No, You May Not Have My Seat

A few years ago I was flying from Atlanta to Honolulu when a fellow passenger made an offer I could refuse, and did.

The gentleman wanted me and the passenger sitting next to me to move. It seems that the petitioning fellow and his wife were sitting separately. After determining from my seat mate that the said seat mate and I were strangers to each other, the gentleman proposed that we give up our seats so that he and his wife could take them and sit together. After, all what would it matter to us?

My seat mate agreed to the deal but I declined, much to the ire of the wannabe seat trader, who complained loudly for much of the remaining flight time about my intransigence. It was a nine-hour flight but it seemed shorter. The guy was so entertaining in his outrage the time just flew by.

This experience came back to mind when I read (in Business Insider, via Jaunted) about an entrepreneur, one Jason Goldberg, who bitched vociferously about a fellow passenger’s refusal to switch seats so that he, Jason Goldberg, could sit with a colleague. “Who does that?” asked Mr. Goldberg on Facebook.

Well, there’s me and at least that one other person. Actually, I think lots of people do that, and quite reasonably so. In my view, there are only two reasons to give up my seat: because I have to or because I want to.

I have to switch seats when the flight attendant tells me to. For example, when somebody with a leg cast or a service dog needs a bulkhead, it’s eviction time. I get up and do as I’m told.

I want to switch seats when offered a better or equivalent seat. And I want to switch seats when the person who asks for a trade really needs it.

I’ve traded seats, even from an aisle to a middle, so that parents can be with their children. I’ve even made the offer without their having to ask. I’d certainly switch for an elderly couple or a disabled person, and probably for honeymooners, though I’ve never been asked.

(And come to think of it, seriously, some planning is in order for a honeymoon — at least enough to pick adjoining seats. If people claiming to be on their honeymoon ever ask me to switch seats I will probably assume they’re lying. Or that planning is such a foreign concept to them that they’ll be back in nine months with a baby, probably wanting to switch seats again.)

There are many good reasons to  give up a seat voluntarily. For example, it’s wonderful to see passengers trade a first-class seat with uniformed military personnel for a coach seat. It’s not just a gesture but truly an act of kindness and respect.

Absent an order from the cabin crew, each passenger must consult his or own conscience about trading seats. My criteria may not be the same as yours. But too often people give up a good aisle or window seat for a middle seat simply for the convenience of another passenger who is pushy, or perhaps to avoid a confrontation. And despite the fact that I am a generally agreeable person, I don’t think that’s necessary or even right.

Maybe it’s because I’m an American, a firm believer in motherhood, apple pie and two aphorisms: first come, first served and you get what you pay for. If you can buy your way into first or business class with cash or miles, bully for you. If you buy your ticket early, do a little planning and get one of the better seats in coach, bully for you, too.

Which brings us back to seat 63K in that Delta 747 to Honolulu, my seat. The pickings were slim by the time I bought my ticket, but I did some research and discovered that 63K is one of just a few seats in that aircraft with a little room between the window seat and the window. It’s at the point where the fuselage tapers so that the rows of three seats become, for a few rows at the very back of the jet, rows of two seats with several inches of extra space on the side.

I generally prefer the aisle, but the extra space turned that window seat at the back of the bus into a bonus pick. I could stretch my legs a little, at least on one side, and there was room next to the seat for my little carry-on full of nine hours worth of diversion. SeatGuru says some people don’t like that particular seat because they can’t lean against the window to sleep, but I can rarely sleep on a jet.

It was not clear whether the trade I was offered was for an aisle, middle or window seat. It was conveyed through my seat mate without that detail. But I knew there was no other seat I would prefer at the back of the jet, and so I declined to give up my carefully and strategically chosen spot to a couple who could provide me with no more compelling reason than that they preferred to sit together.

If they were honeymooning, he failed to mention it. If one of them was sick or physically impaired so as to require the care of the other, it was not readily apparent. If they were simply a couple who could not bear to be apart for nine hours, I hope they work in the same place.

My husband and I have been seated apart on a plane many times, and we have never asked anyone to switch. Sometimes we even sit apart voluntarily because the aircraft isn’t full and we can each have our own row to stretch out in. (This may explain how we’ve stayed married for 22 years.)

