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20 Legitimate Responses to Being Asked to Change Seats on an Airplane

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Flying these days comes with a mix of excitement and dread. People on tight schedules, heading to or from vacation, on work trips, etc., all have varying levels of patience for dealing with all the drama that can come with taking to the friendly skies.

Amidst the bustling rituals of boarding and finding your assigned seat, have you ever faced an unexpected proposition—one that involves swapping seats with a fellow traveler? This is a common and hotly debated topic these days, with people firmly on both sides of the argument.

People share insights on how they approach such situations, especially when they get heated. In the end, there is no true right or wrong answer here- except to approach a situation with grace and not resort to being downright mean.

1. A Friendly Request

Smiling man sitting near woman in cabin
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

If someone wants to swap seats, how they say things leaves a mark on people’s minds and hearts. A little kindness and finesse go a long way.

For example, if you asked, “Excuse me, my wife and I had to get separate seats. Would you mind switching?” This politeness and explanation might be enough to the answer they want.

2. A Rude Demand

Diverse travellers man having conversation in airplane before takeoff,
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Just as being polite can yield a better response, being downright rude will offer no favors. If someone says, “Hey, I want that seat!”

With no please, thank you, or excuse me, nobody is likely going to accommodate such people. It depends on how they ask.

3. Saying No Unless It is a Better Seat

Young man in an airplane during flight
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It’s reasonable to consider your preferences when deciding whether to switch seats on an airplane. If the offered seat is better than your current one, it can be a win-win situation.

Why not switch with someone closer to the front of the plane or in an exit row? That’s a no-brainer.

4. No Middle Seats Please

Handsome man in airplane
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Expecting a swap to a worse location on the plane is going to be a hard sale. Flightgoers can still ask, but they shouldn’t expect a great outcome.

Some people admit they’d still swap if there was a legimitate reason or they asked nice enough. It might also depend on how long the flight is. No one wants to be stuck in the middle seat on an overnight flight.

5. Sorry, I am Superstitious

The guy is flying in an airplane, listening to music.
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Superstitions are personal beliefs that vary from person to person. While it may seem unconventional to some, respecting personal choices is essential.

If someone is nervous about switching to a seat they specifically chose (based on the number or the location on the plane), they have every right to say no.

6. I Paid for This Seat

Female in plane cabin clicking on her smartphone
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

If you paid for a specific seat to be closer to the front, in the aisle or window, or near your party, of course, you don’t want to switch. This is very reasonable grounds for saying no.

Unless the seat switcher wants to pay for the difference, they’ll likely go sit in their own assigned seat after mentioning the cost.

7. Have Fun With Babysitting

Mother, entertaining little toddler boy on board of aircraft on
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

If swapping seats involves separating a family, this isn’t likely to happen. Even though a tired mom might welcome a free babysitter (the seat swapper), she knows it won’t last long.

This might be every parent’s dream, but it is not very plausible.

8. You Can Sit with My Child

Excited mother with a tablet exchanging smiles with her daughter
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

On the other side of this equation, sometimes families are booked apart due to last-minute flight changes, glitches, lack of choices, budget, etc. Thus, a parent might ask to trade to get closer to their child. If someone refuses, they may be stuck next to a child who wants their mommy.

In this situation, it’s likely in the seat holders’ best interest to switch, but it’s ultimately up to them.

9. Pay for a Seat Swap

Happy woman sitting near plane window while holding her wallet
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Someone cheekily mentioned that they would charge a fee if someone wanted to exchange seats with them, saying, “That’ll be $50 bucks. Take it or leave it.”

It’s like paying for a seat upgrade, right?

10. I am Not Responsible for Your Poor Planning

Smiling young woman sitting in passenger airplane
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While it may sound rude to some, many people believe reserving seats during ticket purchases allows for planned family or couple seating. As Stewie from Family Guy says, “Your poor planning does not constitute an emergency for me.”

11. Be Reasonable

Attractive caucasian businessman in casual wear and glasses looking thoughtful, sitting on the plane near the window
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Poor planning or not, sometimes there isn’t much for choices when a family books. So if someone asks for a seat swap, you can still be kind and thoughtful even if their request is annoying and your answer is no.

Of course they’re going to ask, it’s up to you to give an answer.

12. Never Ask a Tall Guy to Swap an Exit Row Seat

The guy is flying in an airplane with a phone in hand
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Tall people on a flight often specifically reserve exit rows or aisle seats so they feel less cramped. Expecting them to move to a more cramped location is likely not going to happen. Expecting others to move at the expense of their own comfort is very assuming and not going to be received well.

13. A Large Person in a Middle Seat

Old man in the airplane
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Whether big-boned or overweight, asking a larger person to sit in the middle seat is just mean. Don’t do it unless they were in a middle seat to begin with. They have every right to say no.

14. Expecting Special Treatment

Happy couple travelling by plane
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Expecting a seat swap as a woman, mom, elderly person, etc., might seem reasonable- but not everyone sees it that way. We all have different beliefs and ideas about how to treat others, but that doesn’t always extend to airplane seating requests.

15. Life is Too Short to Be Rude

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In reality, most people are willing to accommodate seat requests, believing life is too short to fuss over such matters. After all, kindness goes a long way and many people believe in karma.

16. Take a Deep Breath

Woman sitting in airplane listening to music
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Annoyed at a person’s requests? Or their refusal to take no for an answer? Take a deep breath when you want to yell or get mad. Politely saying no, even if the other person is being rude, will keep the situation from becoming unnecessarily unheated.

17. It Doesn’t Really Matter

Smiling mother is looking at her son in cabin
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Sometimes we get so caught up in other people’s agendas that it’s easier just to be kind. Delayed flights, re-booking, glitches, last-minute purchases- there are so many legit reasons that people may have been separated.

Many people realize getting mad over seat swaps isn’t worth the energy and will try to accommodate when they can.

18. Carry On

Woman looking and seated in airplane
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

As mentioned, people are quick to react to the audacity of someone asking to change seats. But there are many circumstances that could’ve landed them there asking—last-minute flights, canceled flights, a family desperate for a vacation that can’t afford the extra seat, the airline that refuses to seat groups together when they easily could for an extra dime, etc.

19. Asking the Flight Attendant for Assistance

Woman passenger looking excited before the flight talking to flight attendant
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Perhaps there is a better solution than a straight swap, and many times flight attendants are happy to help friends, families, and couples that have been separated when they can. They can often look up the seating arrangement for you and happily recommend re-shuffling everyone.

20. Give Me More Details

Woman passenger in casual clothes is in the airplane
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It’s okay to consider your options and discuss it further before making a decision. For example, most people are happy to swap as long as they aren’t moving from an aisle or window seat to a middle seat (understandably). Having all the details will help all parties make an informed decision.


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