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Hijacked By The Steward

Recent submissions about airplane etiquette brought to mind a situation I encountered recently. While my experience is very tame, laughable really. compared to the horror stories I read in the past couple of weeks, I thought it might be worth sharing.

I had booked the window seat on a short, regional flight. Given that I didn’t really feel like paying more to upgrade to the front of the plane or to a roomier seat, I was pretty satisfied with my choice all in all: a window seat towards the back of the plane. I decided to pre-emptively grab a snack before boarding and so, boarded at the end of my boarding “zone”. I wasn’t late by any means but this meant that most of the passengers around me were already in their seats with the majority of the overhead baggage space taken. Still, it was my choice to board later and my snack was worth it :). I located space as close to my area as I could and proceeded to my seat only to find it taken. As I smiled at the man and told him it was my seat, a flight attendant hurried over, informing me that even though it wasn’t the man’s seat, he was in it so he could sit next to his wife and I wouldn’t mind sitting elsewhere, would I? She directed me to an aisle seat two rows ahead. I don’t remember her exact phrasing but I remember feeling bullied into accepting. Even though it was a question, it wasn’t really a request but more of a fait accompli. I was taken aback and murmured something about it not being a window seat but I didn’t put up a fight. The seat I was directed to actually belonged to someone else (not the man who stole my seat) so they didn’t even get that right.

It worked out in the end because my new seatmate had a wife in the same row across the aisle. More trades happened but this time, they were actual trades between affected parties, not in absentia. I moved into the window and I got yet another new seatmate who turned out to be entertaining but that’s a story for another day! Overall, it wouldn’t have been a big deal as it was a short flight but it’s the principle of it. I’ve seen this happen to others for longer flights in much the same manner. What happened to asking for a favour rather than demanding it? Is it commonplace now to assume that passengers will happily inconvenience themselves to accommodate people who want to sit together but who, for whatever reason,couldn’t be bothered to make arrangements? When did flight attendants become bullies?

Before someone points out that I could have exercised my polite spine, I’d like to point out that on a longer flight or poorer seat exchange (middle seat), I would have :). But the point of this story is that I shouldn’t have to! 1009-18


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Margaret October 22, 2018, 6:59 am

    Since it was a short flight, I wonder why the husband and wife couldn’t suck it up and sit separately. I think their “love” would survive.

    • Queen of the Weezils October 23, 2018, 8:29 am

      I agree. It just isn’t a big deal. Now, moving to be next to your young *kids* is another story!

      • Chelle October 23, 2018, 9:17 am

        Agreed. But as a mother of young children, I book my seats early and make sure that my kids are assigned seats next to me. It’s MY responsibility, as their mother – not the job of the airline staff.

        • Queen of Putrescence October 23, 2018, 12:33 pm

          However, I have booked early, reserved particular seats that are all together and then go to check in 24 hours in advance only to find out that all four of are seats have been scattered around the plane. Fortunately, that time there were still open seats and I managed to get our seats back to together again, just in a different place on the plane.

        • Lindsay October 23, 2018, 12:43 pm

          Chelle– I agree with your sentiment about booking early– but I have had so many times where I selected seats early together and then the airline changed them and split them up, haven’t had this with my kids yet but we will see what happens if we start flying more

        • Saucygirl October 23, 2018, 3:32 pm

          I just booked tickets for a trip over two months away. On one of our legs all three seats are separated cause thats what was available. Over two months out. I feel thats reasonably early and I did my job as a mom, so now it will become the airlines staff job to help me continue doing my job as a mom, and help me rearrange seats so I’m sitting next to my young child

          • Devin October 24, 2018, 7:29 am

            I have to disagree, you are assuming your needs for those seats together are more important than the people who already chose and paid for their seats. You are now in a position to either rudely inconvenience others to switch seats or have beg for the kindness of strangers. I hope it works out for you, and we don’t see a story on here about the mother that demanded a seat change because she booked a flight that couldn’t accommodate her children.
            Lessons learned, book flights when planning for small children more than two months out.

          • Queen of Putrescence October 24, 2018, 9:06 am

            I would not be booking a flight with young children if I can’t have us all seated together at the time of booking the tickets. I do think it is unreasonable for other people to move if you didn’t book early enough to accommodate seats together. I always buy four months in advance.

