Delta one Suites Cabin

I once had a rather hilarious set of events happen on a plane which resulted in ruining someones day while making another. It all could’ve been avoided with one incredibly simple question: where’s your seat?

The thing to remember is that not everyone asking to swap seats is in an inferior seat and sometimes being a prick about it just makes you look like well, a prick. And maybe, a prick who doesn’t get a free upgrade. I’ll explain.

Delta one Suites Cabin

My Hilarious Flight Seat Swap

I’m not typically one of those people who splits up with their traveling companion when flying and that was certainly true when I was dating my “now” wife.

I received a lucrative upgrade offer to business class and assumed my wife would have the same. Unfortunately, mine processing meant her offer disappearing. Sigh.

Despite best attempts we couldn’t get a reasonable offer for her to join in business for the overnight from New York to Europe. In the end, we were left with a business seat and an economy ticket — this was before the days of bonafide Premium on Delta.

The solution seemed simple: we just wanted to sit together. I took my seat in business and waited for the economy cabin to fill up and for her seat mate to appear. Eventually a fairly self confident guy in his 30’s appeared.

Without him seeing my approach, I ambled over and said something along the lines of…

“hey, so sorry to bother you but I was really hoping to swap seats and sit with my wife, I’m in….”

Before I was cut off to something with the tune of…

“I paid extra for the legroom so I’m not interested in swapping seats, I’m sure you two can manage to be apart for six hours.”

Ok then…

Amusingly, a nice lady in the aisle seat — my wife had the window — very kindly offered up her seat without even asking where mine was. I told her it was incredibly kind and that I didn’t actually have a bad seat and I wished her a comfortable flight.

So just to recap, I’m now in an economy aisle, my wife is in the economy window and the crass, confident “dude” is in the middle of us.

Watching his face, as he watched the kind lady keep walking forward, and forward and then turn around to us and do the “OMG” face was one of the greatest joys in my enumerable travels around the world. I bet that flat bed felt nice.

Sitting between the two of us chatting — not so much.

My Typical Seat Swap Question

Things happen and there are a myriad of decent reasons why it can be kind — or even right to swap with someone.

I certainly wouldn’t have been as proactively kind on a long-ish flight as the lady in the aisle, but good karma to her. I typically ask “where’s your seat?” as a point of first reply. If it’s even remotely comparable I’ll usually oblige when on my own. Asking first allows you to make a logical decision with full picture of where you’ll end up.

And as middle seat dude can probably attest, it’s worth hearing the person out first before being a prick.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Great story. Reminds me of the time I was flying back from Hong Kong after a very short business trip; after boarding but before taxiing I was asked by a crew member if I’d mind moving seats to allow a heavily pregnant lady to sit in mine which had aisle access by the toilet. I said yes no problem, and was then walked to 1K. That was a win-win!

  2. Ha, reminds me if when on a LHR to DFW flight I had taken my seat in economy (nice window seat). A guy in a cowboy hat in his 30s came over and said “son, you’re in my seat”. Wrf, I was in my mid-40s at the time! I stuck to my guns, it appeared we had somehow been assigned and checked in to the same seat; I still do not know how that is possible.
    Eventually as he got more and more stressed and borderline abusive one of the cabin crew came over and said she had an alternative seat for whoever was willing to move. She took one look at cowboy, gave me a big smile and a nod and I said “ok, I’ll move”. Next stop business class for me!
    Saw cowboy in the hire car queue later and made a point of asking how his flight was? Him “Seat was a bit cramped!”
    “Yes, business class is so much better”
    That shut him up!

  3. Surely the play here is wide gets biz seat. You get extra legroom window seat in economy. Both of you put on headphones and get a good sleep 🙂

    1. This happened to me too, except I offered up the location. “Excuse me, would you mind switching seats with me? I have a seat in business class.”. The lady grabbed the boarding pass out of my hand and rushed to the front without so much as a thank you!

  4. So, in the military in 1994 serving in Korea flying home for my mid tour to reconnect with family and the flight attendant was asking if folks would be willing to change seating to have an entire family sit together. I am a fearful flyer and really wanted to stay in my window seat. Given the story and having to sit in the middle of the 5 seat configuration, I thought it best to make the change. During the flight, the attendant took great care of me ensuring I ate the first class dinner, drink service when not available and checking up on me constantly. It was an awesome experience that should teach all of us a simple lesson; be kind, be nice and the rewards will shower you with rewards!

    1. You are sooo right. I was once in first class in AA from London to JFK. My companion passenger was a nice young lady. A Flight Attendant told me she was just married and ask me if I can swap seat with her husband’s. The problem was that her husband’s seat -being also in first- was next to the bathroom, which I do not like at all, but I did not have the heart to say no. Well, that meant to had a special super attention during the whole trip, but not only that; the husband worked for AAdvantage in Dallas. He gave me his name and a direct phone nbr, and during 4 or 5 years I got whatever I need it for upgrades, flight changes with out penalties etc etc. So yes Al, you are absolutely right.

  5. I had this happen to me from Hong Kong to Newark and the continental attendant would not let me take his business class seat so he could sit next to his wife.

  6. Got an upgrade from economy to premium once which occurred overnight after I had checked in already (economy oversold perhaps). Ended up in the bulkhead seat on the upper deck of the A380 with an empty seat next to me in the twin so already felt that was a nice win. After taking off a crew member came over and asked if I would mind moving so that two people could sit together to work. She did say the move would be to a nicer seat. I said ok and was promptly walked to the front of biz. Not bad considering my original ticket was a “basic” economy.

  7. Gilbert , your inability to avail yourself of the beautiful words in our lovely language is regrettable.
    Todays posting is silly.
    As requested, my email address is below. No need to respond however, I have just dropped you from future communication.
    Best wishes ,David
    David Collins

      1. Gilbert, thanks for the story 🙂

        So what happened, did the guy move so you and your wife could sit next to each other or did he just stay in the middle?

        I generally abhor seating “swaps” and also abhor the couples that place themselves aisle – window as I’ve been on flights where they wouldn’t move and talked over me the whole flight and passed food over me the whole flight, so never again going to tolerate that! I’m also of the (apparently rare) opinion that all “swaps” should be cleared with the gate agent first (ideally) and then the flight attendant, as it’s not YOUR seat but leased to you from the airline and if the assigned person is not in that seat (without clearing with crew) it could be a safety issue. In this case though, the circumstances were extenuating and that guy didn’t even give you a chance!

        1. On 3×3 configured flights, my wife and I used to get aisle-window, because about 1 or 2 out of 4 flights there’s no one in the middle. If someone is in the middle, one of us offerrd to swap. Never had anyone pass up the chance to get out of the middle. Now we just get aisle seats across clfrom each other.

        2. Such a sad attitude. I hope never to meet you on a flight, especially if a seat swap is involved.

  8. Great story! Plus so nice to make that lady’s day. Probably never have an opportunity to sit up there otherwise. Kindness rewarded both of you!

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