Being asked to change seats

Flying home last week was an interesting experience. One of the exciting things was that it was the first domestic AA flight I’ve 7-21-14-4been on that has individual entertainment systems at each seat. That certainly made the four hour flight more fun! But the most interesting stuff happened at the beginning.

On this particular trip I was gone for a week. After a long week away from home I hoped I’d get upgraded, but flying on Friday I knew the chances were slim. Since I had a short time to get to my connecting flight I picked a seat up front; and since I had tons of work to do I needed an aisle. As we were waiting to board, the gate agent called me up. Did I get lucky and get upgraded? I wondered as I made my way to the counter. Alas, no. She asked if I would switch seats so a mother and child could sit together. My new seat would still be an aisle, but would be in the exit row. I was a little worried about my connection, but she assured me there would be plenty of time to make it. So I got on the plane, stowed my gear, and sat down.

The plane was mostly full when I woman stopped at my row. I stood up, assuming she needed to get into the middle seat. She then said that her boyfriend was in the middle seat across the aisle, and would I please be willing to switch so that they could sit together? I told her that unfortunately I had to work and needed access to my bag. She asked if I was sure, I said I was, and she sat down. She then leaned across me to ask the guy sitting across the aisle from me if he would switch. He said the same thing I did—that he had work to do and was sorry but couldn’t switch. He also said it was a lot to ask for someone to change to a middle seat for a four hour flight, which I agreed with. She then proceeded to ask every single flight attendant who passed us if there were other seats for them to move to. Finally, after twenty minutes of her pestering people the guy across the aisle said he would switch.

Here’s the deal. This bugged me on so many levels. First of all, the guy across from me was right—it is a lot to ask someone to give up their aisle seat for a long flight. Having to say no made me feel really mean, but everything I said was true. I needed to work, I needed access to my bag, and to be honest I get claustrophobic if I sit somewhere besides the aisle for longer than two hours. Not to mention I had already given up an even better seat so people could sit together. Finally, they were in the exit row, for Pete’s sake! Most people would have been thrilled to be there.

I just really don’t like that I felt so guilty for saying no to something that I don’t think should have been asked in the first place. They didn’t even realize they weren’t sitting together until they got on the plane. If it were so important that they be next to one another they should have checked ahead of time!

Readers, what do you think? Should I have changed seats? Was the lady out of line? What do you do when asked to change seats?


Be sure to check out my page with products I recommend for travel!

1 shop 1

Have a travel question or suggestion? Send it to RW

Follow Road Warriorette on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest!

This post may include affiliate links. Thanks for your support!



  1. […] In fact, if you’re anything like me, you check your seat so often it borders on slight obsession. Maybe this will be the time that ideal aisle seat in the Main Cabin Extra section appears!  But as much as it surprises me I find that there are still passengers who don’t look at their seat assignment prior to their flight, and are shocked—shocked, I tell you!—that they are sitting in the middle. Or in the last row. Or next to a lav. Or—the horrors!—they’re not sitting next to their significant other. […]


  1. My reluctance to change seats runs to the morbid side of things; if there’s a crash, I want to be in the seat I have been assigned so my body can be easily identified. Also, I’m a large individual, and an aisle seat is simply more comfortable. I already feel like I’m crowding people, and volunteering to change to a middle seat just doesn’t help.

  2. I wouldn’t of given my seat up to either. Everyone has access to the same booking tools. If the mother and child did a stand by then you take on the risk of not sitting together. Plus a 4 hour flight with connection not a chance that flight attendant would of lied to your face even if she knew you couldn’t make that connection. I fly most everything last minute due to my job I’ve never asked anyone to switch with me except in first class where there are no bad seats.

  3. Why are people so angry? There should be no problem with her asking, but before you condemn couples consider the reasons they are split up. They sell legroom seats to short ass people for profit while they used to assign seats on the day. And many people scowl at my husband and myself for sticking together, but his eyesight is failing. So next time I’ll let him step on your toes and peoples children so as not to offend you by simply asking if you mind Swapping seats.
    You don’t have to say yes by any means, I wouldn’t give up an aisle or a window for a centre seat unless it was next to a loved one. but yesh stop being so darn judgemental. She asked, you said no. Live with it, if you two feel guilty you said no that’s your guys issue, not hers.

