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Friday, January 9, 2015

Airline seat switching: a passenger's right?

I go back and forth whenever I fly about what to do when someone asks me to switch seats.  I used to think that it wasn't such a big deal until more premium seats got scarce and airlines started to charge a lot of money and upgrades for them.  So as a matter of practice I don't switch seats.  I value my legroom and ability to easily access the restroom and galley. 

Am I heartless? Hardly. I sympathize with those who want to sit together, especially in economy.  In most cases though I've taken great care to choose a seat that fits my situation (i.e. on the aisle, in first so I get a certain meal, etc).  Does the same apply to First Class seats?  I'd argue yes. Limited food and aisle options can be tough. It's amazing to me that in my experience most feel it is a right to have someone move their chosen seat.  And you're vilified if you don't.

Take the case of my most recent flight home from O'hare on American.  I had secured a First Class seat for the journey, and picked out 4E (aisle and best food choice in my opinion).  I knew that there were at least 4 other open seats so it was a given that others were going to be upgraded. When I got seated, an elderly couple (just upgraded) boarded and realized then that they were not sitting together.  The lady asks if I'd switch since she had the window next to me.  I politely declined, and she sat down next to me, her husband one row back. Then it got interesting.

The business exec across the aisle from me all of a sudden says "excuse me, would you be willing to switch seats with me so that I can switch with the guy so that he can switch and move up one row to that seat". Are you kidding me?  I politely decline and get a stare and evil look. "It's an aisle, are you sure you won't switch?" No thank you. Then the adjacent passenger next to the elderly guy one row back offers to switch with the lady, and so I get up so they both can move two chairs. Finally the game of duck-duck-goose is over.

My first question: why didn't they notice they weren't sitting together? Oversight? They could have asked the gate attendant to try and fix it. I'd wager they just thought someone would switch with them.  Bad assumption.

Second: it's first class on a full flight. Just take the seat!  You're all of three feet away for 3.5 hours. If it were a 14 hour flight and 20 rows apart that would be different.  I'm sure you're wondering by now what if the shoe were on the other foot, and those were my grandparents trying to sit together. Would I feel the same way? I'd have to say yes - I know for a fact my grandparents would be tickled just to be in first class in the first place.

I think I was most perturbed about the other people who moved and gave me the evil eye.  As if I'm some sort of monster that I wouldn't move my seat. I don't feel bad politely declining if I've specifically chosen the seat I'm in. No guilt on my part.  And there really isn't a right or wrong answer here, it's more of a general discussion point. 

What is your feeling about seat switching? Do you expect others to move?

1 comment:

  1. Where they lose me is that they weren't even getting to sit together, her husband would still be one aisle back, she'd just have your aisle seat. I wouldn't agree to that. Now aisle-for-aisle seems interchangeable, what is it about 4E that makes the food better?