Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Travel Topics > Air Travel
Reload this Page >

Being Asked to Trade Seats: How Would You Have Handled This?

Being Asked to Trade Seats: How Would You Have Handled This?

May 21st, 2010, 04:32 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 272
Being Asked to Trade Seats: How Would You Have Handled This?

Fellow Fodorites,

How would you have handled this situation regarding being asked to change seats?

I was on a flight from Kansas City to Chicago, having an Economy Plus aisle seat. The other two seats were empty, but we were still boarding. A lady with two children came, having the other two seats. The children were about five and seven.

The lady said she had “this seat” gesturing toward and actually touching the aisle seat across from me and wanted to know if I would be willing to switch, giving the three of them the row I was currently in.

“Of course.” An E+ aisle seat for an E+ aisle seat.

A few minutes later, a man came, claiming the new seat I was in.

“Oh, I had ‘B’”, the lady said, referring to the middle seat. I was steamed.

It was only an hour flight, I had enough room and didn’t need to get up, so not the worst of things. Still, it bothered me.

It bothered me a number of levels. First, I felt like I had been duped. Secondly, I want to be the friendly, accommodating one to my fellow travelers, but not at the expense of causing myself discomfort. I want to be helpful, but not the sucker. Thirdly, why didn’t she arrange three seats together instead of waiting to get on the aircraft? (A rhetorical question, if you please. Whether or not that was possible should have been her problem, not mine.)

Suppose, as I was as at the time while I was sitting in the middle seat, that this wasn’t Kansas City to Chicago, but Chicago to Paris? How does one politely say “no” to someone with children because I’m not going to seat in the middle seat for eight hours? I could ask to see the person’s boarding pass in order to verify the seat location, but I still feel like I’m being the creep for saying “No” to someone with kids. (I have no problem saying no to adults who want to sit together.)

I’m sure this has happened to others, thanks for your replies. Oh, by the way, I don't mind sitting next to children. They take up less space
CubFanAlways is offline  
May 21st, 2010, 04:57 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 3,864
If someone asks me to trade seats, I always ask to see their boarding pass to make sure they do indeed have the seat they want to trade me. I had a similar situation happen to me once. I went back to them and said, "Excuse me, you didn't trade me YOUR seat. I'll need to take my assigned seat."

As for trades in general, I think it needs to be "like for like." If I have an exit row, I'll trade for an exit row. If I have an aisle, I'll trade for an aisle. If the trade is a result of a parent needing to sit with young children, that's a call you have to make. For that short a flight, it wouldn't have mattered to me. Chicago to Paris, no. No trades if I've made a point to book a seat I want for such a long flight.

If I board and someone is already in my seat under the assumption that I'll trade, definitely no trades. Ask me. Don't assume.

Those are my guidelines.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
May 21st, 2010, 05:12 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,319
The only time that has ever happened to me, I received a first class seat for a coach aisle seat on a very crowded flight from Washington to Houston. The young man was on his honeymoon and his new wife had an aisle seat across from my aisle seat and he wanted to sit near her. He had only been able to book one first-class seat. Sometimes you get lucky!
JaneB is online now  
May 21st, 2010, 05:44 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 371
IMO, I think people like the woman should ask the flight attendant and/or gate agent for assistance and not you. It's their job to assist in matters like this, and it makes things easier for everyone.

I have very mixed feelings on this. OTOH, you want to be nice, but OTOH, as Jeff points out, I take the time to find the seat I like, and to be asked to give it up (often because of the other person's laziness/lack of attention/lack of consideration for others) tends to irk me. Bottom line is that I don't think there is a clear right and wrong here. I think it's OK if you want to give up your seat, and it's OK if you didn't.
LT is offline  
May 21st, 2010, 07:31 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 1,491
I try to be accommodating to people with young children, newly-weds, couples, etc, but there's a limit to how far I'll go, especially on long flights, transatlantic, transpacific, etc.