So back to Mr. and Mrs. Gimmeyourseat. I don’t know why they didn’t have adjacent seats. I don’t want to judge. But we all have to start learning sometime if we’re going to travel, and I like to think I gave them a free lesson about the importance of selecting seats in advance, particularly if one is strongly attached to the company of one’s travel companion.

But maybe that lesson was not immediately effective. Because the gentleman in question did not seem to feel that anyone but I was responsible for his unsatisfactory seating arrangement. Certainly not he. “I don’t know what her problem is,” he said repeatedly and quite audibly as he loitered about the back of the jet, telling his story to everyone who came to use the aft lavatory.

Perhaps I could have explained to him that had all other things been equal, I would have traded seats — even though I was under no obligation to do so. He may not have understood that he was asking me to give up a better seat than he could offer. I never spoke to him directly and I don’t know what my seat mate said to him.

But then, I’m not sure I needed to tell him anything. This is one of those situations where no means no and any appeal can be brought to the flight attendant — but it had better come with a leg cast or a seeing-eye dog.

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43 thoughts on “No, You May Not Have My Seat

  1. Kate

    I admit that I once asked a passenger to trade seats with me so I could sit next to my husband. We carefully planned and chose seats next to each other, but our flight was cancelled so we were put another plane… and the only available seats were two middle seats. I offered my middle seat to the gentleman on the aisle next to my husband, letting him know that his seat did not recline (because it was in front of an exit row) and my seat did. I didn’t presume that he would switch from an aisle to a middle seat just because I wanted to sit next to my husband. Turns out he prefered the non-reclining aisle seat to a middle reclining seat. Frankly, I’d agree with him. I was disappointed that I couldn’t sit next to my husband, but I couldn’t blame him, and no grumbling occurred.

    Reply
    1. Jeanne Leblanc Post author

      I should have noted that sometimes people get separated despite careful planning. It doesn’t entitle them to someone else’s seat but it does entitle them to more sympathy than I evinced. Good on you for being gracious.

      Reply
  2. Debbie

    I was in Economy Plus recently for a domestic flight in my aisle seat on the right side (I’m left handed and this prevents elbow bumping). The woman next to me in the middle seat asked me to trade my seat for her boyfriend’s seat in the way back of the plane in the middle. This had been happening frequently so instead of a polite ‘no’, I told her I flew 50K miles last year to be able to choose this seat. She wimpered ‘ohh’ and never asked me again. I happily changed for a young man and his girlfriend who had 2 small service dogs. I took the window seat, which I hate, because the gate attendant was very adamant that service dogs could not be by a window. The young man told me he was former military and had PTSD. The dogs helped him relax. This is a no-brainer.
    I think it’s rediculous when people who fly 1x/year or less and have not done their homework on how air travel works to ask for seat changes. It’s enough we have to stand behind them in security at times, although Pre Check is quickly taking care of that. And you can’t be separated from your mate for the length of a flight? Honey you need more than a new seat, consider therapy…

    Reply
  3. austinflyguy

    Separated spouses should take the opportunity to meet someone new. It is surprising how an airplane trip suddenly requires the intimacy not afforded for most of their days (unless they work together). Most amazing to me, however, is being asked to give up my first class seat and move to coach so the persons spouse can take it because they were upgraded and he/she was not….so much for the need for companionship argument as it never seems to be the case that the person in front moves to coach (haha).

    Reply
  4. Mickey from Louisiana

    Jeanne, I appreciate your posting. I used to give up my seat every time i was asked but as I have gotten older and traveled a lot for my work, I don’t give it as easy anymore. It galls me that people don’t plan ahead, as I do, and choose a desired seat, but expect me to switch. I have had “mrgimmeyourseat’ (thanks for that!) grouse and complain and then make a big production about giving some gift to the woman who gave up her seat, staring with mean eyes at me the whole time. Jeanne, the ones I won’t budge on are the ones that won’t ask outright with some explanation but rather ask me “you don’t really want that specific seat do you?”.
    Again, thank you for putting into words the way I feel.

    Reply
  5. Lee

    Jeanne –

    Thank you for this article!

    Add at least one more to your list of known naysayers.

    I’m almost always upgraded, but even in the front of the bus I’m amazed at the number of people who think asking to switch seats requires automatic consent. Like you, I’ll cheerfully switch aisle-for-aisle, but beyond that, I find it quite easy to refuse.

