• The head of Delta Air Lines said in an interview with CNBC on Friday that passengers should ask before they recline their seat.
  • CEO Ed Bastian said that while passengers have the right to recline, proper etiquette is to ask first.
  • A video that went viral this week showed an angry passenger berating a woman sitting in front of him for reclining her seat.
  • Delta has been testing reduced-recline seats on some of its narrow-body aircraft in part to prevent arguments about reclining seats.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The CEO of the second-largest airline in the world says passengers should ask permission before they recline their seat.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in an interview with CNBC on Friday that a passenger should make sure it’s all right with the person behind them before reclining.

“The proper thing to do is if you’re going to recline into somebody that you ask if it’s OK first and then you do it,” Bastian said.

The question was in response to a viral video of an American Airlines passenger berating the woman in front of him for reclining her seat. The angry passenger repeatedly punched the back of the seat, sparking a debate about whether passengers should recline their seats if there is someone behind them.

Reclining a seat greatly reduces the amount of space for the person behind and may prevent them from doing things like working on a laptop. It often has a ripple effect, leading passengers down the line to recline their seats to salvage any remaining space - which ultimately has an adverse effect on those in seats that can't recline or have a limited recline.

Bastian, however, said that while passengers do have a right to recline, they should use discretion. He said of the arguments about reclining seats, "We generally do not see that issue on Delta flights."

The Delta CEO also said he never reclines his seat or objects when someone else does it to him, despite his height.

"I never recline, because I don't think it's something that, since I'm the CEO of the airline, I should be reclining my seat," Bastian said. "And I never say anything if someone reclines into me."

Bastian said the airline was testing reduced-recline seating to help mitigate these issues. Skift reported in April that Delta's Airbus A320s were the first to receive the new seats, which offer a 2-inch recline instead of the standard 4 inches in economy and about 3 1/2 inches instead of 5 inches in first class.

The seats are still being tested, meaning the final amount of recline per seat may change depending on the results and passenger feedback.

Delta offers extra-legroom seats in coach in its Comfort Plus section that economy customers can buy for an additional fee.

Pre-reclined seats are another alternative, though Delta hasn't gone that far. The immovable seats are common on ultra-low-cost airlines in the US, allowing them to fill their aircraft with as many seats as possible to increase revenue.

Delta did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.