            It’s a completely different story if you buy tickets in adjacent seats at the time of booking and the airline separates everyone in your family and scatters you around the plane. THEN I expect flight staff to help out in that scenario because it is the airline’s fault for moving your seats.

          • Lerah99 October 24, 2018, 11:55 am

            @Devin, I have to disagree with you.
            Children need to be sat with their parent/guardian.

            1) I’d be really mad if a 6 year old was plopped down next to me and his mother was half a plane away. I didn’t buy a ticket to be a free babysitter. Plus the airline has no idea what type of person I am. Maybe I’m not to be trusted with the welfare of an unsupervised child.

            2) Needing to supervise and care for kids is a LOT different than preferring to sit with your spouse. An adult spouse should be capable of behaving around strangers and entertaining themselves for several hours. Kids, in general, are not.

            3) Part of a gate attendant’s job is to fix problems like this. @Saucygirl should arrive early (to whatever airport is starting off that day of flying) and she should bring this issue about that particular leg to the gate attendant’s attention. They can then play passenger tetris to make things work.

            It’s one of the reasons why reserving your seat ahead of time isn’t a guarantee.
            Planes OFTEN oversell.
            People who bought tickets and reserved seats get bumped completely off flights.
            It’s terrible and a business practice I think should be stopped.
            But we won’t regulate against it because airline profit margins depend on full planes.

          • Devin October 25, 2018, 7:36 am

            Lerah99 – I agree that parents should sit next to their children and I also would not be happy to be asked to mind someone’s child for the duration of the flight due to the parent not booking tickets together. I disagree that it’s not Saucygirls job to have secure seats together when booking the flight (choose a different time, airline, pay for upgraded seats). She is presuming that the other people who chose their seats early did it do so for valid reasons and that is rude. Though there will likely be people who don’t really care will to switch, it could be that those other partially filled rows are people who need to sit with their companion or selected those seats for their size, medical issues, or disability. It also depends, Will saucygirl make sure all those who move get as good or better seats in exchange, or is that not her problem. I’m his falls under failure to plan for me.

    • Carrie October 23, 2018, 8:59 am

      I can understand it. I have anxiety when flying and sitting next to my husband helps me.
      Of course, I would have asked the person sitting in the seat rather than just taking it before they got there.

  • sillyme October 22, 2018, 7:14 am

    Sometimes even trying to exercise a polite spine with a flight attendant can get you into huge trouble as being “non compliant.” I’m finding that people are all to willing to wield a little bit of authority like a giant sword to dominate people. You never know what kind of personality type you’re up against.

    Airlines stopped treating passengers like people a long time ago. About the time of deregulation, I think it was.

  • caverat October 22, 2018, 7:34 am

    Interestingly, whenever I’ve asked if I could move to be with my husband, I’ve been told to wait until the doors are closed, just in case someone turns up after all. Don’t know if it’s an airline thing or person thing. I also seem to remember that on a regional flight they wanted to know my name and where I was moving to so that (I assume) should the plane go down, they’d know who was sitting where, rather than apparently winging it as that flight attendant did.

    • JaredBascomb October 22, 2018, 9:08 pm

      We had a similar situation a couple of years ago, flying back to LA from London. The seating arrangement was 3-3-3, but somehow my partner was on the left side with another couple, I was on the right side with two sisters, and the three center seats were vacant. Once the doors were shut the flight attendants told us to go ahead and rearrange ourselves any way we wanted.

      The couple moved into the vacant center seats, I moved over to my partner’s side with a seat between us so we had room, and the sisters just shifted a bit.

      Great airline service!

    • mark132 October 23, 2018, 10:03 am

      I think the difference is likely this couple just grabbed the seat, and then “informed” the flight attendant of their choice.

  • Stacey Lebitz October 22, 2018, 8:10 am

    Thanks for helping out fellow passengers! We have had times where we bought our tickets early, had ourselves all sitting next to each other, and then they changed the model of the plane being used and we were scattered about. Then my younger daughter was in a completely different row than I was.
    I agree, you should be asked, but thanks for being flexible! I also agree you should end up in a similar or better seat.

  • DGS October 22, 2018, 8:11 am

    It doesn’t sound like the flight attendant was a bully; it sounds as though the flight attendant had asked politely, and the OP was taken aback by the request so didn’t have an opportunity to think quickly. Unfortunate, but certainly not an etiquette violation. Next time, just say, “I would prefer to remain in my seat”.