    Reply
  6. DAN BENTON

    Great story, and you did right. I’m a retired naval officer and would have handled him differently, but he heckled you because you are a woman and probably not big enough to let him know he was about to get his ass kicked. My responses would have the flight attendant have a discussion with him. We used to say we loved the smell of napalm first thing in the morning.

    Reply
  7. David

    As a rather frequent flyer, I’ve received requests a number of times to switch seats and made the request a few times (when traveling with a colleague or family and we are somehow, usually due to airline changes, seated separately). When I ask, I always try to offer a superior seat or at least like for like. I never ask someone to change a middle for an aisle. On the asking side, I’ve seen gracious askers, squatters, and gripers. The gracious askers will offer the better of their two seats. The gripers will often be those who offered the lesser of the two seats — middle seat in the second to the last row of the plane. Then they complain that you were somehow indecent. I was in first class once in row 4 and a guy asked if I could switch to his bulkhead row 1 seat so he could sit next to his wife. I said I don’t like bulkhead seats because I’m tall. He never offered to have his wife move to the bulkhead and have his seat companion move back to row 4. But, he complained all flight. I’ve even had someone ask me to move from first or business to coach so she could sit with her husband. Whoa, dear. If you need to sit with hubby, offer his premium seat to someone next to you in coach. The worst, though, are squatters, who are already in your seat and ask you to switch. I pretty much say no to those on principle. Don’t presume you are going to get my seat by adverse possession. Gracious askers who offer a seat that is better or no worse and have a decent reason — I’m often willing to switch.

    Reply
  8. Debbie Wallace

    Recently, I gave up my seat so that a mother and young daughter could sit together (their original flight had been cancelled, and they had to take whatever seats were available), even tho that put me in a bulkhead seat, which I don’t care for. About an hour into the flight, coming back from the bathroom, the daughter was up, dancing around in the aisle, and when she saw me coming, she stepped into — my seat! I politely told her that that was my seat, and she’d have to move to let me sit down. The mother (sitting in the next row back) very rudely told me “How is she supposed to know that was YOUR seat?” Maybe, because SHE was sitting there very recently? Or maybe you could have gently reminded her of that fact? Whatever, because of that clueless woman, I won’t agree to changing seats again regardless of the reason for the request.

    Reply
  9. Joyce

    I choose which flight I fly based on getting a “good” seat. I’ll even fly at 5 am instead of 8 am if it means I am in an aisle seat in economy plus. I will switch like for like seats if asked but I refuse to trade an aisle for a middle or even a window seat. Call me selfish, but I think the selfish people are those who think they are entitled to a better seat because of their circumstances–either poor planning or plane rescheduling. If asked, I politely tell them that I can’t stand to be in enclosed spaces so a middle or window will not work for me. It’s one thing if someone offers to trade down their seat, and there are kind people who will do that. But to complain because someone will not trade….shame on them.

    And shame on someone who asks a person in business or first to go into a lower class of service instead of offering the better seat. Are they stupid? Do people really fall for that?

    Reply
  10. larry

    Totally agree with Jean. I have been asked to change an aisle seat for a window or middle seat, and have refused. Only to have to deal with the negative, confrontational attitude(s) of the askers. At this point of my life-span, if the asker(s) want to get physical/nasty, so be it. Go ahead.

    I keep my seat which i carefully selected at time of purchase…taking into account things like closeness to front of the plane(exit door at airport) to get me off the plane as early as possible to make connection to the next plane (sometimes tight if the flight is delayed). Am an aisle seat only person, since do not want to hassle seat mates when I use the lavoratory, or as on long haul flights, to get up every two hours and stretch my legs. Have even been asked to give up an exit-row aisle seat. What are the askers thinking?

    And then they put that guilt trip on you….. Really, the flight attendants should be required to tell the grouches to cease and desist, to shut up.

    Right on Jean

    Reply
  11. Lyndy

    Great article! I’ve come to the conclusion that single travelers are approached more frequently than anyone else…Guess the idea is that if you’re traveling alone, you don’t matter as much as a couple…I was never asked when my late husband and I were traveling. Have also noticed that women traveling alone seem to be asked more than anyone else. Like you, I say no, and have trained myself not to give a reason. The only time I did change was for a girl whose Father had just died, and she wanted to sit next to her brother on the way home…Clearly an unplanned trip. When I have meetings, I often book months in advance, just so I can get the seats I want, and/or upgrade. Thank you letting us know how many people feel as we do.

