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.
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.”
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.