    • Rinme October 22, 2018, 12:16 pm

      She did not ask politely, she gave away OP’s seat, and then “fake asked” whether she’s ok with it.

    • jokergirl129 October 22, 2018, 8:24 pm

      But the flight attendant didn’t truly ask OP if it was alright to switch seats. She had already given the seat away and the way she worded her question would have made it seem like OP would be making a fuss over nothing if OP had objected.

    • lakey October 23, 2018, 11:38 am

      I think the problem is with using the word “bully”. The flight attendant handled it poorly by giving away the seat without asking OP first, or waiting to see if OP was a no show. I just think that the word “bullying” isn’t accurate.
      However, OP was smart to go along with it. There have been youtubes of people being thrown off planes for arguing with flight attendants. Sometimes the passengers weren’t at all belligerent, simply disagreeing with how they were treated.

    • rindlrad October 24, 2018, 3:26 pm

      Why do so many on this thread feel they have the right to judge and instruct the OP on whether the flight attendant was a bully or not? The OP was there. Presumably you were not and the OP, again presumably because the word was used, felt bullied.

      Now, can we discuss the etiquette issue at hand or do you want to continue to parse the OP’s choice of words?

  • Gena October 22, 2018, 8:13 am

    I agree – it’s just not that hard to book seats together. I’ve done it for 6 people before, I could certainly do it for 2.

    Also – my DH and I had a flight canceled and were not sitting together on the new flight. Somehow we managed to make it though the 2 hour flight apart. I would never have dreamed of possibly inconveniencing others just so we could sit together.

  • Anon October 22, 2018, 8:30 am

    There may be more to the story that even the OP doesn’t know, but I don’t really understand people who need to be attached at the hip to their spouse for a short flight. If my husband and I didn’t have seats next to each other for an hour or two, we wouldn’t even try to change it. Maybe the husband or wife needed assistance, but otherwise just deal with it.

    • LJ October 23, 2018, 2:50 am

      The reason people ‘need to be attached at the hip’ during a flight is because if the plane does crash, I personally would want to die holding the hand of the one I love. This is why I always book seats together for flights.

      • bellini October 24, 2018, 7:57 pm

        Wow. That’s a morbid take.

  • op October 22, 2018, 8:55 am

    I agree with dgs, I don’t think the flight attendant was a bully. As you said, short flight, it wasn’t a middle seat, and it was closer to front of plane, so I’m sure the flight attendant honestly believed it would not be a big deal or cause you discomfort. Now, if you had said no and she pushed it, that’s a different story. But you didn’t say no.

    • saucygirl October 22, 2018, 4:52 pm

      sorry! I am not op!

  • AS October 22, 2018, 9:49 am

    I was once on a trans-Atlantic flight, where my husband and I were in separate seats (we had requested seats already, but something was wrong with the system, and we couldn’t get the seats we had requested). The flight attendant told us to wait until the passenger comes, and talk to them directly. It was an easier exchange, because we were changing their middle seat for our aisle seat.

    There was another time when a family of 4- parents with 2 small children were seated all over the flight on another trans-Atlantic flight. They had missed their connection the previous day and booked onto our flight, but couldn’t get seats together. That was a huge rearranging of seats, because small children could not be several rows away from parents. That was the only time my husband and I were willing to be separated to allow one parent be with one child, though it worked out that we ended up sitting together at the end.

    In OP’s situation, the attendant was probably not being pushy. But I’m surprised that she did not have the seat number right for the passenger.

    My only concern with seat exchange is that we usually request Vegetarian meals, and the meals are loaded with seat numbers and names. With the exchange, we have to make sure that the attendants know where we are seated. (Some is the South American routes that I have travelled do not have veg options. I eat chicken and sea food, but do not like beef or pork. I was once on a flight where the only options were beef and pork!)

    • Queen of Putrescence October 22, 2018, 10:33 am

      Side note, back when domestic flights had meals, my Mom always ordered the vegetarian meal for us on Northwest because I believe at that time, it was cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, raw veggies and dessert. Something two kids would like more than whatever they were serving. If she didn’t order vegetarian she ordered Kosher because I think she had heard that the Kosher meals were freshly made and not as processed as the other airplane meals. Not sure it that’s true, but our meals always ended up looking much better than those being eaten by other passengers.