    Reply
  12. Willy

    Spot on, Jeanne! I am okay with requests from the same class of service not involving me getting a middle seat when that isn’t what I had. I did recently give up a premium economy seat so a family with a baby could sit together. I also appreciate knowing what the situation is to make a judgment. I also agree that lack of planning on one’s part does not constitute an urgency for me. If I am traveling on business and have to make my spouse’s arrangements independently, I synch up the seats after making the reservations. Since my status is higher than my spouse’s, I may get upgraded. If that happens, we never have requested that someone exchange so my spouse can sit in 1st class. That is just totally rude in my book. I have also on occasion declined the upgrade if I truly wanted to sit with my spouse (rarely has that happened, though).

    Reply
  13. Jeanne Leblanc Post author

    I’m astonished to hear of cases where someone asked a passenger in first or business class to trade for a coach seat. To quote Mr. Goldberg, “Who does that?” It’s totally out of line.

    Reply
  14. Guillermo el Loco

    Total agreement with non-obligatory nature of seat trading, though I sometimes feel so obliging that I actually look at it as an opportunity to do a stranger a favor. Oddly enough, my experience has usually run the other way; traveling with my wife, we’ve been upgraded, but seated separately in front, and other, already seated, passengers have spontaneously offered to trade so we might sit together. If only one of us gets an upgrade, I agree with other posters. We turn it down, sit in the cabin we expected to be in all along, and can’t imagine the gall, effrontery, naivete, chutzpah or rudeness it would entail to ask someone to move out of their front of plane seat for our convenience. Quote from poster Goldberg deserves more emphasis, e.g. “Who in H… does that?”

    Reply
  15. dan neal

    Ms. Leblanc’s post suggests refusing a lateral trade is reasonable and justified, even with a diplomatically conveyed request for a change, and an understandable reason for making the request. This is the portion of her argument with which I disagree strongly. My wife and I are fortunate enough to travel in first or business class most of the time, and it is amazing how often we aren’t able to get advance seat assignments at all, or when we can, that two adjacent seats are unavailable. When a person pays the extra cost or cashes in the miles to sit in the front of the plane, why shouldn’t they be afforded the courtesy of sitting together, especially if it’s a long flight? To be denied this opportunity by someone who refuses a lateral trade when asked politely to switch seems, frankly, mean spirited and selfish.

    Reply
    1. Jeanne Leblanc Post author

      Dan, I think my position would best be characterized as this: I would make a truly lateral trade under any circumstances. In my own understanding of personal ethics, it would be churlish to refuse if a switch makes no difference to me but it’s important to you. BUT — and I think this is important — I am obligated to honor my conscience, not yours. If you ask me to change seats so you can sit next to your spouse, and you regard the trade as fair and lateral, you still don’t get to tell me how I should regard it. It’s MY SEAT, and I’ll give it up only if I’m persuaded by your argument.

      Reply
  16. Mickey

    Recently I gave up my seat to a mother and baby who got on the plane at the last minute. My original seat was on the aisle and the only seat available was a very tight middle seat, which I rather grudgingly accepted. I was rather surprised and disappointed that the mother never once said thank you or even looked in my direction. I guess you don’t do these things expecting gratitude!

    Reply
  17. Maarten Ultee

    Jeanne, you’re right! Some people feel entitled to the best seats on the plane no matter what other passengers think. Once I had boarded a flight from Toronto to London, and was seated in coach next to the galley, restrooms and exit door–no, not a great seat. I began an interesting talk with my seat-mate, a Canadian-Indian entrepreneur. Then a tall, crude and grumbling Anglo-Canadian man appeared and demanded my seat because I was shorter than he was, and I wouldn’t need the legroom! I said no to this shameless effrontery. He took out his wallet and offered me $20, $50, even $100, waving the cash from on high. Again and again I said no. Finally I asked a flight attendant to take him away. She did, and later said such encounters were frequent on long-distance flights. She considered throwing him off the plane (before takeoff!).

    Reply
  18. ne native in cali

    I had someone ask for a trade from my exit row aisle to something six rows back. She was shocked when I told her that it would be better to ask her two seatmates to take the exit row instead because you would have better luck getting people into the exit row (even if that means trading two seats). I don’t think she was happy, but there is no way on earth I will trade for a seat that is significantly worse than what I have.

