Wendi Williams reclined her seat.

Video shot by another passenger shows the man, seated in the last row of the aircraft, banging the back of Ms Williams’ chair while watching something on his mobile phone.

As a result, her aisle seat can be seen shaking back and forth.

Ms Williams has claimed that the incident amounts to “assault”, although online commentators have disagreed – instead asking why she didn’t ask him to stop, or pull up her reclined seat.

According to an Independent Twitter poll, which had more than 2,500 votes this afternoon, the majority – 37.6 per cent – said reclining your seat was “a bit rude but allowed”.

The results were then almost evenly split between “absolutely” and “unacceptable”, with 33.1 per cent and 29.3 per cent of votes respectively.

A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic said: “We always want our customers to have the best experience possible onboard our flights. Our seats include the ability to recline for comfort, however, we ask all customers to be mindful and respectful of each other, taking the experience of the customer seated behind into account when reclining.” ​

The Independent has asked British Airways if it has any thoughts on seat reclining etiquette.