Seconds before giving a milquetoast answer.
Seconds before giving a milquetoast answer.
Screenshot: CNBC

Yesterday, the internet was split asunder by a great moral conundrum over a viral video of a man punching a woman’s seat when she tried to recline. Some people took the man’s side—tall people have knees and it’s rude to recline! Others took the woman’s side—she paid for her seat, and has every right! Well everybody step aside because Delta CEO Ed Bastian has an opinion and officially weighed in on the matter.

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In an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Bastian took the opportunity with his dead-eyed wooden smile to use the controversy to sort of prop up Delta as Your Best Friendly Airline.

“We haven’t reduced our pitch on our aircraft in years. We’re going the other way,” Bastian said. Pitch refers to the distance from one seat back to the next. Despite plugging Delta as the great protector of legroom, however, Bastian was rather cagey when the Squawk Box hosts needled him for an answer on where he stood in the great recline debate.

Bastian did exactly what you might expect a CEO to do: Hedge. “I never recline,” Bastian said, “because I don’t think it’s something as CEO I should be doing, and I never say anything if someone reclines into me.” To be fair, Bastian has stated in multiple interviews that he frequently flies coach—though not for the really long flights where it feels like dying. I distinctly remember the last time I flew Delta on a flight from Tokyo to Atlanta. After about 12 hours, I, at the super-tall height of 5-foot-3, was on the verge of sawing my own legs off.

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He went on to clarify that even though he personally, doesn’t recline, passengers definitely have the right to. “The proper thing to do is, if you’re going to recline into somebody, you ask if it’s OK first.” The real kicker though? Bastian noted that Delta is currently experimenting with a more limited recline in seats.

The real villain in all of this is late-stage capitalism. Even if Bastian is painting himself as a ‘good CEO’, Delta and other airlines are still trying to figure out ways to maximize profits—possibly at the expense of passenger comfort. All the while, first-class seats keep getting fancier while coach feels like a flying sardine can. There’s no real solution to this, other than to hope these jagoffs finally start treating us plebs like human beings instead of chattel. But in the meantime, try not to be a total dick when reclining.

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Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.

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