    • Kitty October 22, 2018, 11:25 am

      Same for me. I request vegetarian meals, so even if I were willing to trade seats, I would feel compelled to not do it because of the specification for that particular seat in the booking.

    • BeachMum October 24, 2018, 10:18 am

      Years ago, we were doing a loop trip (LA to EWR to Montreal to LA) and every flight got messed up. On the EWR to Montreal flight, the children (then nine and 11) were seated far from us. The attendant at check-in wouldn’t help. The attendant at the gate wouldn’t help. Finally, I asked the attendant on the plane, who said she couldn’t help. I said, “Ok, I guess you’ll be responsible for my children, since they’re at the back of the plane and I’m at the front.” (DH and I weren’t together either.) Suddenly, she figured out how to put all four of us together.

      I had booked seats on the flight (and paid for more leg room) when I booked the flight, but my flight got cancelled and I was re-booked twice.

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable for an attendant to tell someone to move in the case of small children. If it’s two adults who are capable of sitting alone, then asking seems reasonable.

  • Brumhilde October 22, 2018, 10:08 am

    I had a similar problem recently! I had packed a soft carry-on bag (like a gym bag). And had placed it in the over head locker. The stewardess took out my bag without asking (!) and started to place a small, hard suitcase belonging to the person opposite me (I had the aisle). I asked what she was doing, and she said that there were too many hard suitcases in that locker, so my bag would be move to the back of the plane in order to make room for his! I asked why I was less important, just because I hadn’t been so selfish as to bring the biggest possible bag, which was hard and couldn’t fit properly, and she spluttered, and then asked if she could move the bag. I said no, as it (genuinely) had my medication and api-pen in it, which I obvious needed near me. She gave me evils the rest of the flight, as if I had done something wrong! It was crazy!

    • Livvy17 October 23, 2018, 8:13 am

      This happened to me once too – I almost always check my bag, but I usually have a slim briefcase I’ll put in the overhead compartment. Once, the stewardess took my bag out and tried to ask me to put it down at my feet, to make room for someone else’s (second) bulky bag (not even in my row). I refused, as I didn’t want to lose my leg room (I had my purse at my feet already) so that someone else could save $25 by not checking their bag. She too looked at me like I was being unreasonable, but I stood my ground politely, and she moved the bag a bit further back. It’s amazing how many times I have to fight to keep that little bag in place, and how many people think it’s just fine to try to move it elsewhere so they can hog the bin with a huge bag AND a huge suitcase.

  • Mary Sgree October 22, 2018, 10:21 am

    This is very common on short flights. Unless I’m flying with a child, I dont see that it’s any big deal at all. I *always* request my seat ahead of time but rarely end up with my choice in the end. Everyone on the plane gets there at the same time.

  • YL October 22, 2018, 10:27 am

    I can see how the OP felt bullied. The way the attendant phrased the “question” (the man is already in the seat, his wife is sitting next to him) didn’t allow for the OP could keep her seat without seeming like a hardcase. The OP did something she did not want because of pressure from a third party (who also has more power than she). That’s bullying.

  • JD October 22, 2018, 11:04 am

    I don’t think too quickly on my feet, but I still believe I would have said that I was sorry, but I had requested the aisle seat when I bought my ticket so that’s where I needed to sit. Of course, sitting on a flight with a very unhappy person whose spouse I had moved (albeit correctly) might not have been worth keeping my seat. I’m surprised the attendant agreed to this before asking OP. OP says he/she felt pushed into acceptance, so the attendant was, if nothing else, pushy as well as presumptuous. The attendant also created a problem for someone else by re-seating the OP in someone else’s seat. This should be reported, to my thinking.
    It was a short flight — just how important was it for the spouses to sit together? Unless one of them had a mental or physical issue that required care from the other spouse, then for heaven’s sake, why push another person out of his or her seat just to be able to sit together? Would it have killed them to take a short flight a few seats apart?

    • Queen of Putrescence October 22, 2018, 11:40 am

      I completely agree that the flight attendant was pushy and presumptive. Maybe not a bully but the OP felt that they weren’t given a choice.

  • Kitty October 22, 2018, 11:14 am

    Of course it felt like being bullied into accepting. The steward did not give you an actual choice because he chose to take it away, having already decided something. I think you could have said that you *do* mind moving because you specifically booked that seat when wanting to take this flight, and that you want to sit in the assigned/booked seat.

