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Feb. 18, 2020, 9:25 a.m. EST

Delta’s CEO offers a simple solution to the raging debate over reclining seats on airplanes

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By Mark DeCambre, MarketWatch


Bloomberg
Ed Bastian says passengers have the right to recline but should be courteous about it.

‘But I think that the proper thing to do is that if you’re going to recline into somebody, you ask if it’s OK first. and then you then do it.’

Ed Bastian

Delta Air Lines Inc.’s chief executive officer, Ed Bastian, weighed in on a simmering debate about proper decorum when reclining one’s seat on a flight.

In an interview on CNBC Friday morning , the airline chief said that the recommended etiquette is to ask permission, particularly if the person sitting behind you is tall, before reclining.

“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 was OK,” Bastian said. “I never recline ’cause I don’t think it’s something — since I’m the CEO of the airline — that I should be reclining my seat. And I never say anything if someone reclines into me.”

Bastian’s comments come as a video via Twitter maintained virality on social media, showing a passenger repeatedly punching the back of the seat of another passenger who had reclined her seat into his space.

MarketWatch’s Catey Hill wrote that more than four in 10 (or 41%) of people believe it is very or somewhat rude to recline your seat during a flight, citing a survey by FiveThirtyEight.

Don’t miss: ‘Both are horrible’: The internet hotly debates this video of a man seemingly ‘punching’ the reclined seat of a woman in front of him on a flight

Bastian said he still believes that customers have the right to recline.

Check out the video of the Delta /zigman2/quotes/200327741/lastsale DAL -4.99% chief executive on CNBC:

Bastian told CNBC that his airline has been testing “reduced recline” in seats, with the current controversy in mind.

Delta is the largest U.S. carrier by dint of its $38 billion market value. The airline recently reported fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of $1.70 a share , compared with analysts’ expectations of $1.40 a share. Unlike a number of other airlines, Delta doesn’t feature the Boeing Co. /zigman2/quotes/208579720/lastsale BA -5.68% 737 MAX jet in its roster

Delta’s shares were 0.7% lower on Friday and have been underperforming the broader market, moving up 0.4% so far this year. That compares with a 4.3% gain for S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +2.28% thus far in 2020, a 2.8% advance by the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +2.24% and an 8.2% rise for the Nasdaq Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +1.72% over the first seven weeks of the new year.

Read on: The CEO of the largest airline offers one simple reason that Wi-Fi on planes isn’t free

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Mark DeCambre is MarketWatch's markets editor. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @mdecambre.

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