But I agree with Jeff - "like for like" usually works for me. Just this week I was asked to change seats on a flight from London to Seattle. I had my favorite, 62K on the upper deck of a 747 - great seat, window but easy to get in and out of because there's no seat in front, plenty of room and privacy. My seatmate in 62J asked me to switch with his partner, who happened to be in 64K. No problem. 64K isn't quite the same, not quite so much room, but still very private and easy to get in and out because the bulkhead is right there, so ... no problem, I'm happy to switch.

But if it had been an aisle seat, or window in 60, 61 or 63, or lower deck I'd have politely but firmly declined the offer. This is one of the reasons I work to keep my elite status - so I can reserve seats far enough in advance to get the ones I prefer.
julia1 is offline  
May 21st, 2010, 07:40 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 9,863
Whenever there is a conflict with seats I find it best to NOT try to negotiate on the spot with other passengers. It's the FA's job to sort things out.

Ditto for sporting events, concerts, etc. I show my tickets to the usher and let them evict squatters.

Like for like is ok with me. Sub-prime seat (middle or window) would be ok for a 1hr flight if it helped a family w/ children, but longer flights it's hard to give up the seat you worked to get.
J62 is online now  
May 21st, 2010, 07:46 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 8,201
I also try to be accommodating, but I have learned the hard way to make sure the person really has booked the seat they're offering and that it is equal in desirability.
abram is offline  
May 21st, 2010, 08:08 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 2,420
I no longer trade without VERIFICATION of what I am getting after a similar situation.. I ask to see her boarding pass!

With children just depends, my views vary based on how the seating is assinged. If it's a "pay for seat" and you chose not to pay, my sympathy is much more limited!
CarolA is offline  
May 21st, 2010, 08:57 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 2,065
several things

1) you were duped.
2) probably she was a standby for that flight, other wise she would not have been able to buy tickets for the children to sit separately.
30 The Gate agent might have said, "try to switch when you get on the plane"
4) That's why I ask the F/A to get involved whenever anyone asks for a seat change
5) HOWEVER sometimes F/A's take the side of the person trying to switch esp w/ kids.
6) SO i would have asked to see their boarding pass. 7) But it's REALLY hard to refuse a switch w/. kids involved. You did a nice thing.
mztery is offline  
May 21st, 2010, 11:00 AM
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 19,813
Why she had separate seats? maybe late reservations, no 3 seats together, or maybe a standby? Or the move people around.

You should have checked her boarding pass before switching seats, people do lie, even mothers in front of their kids. Or get confused in determining the exact seat location.

If you didn't want to switch, you could tell you want an isle seat, and she can ask somebody in the row behind the kids, so she will keep an eye on them.
Dayenu is offline  
May 21st, 2010, 02:27 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 22,091
I am a mean non-seat switcher. I hate to fly, get claustrophobic unless I am on the aisle, and have restless legs. I booked my flight far enough in advance so I could grab an aisle seat. I will do like for like, but nothing else.

Last time woman with 2 kids and 3 seats - 2 in my row of 3 and 1 immediately behind wanted me to take her window seat. Kids were perhaps 6 and 9 and it was a 2 hour flight. I think that being 1 row behind kids that age for 2 hours is fine and I did not want the window seat.

I politely said that I needed to stretch my legs so had reserved an aisle seat. She politely said she understood, although I do not know if she did.

Flying is miserable enough these days - I am not usually this selfish in other situations - but in the air I am. Once a flight attendant made a similar request to me on a packed 6 hour flight - but offered compensation. Before I had a chance to think about it, someone else switched.
gail is online now  
May 21st, 2010, 02:59 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 22,583
This is interesting, it never occurred to me anyone could be duped in this manner. I have traded seats a few times with no bad consequences, but from now on I will verify the other person's seat. Thanks for posting this.
P_M is offline  
May 21st, 2010, 04:07 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 20,274
Last time I flew I was asked to trade an aisle seat for a window seat so someone could sit with a friend. I had specified an aisle seat because it is easier for me to get in and out, but I made the trade and really, really wished I hadn't. Next time I'll be smarter and stay put.
Underhill is offline  
May 21st, 2010, 06:45 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,525
Flight attendants are not allowed to ask people to change or trade seats-orders from the airline.I always tell people that I am not allowed to ask but they are always able to ask if they want.
dutyfree is offline  
May 21st, 2010, 07:27 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 91,116
Yes you were duped. I've seen people do that before, when I was convinced they were pulling the 'innocent' routine. Since it was only an hour I probably would have done what you did... gotten duped and been mad about it the whole flight and after (lol). But IF it was a longer flight, like to Europe or Hawaii, I would have kicked up a fuss and gotten my seat, or another aisle seat back.

