'May I recline?': Viral dispute in midair leads to debate over airline etiquette

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- By now, millions have watched the viral video of a confrontation in midair. A clip posted to Twitter shows a woman attempting to recline, and a man repeatedly forcing her seat forward.

These tense moments were caught on camera during the American Eagle flight.

American Eagle is a subsidiary of American Airlines.

In a statement to ABC7 News, American Airlines shared, "We are aware of a customer dispute that transpired on American Eagle flight 4392, operated by Republic Airways on January 31. The safety and comfort of our customers and team members is our top priority, and our team is looking into the issue."

Now, the debate about passenger etiquette is taking off.

"May I recline," is a question we could hear more often after the confrontation was posted to the Internet.

ABC7 News doesn't have rights to the video, but Mora Mattern helped to describe it as the video plays.

"The woman is trying to recline and he's using his- seems like he's using his fists to keep pushing against," Mattern said. "Providing resistance."

The clip goes on for 45 seconds.

On Monday, Mattern and others at Mineta San Jose International Airport shared uncomfortable situations they've had to sit through.

"I had to sit in the middle seat coming here," Philadelphia resident, Iris Forman told ABC7 News. "And I'm not really good in the middle, but I just dealt with it. I kept my own space."

Another passenger watched the viral video and said, "That happened to me too."

When she was asked whether people should seek permission before reclining, she waited a few seconds before answering, "Yes."

Recently, Delta's CEO publicly suggested people ask before reclining.

The idea scored mixed reviews at SJC.

"I wouldn't unless someone was like, 'Hey I'm kind of squished,' then I'd be like, okay. Then I would, for me, I would just move it up," another passenger said.

"Yeah, I think that's a good idea to ask," another passenger told ABC7 News.

Her son added, "I think it would be respectful to ask before you do it."

"I don't think it's really necessary, but it definitely wouldn't hurt," another man said.

"I think if you are in a situation like me and you're kind of squished back there, then it's okay to say something," another American Airlines passenger said. "And hopefully the person in the front will comply."

He stood at 6-foot-5.5-inches tall.

Many might think that extra space would make a world of difference, but we're learning even that's up for debate.

"It's nice to have it," another passenger said about extra space. "But flying is not fun, no matter where you sit. So, it doesn't really matter."

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