Why You Should Never Give-Up Your Plane Seat

by Adam

A good friend of mine recently posted the below Facebook message, complaining that it was unfair to ask a single traveler to move seats just because a couple / family / etc. was not organized and did not pre-select their seats. rbf

Granted, there are situations when flights are canceled / aircrafts swapped and a little compassion is warranted…though in many situations I agree with the comment above.

Well, Condé Nast Traveler has an opinion as well – “Don’t Give Up Your Seat”:

I am a courteous person. I hold open doors with a smile, slow down to let cars merge ahead of me, and never hesitate to give up a seat for anyone in need on a train or bus. But give up my seat on a plane? That’s a different story. And I’m not talking about getting bumped off a flight, but about being asked by a fellow passenger who wants to sit next to his wife/friend/business partner to give up my seat—often a seat that I’ve hunted down and snatched up after weeks of revisiting my reservation online—in exchange for another seat elsewhere on that big scary bird.

Check out their take here as well as an opposing opinion.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


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Dave Shen September 30, 2016 - 4:14 pm

I’d only swap if the other seat is comparable to the seat I’m in, isle for isle, window for window. I would never swap my isle for middle seat.

Glenn September 30, 2016 - 4:24 pm

One time in a million this works to your advantage, though. Years ago, I was in an economy aisle seat next to 2 elderly people and a guy my (middle) age came down the aisle and asked if I wouldn’t mind changing seats so that he could sit with his parents (the 2 next to me). I was exhausted, I didn’t REALLY want to move, but I said yes. He smiled and said, “I had a feeling you wouldn’t mind”–and handed me the boarding pass to his seat in 1st class. As soon as I got settled in to my much improved seat I flagged down the FA and had her bring an entire bottle of champagne back to the guy and his parents.

Nico September 30, 2016 - 4:45 pm

My wife is incredibly fearful of flying, but loves to travel. I mean panic attack two days before departure kind of fear. I’m always careful about getting seats together, but I know that the odds dictate that someday, I’ll be in the position to ask someone if they would trade. I always board the plane with a $50 bill and a $100 bill in my pocket in case we should run into a situation where I’d have to offer it to someone to move – I don’t *expect* anyone to give up their seat for nothing. I also don’t expect anyone to be so self-centered and discompassionate as to have made up their mind about saying no before even being asked/seeing the situation. I know my wife wouldn’t fly if we couldn’t sit together and I dread the day where we are for some reason not seated together and aren’t easily allowed to deplane. I give my wife a lot of credit for sucking up her fear – which she knows is irrational, but can’t control – and not allowing it to prevent her from life experiences she treasures and enjoys. But like I said, I hope I get someone compassionate enough to empathize the day I have to ask.

Eric Mitchell September 30, 2016 - 6:06 pm

Well, I ask to switch sometimes, but it’s their middle seat for my aisle. My wife and I often fly on the 3_3 config, and book the Aisle and Window seats hoping no one will book the middle seat and we’ll have extra room….but if not, we ask them to swap their middle seat for my aisle. (Wife has to have a window).

dj September 30, 2016 - 9:17 pm

i once paid a guy $100 to swap his isle for my middle seat on a 3-4-3 cathay LAX -> HKG 14 hr flight. totally worth it.

Danny September 30, 2016 - 11:12 pm

I swapped an aisle seat for another so friends could sit together. Once I arrived to a new seat I noticed the new seat mate had a dog with her. I like dogs but not smelly ones for 5 hours. I was too shy to ask to switch back.

Debra October 1, 2016 - 5:55 am

The “never” attitude is stupid. I am a very well organized traveler, but a number of times I have asked for people to switch seats so my husband and I can sit together. 95% of the time I preselect seats together, but sometimes due to not having internet access at the right time, or not being allowed to check in online in some countries, or there simply not being two seats available next to each other without paying an extra charge, I can’t. I’m frugal, and I’m not ashamed of that. And there are of course times when due to aircraft changes or inexplicable airline reasons, our seats together get lost. In either case, I see nothing wrong with politely asking someone if they would be willing to switch. I would never ask someone to take my middle seat. But I have happily switched to the middle seat, and have found that some people love switching to a window seat, while others will gladly give up their window seat for the greater freedom of the aisle.

I understand that some people pay extra or go the extra mile to make sure they are assigned a particular seat, or simply love their assigned seat and want to keep it, and always accept refusals with a smile. It’s important that the person doing the requesting realizes that switching is a slight inconvenience and acts appropriately grateful. But if you get mad at someone just for politely asking, you’re kind of an asshole.

DrUit April 3, 2017 - 4:17 pm

” or there simply not being two seats available next to each other without paying an extra charge, I can’t. I’m frugal, and I’m not ashamed of that. ”

If you are not willing to pay, then you shouldn’t expect or demand seats together. Why force your cheapness to inconvienience other passengers? Especially those who did pay?

A person who does not give up her seat October 1, 2016 - 9:59 am

I am married and dont sit with my hubby on airline flights if our seats are not together to AVOID being rude and NOT BOTHER others passengers. Absence makes the heart grown fonder. Not organized + Needy married couples, please GROW UP!

Debra October 1, 2016 - 1:52 pm

I think anyone who feels the need to use all caps (three times in two sentences!) about this topic is the one who needs to grow up. What is so wrong with asking politely? Is it “rude” and “bothering” for a fellow passenger to ask to borrow your pen? Do you think, how dare this disorganized, needy person ask to use my pen, they should have remembered theirs or bought one in an airport shop, they can do without one for a few hours, what a hassle for me to reach into my bag and find a pen and hand it to them, my right not to be bothered utterly supersedes their superfluous desire to write something…?

I myself believe that the asking and granting of occasional favors of strangers is part of life in a civilized society. And you just don’t know the circumstances of the people asking. Maybe their seats got messed up through no fault of their own, maybe their nervous spouse has flown only once before (like mine on our first trip together), or is straight up terrified to fly (like the wife of the guy a few comments up), maybe they’re on their honeymoon but booked two separate award tickets and couldn’t access the seat selection right when it opened, god forbid. Please do keep your seat if it’s that important to you, but why think so nastily of others??

DrUit April 3, 2017 - 4:18 pm

Because it’s not my problem. Courtesy is taking the seat you get and not bothering others. Not making your problem into theirs.

A person who does not give up her seat October 1, 2016 - 4:39 pm

I find it amazing that you feel it’s your privilege somehow to bother people, some God given right. Even if you are supposedly asking politely you are STILL bothering the person with a stupid annoying ask. Hmmmm, no you don’ t have the right to bother anyone on an airplane unless it’s a life and death emergency. Needy not organized married people stop bothering others bc you can’t get organized. You are the problem. Not the person already sitting in their assigned seat who is NOT bothering anyone.

Amanda October 2, 2016 - 4:11 pm

These attitudes are the reason I was so stressed out before our 10 year anniversary trip. Booked first class as soon as the schedule opened up and AA changed our flight twice and then swapped the aircraft separating my husband and I. I stalked the seat assignments daily for 3 months and was never able to change our seats.

Got to first class and the first “gentleman” informed us that even though we were swapping the same row in first class, he had to have an aisle since he got up a bunch (which he didn’t). The second guy was actually nice enough to switch.

This was something that was completely out of my control and that I did everything I could to correct before the trip. It’s not always about being needy and disorganized.


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