Is this rude? Not asking to switch seats, just telling.

middle seatOn a  flight a couple of weeks ago I witnessed something that made me uncomfortable. I’m not  a confrontational person, but I was really really tempted to say something this time. However, I know that I can be sensitive  about moms traveling with kids (since I’ve been there and know how hard it is) so I want to get everyone’s opinion. Now you’re probably like, just tell  us what happened already!! Okay, here it is.

I was on a flight out of Phoenix. The middle and window seat were already occupied when I sat down in my aisle seat toward the front of the plane. That’s unusual since I board at the beginning of the process, but I didn’t think anything of it. The people in my row knew each other and seemed young–maybe college-aged. They were chit chatting and showing each other stuff on their phones as others boarded.

Eventually a woman holding a toddler stopped at our row. “Excuse me, I think that’s my seat,” she said to the guy in the middle as her child squirmed in her arms. “Yeah,” he said, “I want to sit up  here with my friend, my seat is back there,” and gestured to the back of the plane. The woman sighed. “What number?” “I think  it’s 27C,” he answered, still not looking at her. “27C? Are you sure?” she asked. “Pretty sure,” was his response. She looked at him for a second, then her child started crying and she headed for the back.

Here are the problems I have. You don’t get to tell someone you are switching seats, you need to ask. He was so dismissive and seemed very disrespectful. He didn’t say thank you, or please, or even really acknowledge the lady. And the fact that he made her go all the way to the back, with a small child, without knowing for certain what his assigned seat was, just caps it for me. The only saving grace is that he took her middle seat and she got an aisle seat, which was probably much easier with a toddler.

In my opinion, the best way to ask someone to switch seats is if you are giving them a better seat, be okay if they say no, and thank  them profusely. This guy only did one of those, although the fact that the seat was in row 27 vs. row 6 affects how good that seat is. Just writing about this is getting me all riled up! I feel guilty that I didn’t say anything to him about at least confirming  his seat number. But the lady never came back, so I’m assuming she figured it out.

Readers, what do you think? Was that guy rude? Should I have said something?


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  1. I’m a middle-aged mom of three and I agree with you that this is appalling behavior. I’m also a college professor and see this sort of entitlement a lot in my students. Sad, but true. I think I would regret not saying anything, but not enough to get involved the next time it happened. The mom could have said something herself, though admittedly she was likely exhausted and didn’t have the emotional energy to fight back. But she is an adult and can refuse to give up her seat if it’s important to her. Or she could ask the flight attendant for assistance. If the displaced passenger had been, say, a 16 year old, I would have absolutely intervened or would have called the attendant to resolve.

  2. She should have replied, “Well, I purchased this seat so my toddler could be near the front of the plane, so I’d be happy to let you be the one to hold her while I sit in the back.” Maybe then he would realize how inconsiderate he was being.

  3. That’s *so* egregious that I hope I would have said to the mom, “You know, your boarding pass makes it your seat. I can ring for the flight attendant if you like.” It would have been better if the mom had stood up for herself, but I can understand being out of energy.

  4. I would have moved to the back and volunteered my seat so she could have sat right next to him.

  5. What a jerk. If this happens to me in the future, I’ll be asking for monetary compensation.

  6. I think Bourbon hit the nail on the head. To intervene directly firstly means the Mom is a bit disenfranchised – if you intervened and then the Mom ended up going to the back anyway means you are stuck in a potentially awkward situation with your seat mates. Let the ignorant so and so sit next to a testy toddler who hopeful will scream in his ear for the whole flight whilst you take the moral high ground for helping Mom out ;).

  7. On the one hand, she did get an aisle seat, which was likely much better than her original seat, even if it was in the back. But on the other hand, I do wish she had said something to the seat poacher. It’s one thing to ask nicely, i.e. “Hi– I have an aisle seat in the back and I was wondering if you would be willing to switch your middle seat with me so I could sit next to my friend. Thanks, I really appreciate it.” But I feel like the way he acted was just atrocious, and if nobody calls him out on it, he’ll go through life thinking that is appropriate behavior.

  8. Whether she was a mom or not, rude. I think asking to switch is rude too, since you generally have the ability to pick your seat or book together (or check in early and pick it) so not doing that is just lazy, but just assuming, whether someone is a mom or not, is rude.

  9. The airline did it to me as I was boarding. They changed my seat (I found out later to accommodate mom and child sitting together) and did not even try to get me a like seat.

    I was fairly angry but thought I better not say any more than I said because I was not in a good mood, and I figured everyone would be sympathetic to why it happened and would label me a BWWA for having a reaction. And even though it was inconsiderate and rude to do it and not say why or try to make it right for ME, no one would care.

    Really felt helpless. Having said that, I would not have given my seat up in that circumstance. VERY presumptuous to force her hand like that. In her case, she would have held the sympathy card for sure.

  10. I agree that this is rude but I don’t agree that a seat in row 27 is any worse than row 6 unless it’s MCE or whatever. Sure you can get off the plane faster but that’s not that big of a deal, really. Maybe I’m missing something.

  11. Rude. And becoming too common. On a flight from Vegas to NYC there were a number of empty seats. I had a window seat that I selected previously and was sharing a three-seat-row with a couple. The woman did not want to be in the middle and said I should do them a favour and move to an available aisle seat because the flight attendant said it would be okay. She also wanted me to do this as the plane was about to taxi to the runway. Her urgency increased and she told me I should hurry, when I had not even agreed to moving. I was fine where I was, not crowded, near my stowed items and resting against the window. Eventually her husband took the aisle seat– DIRECTLY across from our row, so they were still across from one another. But she gave me the stink eye for an hour of our bumpy take-off and realizing she was going to make it impossible for me to get to the bathroom (she took over all the seats), I said I would switch if it made that big of a deal. She finally relaxed, smiled, and said it wouldn’t be a big deal now because she was comfortable and her husband was fine without her (or fine being an arm’s reach away). But her sense of entitlement and commanding barks were intense enough that I understand not saying anything and just wanting the most peaceful ending to the ordeal.

  12. “What a jerk. If this happens to me in the future, I’ll be asking for monetary compensation.”

    There is the same entitlement right there. You want money immediately. From who the airline how is their fault? just contact a flight attendant and they will help you fix it. don’t go demanding compensation.

  13. People need to sit in their assigned seats for many reasons, not the least of which is the insurance liability.

  14. I’m with Bourbon, offer my seat so that the “bleep bleep” could sit next to the toddler and mom could sit in her originally assigned aisle!

  15. Wow. Sad state of affairs. I sympathize with the mom, but…good grief! Get some backbone and have the FA kick that entitled little sh**head and his GF out of those seats! Next time if he wants to sit further up front, he can pay more or choose those seats. at check in. What the heck has happened to civil behaviour these days? All people are doing, is rewarding this type of bullying behaviour. Would he have said that to a Marine?

  16. Extremely rude, but unfortunately not surprising. I have been on the receiving end of this type of entitlement before on a plane. I refused to accept it and was literally kicked, thumped and sworn at. I think the Mom should have been proactive and talked to the flight crew. Unconscionable, just taking someone’s seat-which they booked ahead of time and paid for-because “you want to”.

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