Dear LandLopers: Plane Etiquette

 Creative Commons License photo credit: g23armstrong

I received this email the other day and thought I would post it. What do you think of my response and how would you reply?

Dear LandLopers:

This happened to me yesterday and I wondered if you knew what to do in this type of situation.

I had an aisle seat on my flight from Philadelphia to Orlando and I sat down next to a couple with a 7 month old baby. They were in the center and window seat. They asked if I’d be willing to change seats so that I would be in the window. At first, I said no, but then decided to be nice and do it. Thankfully, the baby was super well-behaved and didn’t have any trouble plus the parents were well-prepared. But, I just wondered what travelers should do in these types of situations. Should I have to give up my seat? This has happened on other trips where babies were not part of the equation and someone simply didn’t book their flight early enough to get their choice seat and asked to trade. I always prefer aisle seats.

Yours Truly,
Make Room for Baby

Dear MRfB,

Without descending into another controversy over children on flights, let me address the travel etiquette of this situation. In a situation with a family with small children who may actually NEED a particular seat, I would generally accommodate them. They need that seat for a reason and you will save yourself a lot of annoyance by helping them out. Plus it’s just the nice thing to do. As for relinquishing your seat to anyone just because they don’t like theirs, I’m not so sure. Nowadays individual seats are sold by the airlines at a premium, depending on cabin location and demand. As a tall person, I need an aisle seat in order to have any degree of comfort and it would take a true emergency situation for me to switch with someone else. Now, if you’re not particularly tall and someone who is 6’3” wants to trade for your aisle seat, I would consider the request. It may not mean as much to you and it will dramatically improve the quality of their flight. But if it’s just some schlub who wants a better seat, I’d politely say no. You did the right thing and carefully chose (and paid for) your seat, no reason to give it to someone who may not have wanted to pay for it.

What do you all think? What should MRfB have done? What is the proper travel etiquette?

If you have any travel questions, please feel free to send them to me at [email protected]

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

10 thoughts on “Dear LandLopers: Plane Etiquette”

  1. Wow. An etiquette question — this will bring out the less-frequent commenters!

    A few times, couples have asked me for a seat so that they can sit together. And I’ve always accommodated them, just to be nice. Most recently, it was on my flight from Seoul to Bangkok and I ended up sitting next to a large, heavy guy who, following our conversation, I am about 99% sure is a sex tourist.

    It wasn’t pleasant, and I regretted giving up my original seat, which was next to a tiny Korean woman.

    But I have a hard time saying no to people, so I’d probably do it again. Good karma, too.

  2. I think your advice is sound, Matt. I’ve often accommodated seat changes because people traveling together want to sit together, and most of the time, I don’t mind–but luckily, none of them have traded me into a middle seat. Aisle or window is fine, but I always prebook my seats because I don’t want to get stuck in the middle seat. That I might balk at. It would depend on the situation. If there were kids involved, of course I would trade.

    I remember on one flight a young couple asking a guy in an aisle seat to trade with them so they could sit together (they were both in middle seats, but she was a few rows behind him. The aisle seat guy refused. They were really upset with him; they thought he was being unreasonable. I was thinking, “Oh grow up. You’re both adults. What are you, attached at the hip? He booked his seat in advance, you waited until the last minute, you snooze, you lose.” Well, the husband, who was seated next to the guy who wouldn’t give up his aisle seat, got up like a million times during the flight to go back and hang out near his wife or girlfriend. I was never quite sure if he did this because he had separation anxiety from being more than a few inches away from his wife or just to annoy the guy in the aisle seat by frequently climbing over him, but I remember thinking a lot less of the couple than I did of the guy who wouldn’t give up his seat.

  3. I only give up my seat when it’s to accomadate children so that they could be next to their parents (kids get scared to sit alone anyways).

    Otherwise, if the request is to trade seats due to convenience … guess what “suck it up”. I always check seatguru and match it up with the seat I choose online just to be aware of any particular seat configuration. Especially if the flight is super long, I won’t give up my aisle seat. And if u got on the plane by stand-by, and then ask to trade seats, a definite no (just getting on a stand-by plane isn’t good enough for some people).

  4. I completely agree. If it’s a family, or even a couple, that wants to sit together and I was flying solo, I would give up my seat. It really doesn’t matter to me where I sit on a plane. The seats are all pretty much the same to me. American Airlines seats being the exception. I sat in one that was completely lopsided and it was painful the whole flight!

  5. I have usually accommodated requests to change seats as long as I don’t have to be separated from my own party/partner. I think some people need to switch seats for certain reasons. There was a time a guy switched his window seat with my aisle seat n I found out that it was because he had to go to the washroom often. If I was sitting at the aisle he’d have to make me give way to him all the time, thereby affecting the quality of my flight! :)

  6. Shannon (mynetdude)

    I always give up my seat to allow couples to sit together if it works out, I hate sitting next to fat people who don’t buy a 2nd seat especially on the smaller commuter planes. There is a reason for that, heck we didn’t use the armrest (now why didn’t I think about that).. It was her seat, I couldn’t trade so likewise.

    I will ALWAYS give up my seat if a gate agent calls my name pre-boarding this saves the hassle, while I would still give up my seat while on the plane, I would prefer it be done in advance (yes its possible to do if the gate agent isn’t super busy and you do it early enough).

  7. The answer to whether we souuld give up our seat under the circumstances should be as obvious as for other situations when we should compassion, empathy or we are just nice.
    It’s not flight etiquette; it’s common sense and good nature.

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