    At the end, she got her wish because I was upgraded from the exit row to the last row of F.

    Reply
  19. BlueGirl

    My husband and I recently flew from Georgia to New York for a wedding. It had been a long time since we’d taken a trip together and we were excited about traveling together. I’m a nervous flier, so I was really happy about getting to be seated next to my husband. We checked in early and chose our seats for the way there and back. They weren’t great seats because I had to be in the middle (I prefer window) but he got the aisle and we got to be together.

    On the flight back to Georgia, we got to our seats and a woman holding a baby was in the window seat and her son of maybe 7 or 8 was in my seat. It was a packed flight and she had already put her son in our seat, so we were forced to wedge into a row while other passengers tried to get by us to figure this out. After already stealing our seat, she “asked” if one of us would trade seats with them so her kid could sit next to her. (Nice time to ask, after already taking our seat so we had nowhere to sit while seats were figured out — so rude. The flight was full and we were both exhausted from a busy weekend and late night at the wedding, then waking at 6 to make our flight. We were also in the middle of a conversation we wanted to finish.)

    I wanted to sit by my husband, so I said we’d be happy to switch if the flight attendant would find us two seats together. (I didn’t know the flight was 100 percent full. The mom did, but she sat there taking up one of our seats while we had to fight past a sea of passengers to try to find a flight attendant to see if we could get acceptable seats. The mom sat there and watched this knowing there weren’t two seats together available.) Finally my husband told her we’d prefer if she would figure out seating arrangements rather than putting it on us, and it turned out she had a husband seated toward the back of the plane and one of his seatmates offered to switch so the kid could sit by the dad. Problem solved!

    But mom was so pissy she just glared daggers at us for the whole flight and kept craning her neck to try to see her son even though he was seated by his dad. You would have thought we were pure evil for not automatically being willing to be split up out of seats we had taken the time to choose just so she could have her way. The fact that she had her kid already in one of our seats, leaving us no place to sit while this was figured out made us really cranky and much less likely to want to help her since we had to then hold up the whole plane and get jostled around by other passengers trying to sit down. I thought the woman was really rude and had a huge sense of entitlement. Surely one could understand a couple who has gone to the trouble of choosing seats together not wanting to be split up.

    And a tip for parents/potential squatters: Please do not “squat” in someone’s seat before asking them to switch. It’s obnoxious, makes you look like you have a huge sense of entitlement and you might be less likely to get your way when they’re cranky/displaced than you would if you nicely asked while they are getting seated or already seated. Then after everyone else is seated, you can make the switch with minimum jostling of all parties.

    Reply
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  21. makfan

    I get asked a lot. Why does it seem when I get one of my favorite seats that I am more likely to be asked to switch? :)

    I also used to say yes quite often, but not any more. It is very situational. If someone is polite or perhaps military, eldery, etc. they are likely to get a yes. If it’s some couple that is split up, no way am I giving up my favorite seat for them.

    The thing that tipped me over was a couple of years ago when flying on a 777 in business class from Miami to LA. I had upgraded earlier and picked an aisle in the middle section. This is my favorite because you are rarely disturbed by anyone. This section has 3 and the aisle can go out either side. This man approached me and TOLD me to sit in the window seat in the last row because his wife was in the middle and nobody else was going to sit next to her. I went to that window with my tail between my legs. The person on the aisle didn’t speak any English and spent the whole flight in the sleeping position (which means I couldn’t get out without doing a groin split step over his legs). Never again. They can bring the police on board before I will be bullied out of my seat.

    Reply
  22. todd

    I’ve been asked a few times and I do not recall ever having someone ask impolitely or inappropriately. My all-time favorte ask was when I had a middle seat at the back of the plane and the two older ladies in the aisle and window seat asked if I would switch so they could sit together. My “yes” was instantaneous.

    Twice I’ve volunteered to switch when I overheard the person asked first refuse. Once I moved to a middle seat towards the back because the male half of a couple explained that his female companion had a fear of flying. The flight attendents offered me free wine or beer as a reward. The other time, I was fortunate enough to be in first and a family with two small children were separated from their parents. The wife asked one man if he would move and he refused. I realized that I could offer to move and solve their problem. As we were deplaning the husband handed me his card, he ran a stunt company in LA, and said to me that if I ever wanted to observe the filming of a movie stunt to contact him.

