"I think customers have the right to bow," said Bastian. "I think the right thing to do is find out if you're going to bow to someone and ask if you're okay, then you do. "
However, Bastian - who runs the world's largest airline - said he "never reclines" his seat because of his position.
"I never bow because I don't think it's something as a CEO that I should do," said Bastian. "I never say anything if someone bows to me. "
Bastian's commentary - and the controversy that sparked it - comes amid a trend by airlines to increasingly restrict the "pitch of seats" in their cabins.
In October, it was revealed that FAA researchers were recruiting volunteers for a study to determine whether more limited space on airplanes would decrease passenger safety.
However, before news of the study, the FAA ruled that the reduction in seats had no impact on consumer safety - which prompted a federal judge to respond, "It makes no sense. "
In 2017, researchers from NYU and the Cordozo School of Law published a study that examined whether fighting for reclining seats could be avoided by charging passengers to bow.