    That likely could have resulted in ‘a scene’, and the steward might have felt awkward about it, but perhaps it might have had the result of also making the man, who insisted on sitting next to his wife for a short flight, feel awkward over having demanded this in the first place.

    I don’t mind if this is done on long flights, as long as everyone is okay with the moving because those are uncomfortable to begin with.

  • Nancy October 22, 2018, 11:14 am

    I am a frequent flyer.

    Once the flight attendant asked you to sit elsewhere, you had _no_ choice_. Forget the polite spine. To refuse would be disregarding a request by a crew member, and that can get you deplaned.

    Best to comply without fuss, then make trades if you still are not happy once you get to your new seat.

    As for passenger-requested trading so parents can sit with children, that happens all the time. I’ve done it several times. It’s pretty much routine. I do not agree to a passenger-requested trade if adults want to sit next to each other and I am getting an inferior seat in the trade.

    This serves as a reminder to all that it’s a great idea to get there in plenty of time and take care of business before they start boarding. Be ready to go when they call your boarding group.

    Finally, I’ll mention that even though your boarding pass has a printed boarding time, be aware they can start boarding early. The gate agents are most concerned with getting the plane out on time and if they can board early, they will. You might walk up there at the posted boarding time and find they are well into Group 6.

    • ErindV October 23, 2018, 12:40 pm

      I did once refuse the request to change seats, made by the flight attendant on behalf of an adult passenger who wanted to sit in my seat, which was across the aisle from their companion. I think my incredulous look down at my 6′ frame in the exit row seat I had specifically booked ahead of time, and then at the middle seat they were asking me to switch to was enough to convince the flight attendant that the request was pretty absurd, especially considering it was a trans-Atlantic flight.

    • Georgina February 4, 2019, 3:44 pm

      You cant disobey a request from a crew member if its a safety issue. A flight attendant cant just make random orders for the hell of it.

      Also, I have had several situations where I was asked to switch seats, probably because I am smaller and travel alone. I politely and firmly decline if its not in my best interest. And nothing happens.

  • kingsrings October 22, 2018, 12:03 pm

    I think it was rude for the steward to make the assumption that the op wouldn’t and so just go ahead and put the husband in the seat. The op had paid for and arranged for that seat because that’s what she wanted. It’s rude for anyone to just make the assumption that she’d be okay with someone else taking it like that.
    Couples that can’t bear to be apart for a flight need to make extra sure that they make all the necessary arrangements to be able to sit together. As that saying goes, “A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”. And I agree with another poster that it’s odd that a couple can’t stand to not sit with each other for just one flight. Co-dependency is not a good thing.

    • Queen of Putrescence October 22, 2018, 12:36 pm

      I always arrange a window seat for my teenage daughter because I know from past experience that a middle (between myself and her sister, so not strangers) or an aisle seat is going to end up in an anxiety attack for her. There is no way I would allow anyone to take that window seat from her.

    • DGS October 22, 2018, 12:46 pm

      I respectfully disagree – I don’t think there’s any information that suggests that the couple was co-dependent. Unless I am missing something, it sounded as though the couple had wanted to sit together and sat down assuming the seat was vacant, and the flight attendant had put the OP on the spot by asking. If OP had said, ‘no’, they would have had to sit apart. There was no indication of inappropriate behavior on their part, and it did not sound as though they were rude or belligerent about it or overly effusive in their affection for one another. Certainly, if OP had said “no”, and they began to behave inappropriately, that would have been ridiculous. They figured it didn’t hurt to ask, and OP had the full right to enjoy the seat for which OP had paid and could have said “no”.

      • ALM October 23, 2018, 12:04 pm

        ” There was no indication of inappropriate behavior on their part, and it did not sound as though they were rude or belligerent about it or overly effusive in their affection for one another. ”

        Taking a seat that is not yours because you happened to arrive before the seat owner is presumptuous and rude.

        • DGS October 24, 2018, 9:52 am

          But OP was the one who was boarding late. They didn’t sit down in her seat at pre-boarding; they sat down in the seat at the time that it was reasonable to assume that no one was coming.

