Curious: Do You Change Your Seat When Asked?

Being asked to change your seat on a plane is one of those first-world problems that has been around since airline deregulation. Today, with reduced competition and reduced capacity, travelers are often scattered all over the plane. Throw in some delayed and canceled flights, it is often impossible to have a family sitting together on a flight. With Orlando being my home airport, I hear the gripes almost every week.

But that doesn’t stop passengers from asking to change seats, like in this story about being a jerk on an airplane. Many passengers are willing to change their seat for another to help out fellow travelers, others simply refuse on merit. They chose their seat, they will sit in it. Period. Many are willing to change if it is aisle-aisle or window-window. Everyone is different, no right or wrong here.

I have had passengers request that I give them my seat. Of course, my first question (to myself, not them) is what am I giving up vs what am I getting. I have never said no when it’s only a few rows and the seat is the same, e.g., aisle for aisle. Better yet, I will give up a middle seat all day long for an aisle or window seat. Will I give up an aisle seat for a middle seat a seat in one of the back rows? Extremely unlikely. Unless it is to keep a family with young kids together…. or my guilt of saying No is too strong.

Group of people inside an airplaneThe length of the flight also plays into the equation. Honestly, I won’t die if I have a middle seat in the back of an aircraft for a couple hours. I accepted that with excitement on several flights because I was flying standby and wanted to get home earlier. Yes, I gave up my cushy upgrade just to be home with my family more. Sounds like a good tradeoff to me and a trade-off I have done multiple times.

A couple years ago, my husband and I were flying together (we rarely do and that’s a story for another day) and seated in first class when there was a medical emergency onboard. A passenger was brought to the forward galley and lied down on the floor. Fortunately there were a couple physicians onboard as well as an EMT. We didn’t need even a minute to think about this. We told the flight attendant we would give his wife and son our seats in the forward cabin so they could be close when we landed, we would take their seats in the back of the rear cabin.

Karma makes sense to us, maybe not to others but as you read in the quoted story, bad karma can come back to haunt you.

Do you also have the “it depends” answer when you’re asked to switch seats with another passenger?



  1. Sometimes, I will change seats voluntarily. Last month, I was flying BC back from China and this woman was taking her very elderly parents to live in the US. They would have been split across two rows, and to facilitate communications, I offered to exchange my seat with the woman’s father, one row back. It was no big deal.

  2. Yes – as long as it’s not a worse option (like I won’t go from an aisle to a middle seat – hello???).

    Always happy to help out (and have been helped out), as long as it’s a fair exchange.

  3. I would help out if it’s aisle-aisle or window-window. I’ll admit though that I have no sympathy for families split up in a plane who have kids over age 5. I recall I was 6 years old when my family (had 2 siblings) and parents had to be split up on the same Delta plane ATL-MCO and I was perfectly fine. I still remember the adult man sitting next to me tightening up my seat belt. We were split up because we didn’t catch our connecting flight in ATL.
    I can only imagine how worried my parents were at the time but then again, we were all inside the same plane (I was 6 and my 2 siblings were 7 and 9 years old.)

  4. I might for an equal seat. I put a lot of effort into picking my seats ahead of time. I think it’s actually rude to ask if you can’t take no for an answer. Like putting a guilt trip on someone.

  5. I find how I am asked to be pretty significant. If I get a whiff of entitlement from the person asking, sorry, too bad.

  6. Yes, I’ll generally change with someone… sometimes even if the ‘real estate’ in question is slightly less desirable. The exception to this is if I walk on the plane and find someone already has made themselves at home in my assigned seat. When people assume and take liberties before asking… I’m much more likely to get them to make other arrangements to stay together.

  7. I moved from the aisle to a middle seat on a recent flight. It was the best option I could come up with. It was awful. A lady comes on with her 3 year old and a lap child and points to the 2 middle seats on either side of the aisle “I’ve got that one and that one, will someone switch with me?” The other passengers in the row were all 200+ pound men and none of them was moving.

    My choices:
    1. move to the middle seat between 2 large men
    2. sit next to an unaccompanied 3 year old
    3. sit next to a mother with her lap child who has to keep dealing with her 3 year old on the other side of me

    Sometimes you win and seatmate roulette and sometimes you lose. At least it was only a 2.5 hour flight.

  8. I don’t mind being asked, but the way I’m asked will affect my response. I got on a flight once, and a man and his wife were trying to guilt me into swapping with their teenage daughter so she could sit next to them. I declined, and they asked the stewardess for help. The stewardess looked at me, and said very imperiously, “I’m going to need you to move.” I was shocked by her manner, and told her I was not moving. She was pretty rude about it, but didn’t make me move. But it got me thinking, do stewardesses have the right to move someone to accommodate a family? Incidentally, if I had been asked nicely, I would have moved.

  9. I was on a trip from India, and there was an Indian woman in the middle seat. As soon as I sat down she started coughing, and and made some really bad sounds. Her husband who was in the middle seat on the next row demanded that I change with him of course I told him no I paid extra for this seat. He got the female who was on the window to change with him. As soon as he moved next to his wife her coughing stopped. She was quiet for the rest of the flight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.