    Sometimes, there really is karma.

    Reply
    1. Jeanne Leblanc Post author

      I hope the whole family was already in first. Because you’d deserve a massive amount of karma if you gave up a seat in first for one in coach. In that case, they would have had no trouble finding volunteers if they had offered to switch seats with people in coach and, if it were me, I think I might have pointed that out to them.

      I once turned down an upgrade to first because I couldn’t get one for my adult daughter, as well. We sat together in coach. The flight attendant gave me a free drink, which was nice, but I was really acting out of self-interest. I enjoy my daughter’s company more than I would have enjoyed first.

      Reply
  23. Alec

    I agree with your reasoning but respectfully disagree with your decision. You certainly had every right to decline the switch. But to agree to a minor change, even one resulting in marginal increase in your (already considerable) discomfort so that another person get what they want would have been — some old-fashined ideas here — graceful, kind, considerate. To decline, and to decline to even converse with the man who made the request was, ahem, not.

    Reply
    1. Jeanne Leblanc Post author

      Of course you’re right, Alec. It would have been kind and considerate. But there are some instances where kindness and consideration are particularly called for, and others where they are not. This was, in my judgment, a matter of another person’s convenience, not a real need. I could let everyone in the world cut in front of me in line, for example, and that would be kind and considerate. But I will usually only do that if somebody really needs it. And I may not have described this properly, but I didn’t refuse or decline to talk to the man. I would gladly have spoken with him but he didn’t ask me. He asked the guy next to me, who relayed the request and my response.

      Reply
  24. James

    Jeanne,

    My wife and I are separated on almost every flight we sit on. Somehow I’ve ended up on some list that makes it impossible for me to check in online to most flights (SSS). Additionally, when I am able to checkin online, my seat choices are not respected by the airline when I get to the airport. We will ask people if they want to change seats, provided they’re not getting screwed by the deal (usually we’re buried deep in coach class and separated by a couple of rows, so the seats are not all that different). Often people will oblige because they’re considerate. They’re free to say no, and sometimes they do, but if they’re traveling solo or separated from the people they’re traveling with they’re no worse off. The only airlines that we’re actually able to sit together on the ticket, it seems, are non-american airlines.

    I mean truth be told this whole post makes you come off as somebody who is pretty unreasonable and selfish. The people asking you to switch are making a request, which you are free to decline, but it certainly does not make them deserving of your derision. There are many reasons people who wish to be seated together aren’t, and most of those reasons aren’t because of a lack of trying.

    Reply
    1. Jeanne Leblanc Post author

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your comment, and I’m sorry that keeps happening to you and your wife. I don’t think I treated anyone with derision, and I explained that I have often given up my seat, though I chose not to in this case. I don’t think I was being selfish because I don’t think I was inconveniencing anyone. I was just refusing to be inconvenienced myself.

      Jeanne

      Reply
  25. kurt

    I just want to say thank you for standing up to those people.

    Its probably hard for you to find things in life where you take a stand for what you believe in, and telling someone you wont move from one coach seat to another is a great way to assert yourself. Its like a kid at a playground with two bouncy balls refusing to let another kid play with one. I applaud you.

    Having been one of the people to travel with a child where the regulations of ticket booking don’t allow us to book seats together, I have to rely on the understanding and compassion of others so my child doesn’t fly alone and get molested on a flight.

    Keep up the good work towards self actualization. Most of us hit it earlier than this, but I have hope you’ll make it.

    Reply
    1. Jeanne Leblanc Post author

      Kurt, I think you need to read it again. I very clearly stated that I will give up and have given up my seat to keep children with their parents. And as a middle-aged woman traveling alone I have been seated several times with unaccompanied children, who I’ve tried to keep happy and entertained. I think the person who felt entitled and “self-actualized” in this case was the guy who thought I owed him my seat because his comfort and convenience were more important than mine. And, really, accusing me of abetting child molesters is a bit much, don’t you think?