Generally as for trading seat request, right up front say something like "You'll need to ask the flight attendent to help you with that" and get the cabin crew involved. Easier to say to them "no way am I switching my aisle for a middle seat, sorry" than to a Mom and her sweet darlings.
suze is offline  
May 22nd, 2010, 01:51 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 24,124
I would never ask someone to switch into a lesser seat. I will only ask if I have a better seat to offer. I will only switch if I get a better (or equal) seat. And, FWIW, I never get the FA involved - not their job.

This lady was out of line. I would have checked the BP, but after the switching was done, I would have calmly walked over to the lady and her children and start teaching her kids about the word "integrity." I would explain that their mother lacks it and is a bad person.

I understand she was in a tough spot, but she should have been above board about what she was doing. If she had been, I, at least, would have considered making the switch for a short flight. I would have done that, even though I believe children should be shipped as cargo and not allowed in the passenger cabin.
travelgourmet is offline  
May 22nd, 2010, 05:14 AM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 7,719
I don't get asked too often but in most cases it was understandable, i.e. the lady had fear of flying and needed to sit at the window. She had reserved and paid for a window seat far in advance. But due to a last minute change of aircraft, her seat was on the outside but had no window. I had no problems trading my "real window" seat for hers.

I would also trade a seat for a mom to sit next to her kids. I rather sit near or next to kids than close to a bunch of business clowns who usually have less manners than a 5yo with a bad temper.

Nevertheless, it's your choice what to do. No one can force you out of your seat, and no adult should need a FA to act as the evil nanny to decline an offer to trade seats.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
May 22nd, 2010, 06:19 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 91,116
I never knew that the FA was not supposed to get involved in these swaps. Interesting piece of information.
suze is offline  
May 22nd, 2010, 07:07 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 2,420
I have always referred the passengers trying to "move" to the Flight Attendant. The rules are different by different airlines. I have a friend who is an FA for SW and they do get more involved.

And then there are cases where they HAVE to get involved. Got on my plane yesterday. I had the Exit Row window. The "family" appears. Mom has the Exit row Aisle, Dad is across the aisle and thier two kids around 8 and 6 have the exit row middle seats..... A couple of "interesting" things came out during the following discussion

1. They didn't really have those seats. They were traveling with another couple who was "scattered" around the plane. So the adults all boarded with the "exit row" seat cards and then 'swapped' when they got on the plane.

2. Mom KNEW this was illegal but assumed the airline would let her get away with it becuase "we can't be sepearted from our kids, it's the LAW" (screaming the "LAW" does not make it true) She was more then a little upset when told "no it's NOT the law, the only law is that those kids can't sit there"

Finally the other two adults with the seats appeared and took the middle seats, they had nicely asked the people on the row with them if one of them would like to sit in the exit row. Sure, no middle seat, more leg room. That gave mom and dad two sets of two seats each. (The people traveling WITH the family seemed much nicer then the "parents" I got the feeling that at least one of them was thinking "why did I agree to this trip?")
CarolA is offline  
May 22nd, 2010, 12:27 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,049
We've flied a lot, and I'm happy that I've never been in a situation where a satisfactory swap cannot be arranged. I suppose it is a sign of our collective character that there are so many people who will refuse an accommodation, and even brag about it. We forget that most posters here have some familiarity with flying; I would think that the majority of passengers just buy a ticket, and have no idea that they can choose seats, and of course, you cannot choose seats in all situations.

I think it is a question of semantics whether the airline has people who can direct you to a different seat, or off the plane. I have seen flight attendants mediate disputes; sometimes they bump it up to the gate agent, but the fact is none of us has a right to a specific seat; the airline can move you to another set if they want; even to a seat in a different class, although adjustment of your cost would obviously be in order in that case.
clevelandbrown is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:12 AM.