          • OP October 24, 2018, 1:32 pm

            Dearest DGS, where did you read that I was boarding late? Here, let me copy the salient part for you: “I decided to pre-emptively grab a snack before boarding and so, boarded at the end of my boarding “zone”. I wasn’t late by any means but this meant that most of the passengers around me were already in their seats with the majority of the overhead baggage space taken.”

            I’m not sure how much you fly but this is how boarding zones generally work: first class (if any), business class, frequent flyers with status and those with small children or accessibility needs are boarded first. After that, it depends on the plane but typically, they board the back of the plane first, resulting in those passengers having the first boarding zone. So I boarded at the end of MY ZONE. Not late, not at the end of all passengers boarding but at the end of my zone (which was the first boarding zone). I hope you don’t need me to point out that someone will have to be the last to board in their zone. Even if every single passenger is there and lines up, someone will have to board last.

            I don’t expect everyone to agree with me; in fact, I welcome polite disagreement as it results in the most interesting discussions. However, please don’t make incorrect presumptions in order to support your argument.

      • bellini October 24, 2018, 8:02 pm

        People who say “no” to flight attendants are often booted off the plane. I wouldn’t have taken that chance, not these days. You can’t exercise any type of any spine on a plane. Do as they say, or they will drag you out.

  • Liz October 22, 2018, 12:03 pm

    I’m surprised the attendant allowed the passenger to take that seat before the OP was even on the plane. A better option would have been when the OP got on, THEN ask if they were willing to switch. I am a very nervous flyer, to the point i need pharmaceutical help to even get on a plane. But with it, i can. But i also need to sit in a specific location, or as close to one as i can, so someone trying to get me to move out of my seat, into another one, unless its comparable, i.e. only a couple of rows away, I’m not going to agree. Call me what you will, but it will be much better if i’m able to sit where I;’m most comfortable.

  • Outdoor Girl October 22, 2018, 12:25 pm

    My husband is a nervous flyer and would not be happy to be separated from me for a flight, no matter how short. However, that’s OUR problem, not someone else’s. We would make sure we had seats together, even if we had to pay extra to do so.

    In the OP’s situation, presented with a fait accompli, essentially, I would probably have agreed to change seats but that I would need a comparable seat (ie, another window seat), elsewhere. If I’m being asked to give up the seat I’ve chosen – whether I made sure to get online ASAP to select one early or paid extra for the privilege – I’m not going to settle for an inferior seat.

  • Calli Arcale October 22, 2018, 12:43 pm

    I think the best thing to do would be to file a complaint with the airline, saying that you specifically requested a particular seat but were denied it, and felt unduly pressured to accept the forced swap, pointing out also that they didn’t even direct you to the correct swap, causing yet another passenger to be inconvenienced. I’d be leery of making too much of a fuss about it at the time, given that flight attendants can have you removed from the flight and even arrested if they feel that you are interfering. Most flight attendants are wonderful, but you don’t know if you’ve met one who’s not. Exercising the polite spine would be great, but make sure it is 110% unimpeachably polite. Don’t give them an excuse to boot you from the flight.

  • Devin October 22, 2018, 1:44 pm

    Depending on how long after their zone was called the OP boarded the plane, the flight attendant may have thought it was going to end up an empty seat. I don’t think it was rude and the OP could have requested to be ready in another aisle seat or even asked for a no cost upgrade for their trouble.
    On a recent regional flight, I was not able to book my seat in advance because it was international regional and had to wait till I was at the airport to select a seat. On my second leg, the plane was over half empty but I had been sat next to another passenger. After the plane was mostly boarded I asked if I could move to a nearby unoccupied row (the plane was two seats, aisle, two seats). A few minutes later the attendant came back and allowed me to move a row back. The person who I was originally sitting next to thanked me for asking and thus allowing us both more space. Flight attendants are happy to help out when you specifically tell them what you’d like.
    You can also contact the airline, but I’d first read their contract of carriage. Most airlines are not required to give you the seat you request as long as your seat is within the same class. Heck most airlines aren’t even required to honor getting you on your original flight (think overbooking) as long as they eventually get you to your final destination. Flight attendants can request anyone to move at anytime and their say is final, though they often phrase their demand as a request (would anyone mind swapping seats for a family, couple, elderly, etc). And as you stated OP, it was a short flight so it didn’t really matter where you ended up, which the flight attendants are acutely aware of.

  • Michelle October 22, 2018, 4:05 pm

    I would have said only if I can have another window seat.