      Reply
  26. jan barstow

    I was on a 6 hour red-eye flight with my special needs 12 year old daughter. I found out, even though I booked our tix well in advance, that the airline had separated us and we wouldn’t be sitting together. I asked the airline personnel for assistance but they were unable to help and encouraged me to ask the passengers myself to switch seats so my daughter would not have to fly without me. Imagine my surprise when the three people I asked absolutely refused, with my daughter standing there in tears. No one gave a damn, I really couldn’t believe these people could be so callous. I understand that people aren’t obligated in any way, other than kindness and decency, to help in such a situation. But really, how can people be so blithely dismissive under such extenuating circumstances? I tried to understand their point of view, that’s how I found this site, but nothing here seems to justify the reasons these people may have had for refusing to help. Everyone talks a lot about simple acts of kindness, but when it comes time to perform one of those simple acts, few seem willing to ‘go the distance.’

    Reply
  27. Eva

    Our daughter was 2 months old, our son 3 years. Being military we had to fly from LAX California to Frankfurt, Germany, a roughly 12 hours flight.
    We checked in and had to put the babyseat
    into the cargo area of the airplane, because “we would be put into a baby aisle”.
    Upon entering the aircraft I overheard a stewardess mumbling that our seats were NOT in the baby aisle with baby cots.
    The people sitting in the baby aisle (2 elderly ladies and a mother with teenage son) refused to give up the seats. Not even after the stewardess told them they had to move.
    I had to hold my 2 month old the whole time on my arm. Since I was still breast feeding she refused being held by my husband and threw a fit that aggrevated the ladies in the front…
    So you see, sometimes it has nothing to do with poor planning of the travelers but purely with the selfishness of passengers who don’t want to give up their entitlement (because they were on the plane before us?!) and the ignorance of the check in lady who wasn’t able to book us into the correct seats (duh, they were given to old ladies and a teenager without babies in front of unused baby cots!)
    BTW, our tickets were booked and paid 1 month before the move, inclusive the age of the children and the wish for adequate accommodation for a baby.
    In your opinion, where exactly did WE do wrong?

    Reply
    1. Brooks

      Those ladies were NOT wrong (IMO) in refusing to giving up their seats. If you had booked those seats for yourself and were given the “switcharoo” then yes, you’d have a complaint. But, that complaint is between you and the airline, not between you and the other passenger(s).

      Ask, if they say no, then that’s tough. Take it up with Luftansa.

      But I do feel that all airlines are jerks. Doesn’t matter which company. I have myself been screwed over, by both fellow passengers (which is why I am a jerk myself sometimes) and by airlines.

      Reply
  28. Eva

    Having ranted that, I am pretty certain you, Jeanne, would have given us the baby seat.
    We are polite and friendly people and our daughter made a pretty loud point why she should be in the cot sleeping instead on my arm for 12 hours!
    For some reasons, these older ladies didn’t understand at all and started threatening us like “stop harassing us or we’ll call the pilot!”
    There was no reasoning with them and the pilot of course couldn’t be bothered.
    A very frustrating experience on a big German airline!

    Reply
  29. Brian T

    There is a lot of judgment being made on this blog post and the comments. I just found out Delta changed the seats my wife and I had selected months in advance (a middle and window seat) and put us both in middle seats. Maybe I am naive in thinking that most times people ask to sit next to their spouses is when the airline screwed them over, but this is my case for my flight tomorrow. I was expecting to see more sympathetic comments in the comments section over airlines screwing over people who have made careful plans but that was not the case. =\

    Reply
  30. Brooks

    I once had been traveling all day and had the final leg into a small airport which of course would be on a very small plane. I am 6’4″. Flying in a small plane is horrible for me. I carefully chose seat 1A for its legroom. As I boarded a mother and her small child were in my seat. I told her that was my seat and the mom couldn’t believe I asked her to move out of my seat. The pilot, who was standing there gawking at mom looked at me and said, “we really don’t enforce seating on this plane”. I responded, “Well, since you put it that way, I have to tell you that I have a policy and it’s called a ticket. It says seat 1A, I’m 6’4″ and I can fit no where else on this plane”. Mom looked at me all ticked off and pilot sat his sorry but in his chair.

    Reply
  31. Brooks

    Second post by me.

    In addition to my previous comment. I don’t change seats if I do my part in planning the seat selection and find one I want. Call me whatever, that is fine. And if I do get an unruly child which mother cannot control, I will ask the FA to address the situation. Doing it yourself is a good way to get your eyeballs scratched out.

    Call me jerk. You won’t be the first. Call me selfish. You won’t be the first. But, call me someone who didn’t do his homework prior to boarding, then you’d be telling a fib.

    Reply

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