What do you do when the person next to you has an empty seat, but doesn’t move?

Is it okay to ask someone to scoot over if it will mean an empty seat between the two of you? Reader S asks….

I was flying home from a meeting a couple of weeks ago and the  flight was really empty. Many rows only had one person. I had an aisle seat and there was someone next to me in the middle seat, but the window seat was empty. I assumed once we took off the person next to me would move to the empty seat but she didn’t! Is that weird? It felt so strange to be so close together when we didn’t have to be. Should I say something if that ever happens again?

Huh. So the person could have moved and given you both more space but didn’t? I agree, that would feel strange. Maybe she didn’t know that it’s okay to move?

It may feel awkward to suggest someone to move. I get it. But honestly, it’s more comfortable for everyone when there is an open seat between them. Therefore, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to ask the person next to you if they’d like to move over. I would say something like, “Wow, we’re so lucky to have an empty seat on our row. Do you want to scoot over?” However, if they decline then you’re probably stuck.

Readers, do you move when there’s an empty seat next to you? Would you ask the person next to you to scoot over?


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  1. I would do what you said – we got lucky, would you mind moving – if there is an empty seat on an orherwise full plane.
    In this case where the whole plane was pretty empty, I think the polite thing would be to get up and find an empty seat rather than making somebody else get up and move…

  2. I once was on the plane with my husband (it was 3-4-3 seating) and there were three of us on the window side and only one person on the far side of the middle section. I looked over, expecting the guy next to me to move and he didn’t. I mentioned it to my husband who was at the window, and he was like “nothing I can do”, and so I fussed and squirmed until eventually the guy took the hint and got up and moved. Hubby accused me of bullying him to move, but I felt justified, since I was the one squashed in the middle. Now you would say I should have got up and moved, but to do so I would have had to climb over the guy anyway! Plus, it was early in our marriage and I wanted to be close, and not yelling across the guy to speak to my husband. I just don’t get why he didn’t jump up at the first opportunity.

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