Delta CEO Ed Bastian was asked for his opinion on the great seat recline debate. His answer was a bit inconsistent, especially when explaining why he chooses not to recline when he flies.
Speaking on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Bastian was asked to comment on the viral story I covered earlier this week about a man banging, hitting, and punching a woman’s seat when she reclined upon him.
He first tried to dodge the question by contrasting the incident with Delta:
“We haven’t reduced our pitch on our aircraft in years. In fact, we’re going the other way. We’ve been adding a lot more pitch to a lot more seats.”
But when pressed further, Bastian said customers do have the right to recline, but should still ask for permission first.
“We ask all of our customers to show respect to their fellow customers…
“I think customers have the right to recline. We’ve been resting reduced recline…but I think he proper thing to do is, if you’re going to recline into somebody, you ask if it’s OK first, then you do it.”
That’s convenient for a leader in an industry that has, over time, reduced seat pitch and made the economy class seat more uncomfortable. Delta has reduced seat recline on its Airbus A320s from four inches to two inches in economy class.
Why Delta CEO Won’t Recline
“If someone knows there’s a tall person behind them, and they want to recline their seat, I think the polite thing is to do is make certain it was OK. I never recline, because I don’t think since I’m the CEO of the airline, I should be reclining my seat. And I never say anything if someone reclines into me.”
A couple takeaways. Charitably, we could say that Bastian simply does not want to directly tick off his customers so he will not be “the one” who reclines. But if he believes customers have the right to recline, why does he think it is not something that he should be doing? Or if he believes that customers should ask first, why wouldn’t he say anything? (Bastian is 6’3″)
Blessed is the peacemaker, I suppose?
We’re left still without firm direction from the leader of Delta. Do we have to “make certain it is OK” before we recline or do we in fact have the absolute right to recline? If Bastian is setting the example, that means we can never recline and also cannot say anything when people recline into us.