  4. I just respond that I’m claustrophobic (mostly true).
    I flew this week and was overjoyed when I realized the seat next to me was empty. Just then, some hyper PIA older woman asked if the seat was taken! I glares at her and didn’t answer and she moved into the seat explained that she didn’t like her seat. I was fuming but didn’t think I could tell her yo go back yo her own seat. The joys of flying!

  5. Just say no. People can book flights earlier and not procrastinate.

    Then, you get the better choice of seats.

  6. I love this thread! I 100% agree that it’s fine to ask, but after a certain point, LET IT GO. (Put on your headphones and soothe your separation anxiety with Frozen for the next few hours, my friend.) I also have to share that my husband and I both prefer aisle seats, so we usually try to get aisle seats across the aisle from each other. On a recent flight, a gentlemen sitting in the middle saw that we were together and — very brightly and hopefully — asked if either of us wanted to change with him so we could be together. We both blinked a few times and said, “Um… no, thanks.” But points to him for trying!

  7. Perfect example of First World problems. Get over yourselves – is this what you spend your time worrying about? Which seat would you take on the Conestoga Wagon across the Great Plains?

  8. You were right. It would be different if ia child was involved. A few years ago, my family and I were on a 2 hour flight in first class. This was a treat for us to sit there and happened because someone my husband worked with was able to get us an upgrade. The seats were two on each side. I sat across the aisle from my husband and son, and my other two sons sat in front of them. We had a couple sitting in our section who had to sit apart. They were constantly asking us and everyone else to switch seats so that they could sit together. I was sitting next to the husband, so I was the logical choice, but I did not want to sit apart from my family, so I said no. The woman was crying and begging people the entire flight. It was so important that they sit together for a two hour flight, yet it wasn’t important enough for them that they give up their first class seats and sit in coach where there were a few empty seats available for them to sit together. The flight attendants informed them of these seats, but they declined. No one felt sorry for them.

  9. I completely agree with you. People can ask once nicely, but that is it. And yes, being asked to “trade down” to a middle seat is really a bit much.

    I travel fairly often on Emirates. On nearly half my flights out of Dubai, I have been asked to move from my self-selected, pre-assigned center aisle business class seat to allow a male passenger to move, so I could take his seat and keep the woman sitting in the next seat from having to sit near a strange man. I have never moved.

  10. I’d never asked to change seats before the last year, and I’ve now done so twice. My father is 80 years old and has Alzheimer’s. I asked someone to change with us once when we were separated once due to a change in equipment long after I had selected our seats. I asked a second time when we booked last minute to get the last two seats out of OKC to fly home to Atlanta following his 5-day hospitalization, since I was afraid that a long drive home would be too difficult for him. I explained why I was asking each time and was flooded with relief when someone agreed to the switch – once in first class, so no downgrade, but the second time in coach toward the back of the plane. My guess is that my situation is unusual, and as mentioned I did explain why I needed to request the change, but I’ll never view someone else’s request with the same level of incredulity, even if it’s two adults.

  11. I was asked to change my seat by a soccer mom whose 2 boys (approx 6/8 yo). I had the window near the front of the plane and was offered her middle seat in the rear. I declined once to her and then again to the FA. The boys were fine during the 2.5 hrs flight, each had an iPad and watched movies. During the flight I felt evil eyes on me, and as we were deplaning she was rude to me and rallied others against me. Off the plane, she continued to harass me yelling what an awful person I was and how she is a social worker and how bad a person I was and how good she was. I refrained from retaliating in any way, but finally just said don’t judge me – you didn’t plan for your family and now you are the one who is bullying me and being mean. I followed up with JetBlue who apologized and provided a courtesy redit because I explained that the FA should ha e stopped her behavior and I felt unsafe on the flight. I do hope this woman sees this. She was really out of line. Her boys were fine – my bet is that they were happy to sit away from their psycho mom and had a few hours of peace and quiet!

  12. I will only swap if I am getting a better seat out of the deal. Otherwise, the requestor is out of luck. I don’t care if they failed to plan ahead, declined to pay for choice seating, or were the victims of operational issues beyond their control. Whatever their problem is, it is not my problem and shouldn’t be made into my problem. And if I am offered a MIDDLE seat, not only will I refuse, but I will be as rude as possible to the requestor when I do so.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.