    • Queen of Putrescence October 22, 2018, 4:14 pm

      That’s a great response. It shows you are flexible enough to allow the couple to sit together while showing how important it is to have a window seat for yourself.

    • Essess October 23, 2018, 5:09 pm

      That was my first thought as well when I read this request.

  • Winter Calamity October 23, 2018, 1:55 pm

    I don’t fly all that often, but when I do, especially on a short flight, everyone gets bungled around and there doesn’t seem to be any problem with asking passengers to move around –either to sit with others in their family, because their size makes them inappropriate to sit in the exit aisles, or because they need to “balance” the plane. It’s a common thing. I’m not even sure anymore why planes even allow people to select seats. The only seat I complain about are those aisle seats right next to the bathrooms. I refuse to sit in those! My goodness, I’d risk being deplaned by complaining if I had to sit in those seats.

  • NicoleK October 23, 2018, 2:48 pm


  • ciotog October 24, 2018, 10:55 am

    A friend of mine was once asked to move from her seat because the man next to her had a religious objection to sitting next to her. She refused.

    She was interviewed for this article:

  • OP October 24, 2018, 4:44 pm

    Some fascinating food for thought, thanks for all the comments :). Those of you who felt my frustration, *high five* :D.

    Those of you who felt it wasn’t a big deal on such a short flight, 100% agreed. It really wasn’t. It was just the principle of it, especially since airlines often charge for seat selection and there’s a premium charge for “premium” seats.

    To those who felt that the the flight attendant wasn’t rude or didn’t coerce me, I can only say that I felt it to be the case. She was in a position of power. In my humble opinion, she abused it. Could I have said no? Of course. But that’s not the point.

    To those who feel this is not a big deal, I’m genuinely curious about this. Do you travel so much that you are now immune to these things? I fly a fair bit but this still bothers me. Don’t you feel that you have a right to things for which you have paid (and for which someone else has not paid)? Or is it that you don’t feel selecting a seat entitles you to THAT seat? Can we at least agree that in principle this is wrong if not necessarily in practice?

    I’m all for accommodating people. I assure that I’m the epitome of co-operation. I understand that it’s best for everyone if young children sit with their parents. I understand that it’s nice to sit with your travel companion. If asked nicely, I like to make people happy. I just don’t like anyone assuming that my cooperation is a foregone conclusion when I’m being asked for a favour. I also like to be phrased as a favour :D.

  • Chipmunk October 26, 2018, 8:09 am

    My spouse, child (2 years old) and I had to take a flight last weekend, returning the middle of this week. When booking tickets, the only ones available outside of 1st class were “basic economy”. For those who don’t know, basic economy does not allow you to choose your seats, you are assigned them when you check in. You may also only bring one personal item into the cabin, and it must fit under the seat in front of you. No overhead bin access.

    On our flight out, my spouse was seated 3 rows away from myself and our child. I politely asked the woman who had the seat next to us (child and I had middle and window seats respectively) if she would be willing to trade with my spouse. She declined, as it turns out her own 3 year old was sitting in the aisle seat across from us. No big deal, we merely asked, and she declined. There was no issue after that, and luckily on the short flight, our child was well occupied with a coloring book.

    On our flight back, the same thing happened (in terms of spouse being seated away from child any myself). We didn’t bother trying to get the seats switched at that point, as child and I were at the far back of the plane and spouse was in a middle seat in the middle of the plane. Our seat mate did not kick up any fuss at having a small child in the row, but did make the faux pas half way through the flight of pulling out a bottle of some sort of nail polish or “skin treatment” and began applying it to her nails. The whole back of the plane smelled of this strong polish, and she was sternly told to put it away by the flight attendants. (She is the one who described it to the flight attendant as a “skin treatment” and was told regardless it had to be put away immediately).

  • Kate October 26, 2018, 10:36 pm

    I’d be perfectly fine if it was moving for a parent who had been seated away from their child. For anyone else I’d suck it up if I was being moved from window to middle, middle to window, etc.
    However, at 5’11 if I had an aisle seat that I’d specifically chosen and someone tried to move me out of the aisle – I’d probably say no and cite health reasons.

  • FunkyMunky October 27, 2018, 7:54 am

    “Of course I wouldn’t mind moving; to another window seat, where I’ll be delivered free snacks for the inconvenience.”