Would You Accept Money to Change Your Seat?

“B efore take off, I wanted to ask him to switch seats with me. Since my seat was inferior because there was someone else in the row, it only seemed fair to offer him money to switch. I figured I’d be willing to pay $100 for the switch, and settled on offering him $20 to switch, hoping that by anchoring low we’d end up there or around $40. But I chickened out because it’s awkward to interact commercially or negotiate with strangers in a non-commercial setting.”

Would You Accept Money to Change Your Seat?

The paragraph you just read is from this article written by Scott Grimmer of MileValue, who asks the question of whether or not offering a fellow passenger aboard an airplane money for his or her seat is acceptable; and during a flight from Buenos Aires to Houston to Honolulu seated in the economy class cabin, Grimmer decided to tender his offer in order to secure a row of seats on which to lie down — also know colloquially as the “economy class lie-flat” seat. The potential recipient declined; and Grimmer speculated possible reasons as to why in the article.

Interestingly, I performed a cursory search on FlyerTalk to find out if this topic has been approached; and the best I could find is this discussion from December of 2006 asking what is the most money you have ever been offered not to recline your seat. That discussion was closed to new content the next day.

That sort of cash offer might convince more people to accept a cash offer instead of getting involved in a childish altercation that could get them booted off of an airplane — or worse: arrested by law enforcement officers.


In all of the years I have traveled via airplane, I have neither offered nor accepted money to change seats. I have both asked and have been asked to change seats. Sometimes an exchange was completed. Sometimes it was denied…

…and although I do not know of any situation where I would ever offer to pay money to a fellow passenger to change seats, I probably would not feel right about accepting money from someone else. I suppose whether or not the other person successfully convinces me to accept money for the seat to which I was originally assigned depends on the situation.

At the risk of irritating George from TravelBloggerBuzz, I am going to do the typical “blogger” thing and ask you a question to conclude this article: would you accept money to change your seat — and if so, what is the limit as to how much you would be willing to pay?

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

16 thoughts on “Would You Accept Money to Change Your Seat?”

  1. Kara says:

    This was a conversation in car with work colleagues today because one co-worker had give up her window seat for a middle seat for a family… another co-worker said he’d been paid to change seats.. but he had just asked for reimbursement of the surcharge he’d had to pay the airline to confirm the aisle seat

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I might relinquish a window seat for a middle seat for a family, Kara — but that would depend on the length of the flight.

      If the flight was an hour or less, I would typically agree without even thinking about it — and I would not accept payment.

  2. Andy says:

    Yes, we all have our price.

    To move me from F to C probably wouldn’t take much $.

    To move me from C to Y… you’ll need to fork out more than I’m willing to fork out to avoid Y. You’re looking at roughly $1000 per flight hour.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      If the flight were a transoceanic long-haul flight, Andy, $1,000.00 can actually be a bargain.

  3. Jeff says:

    I’m a little confused by the final question. Either it’s poorly worded, a tongue-and-cheek joke directed at the other blogger, or I misread it.

    Regardless, yes I would absolutely accept cash to change my seat. Depending on the change in comfort from current to new seat I would want $25 to $50 minimum but hope for closer to $100. Blame the airlines for setting the bar high with their multi-hundred vouchers when flights are oversold.

    In truth, if it was someone who wanted a change so they could sit with their wife or kid I would likely do it for free. But if it was just someone who wanted their preferred seat, that’s the amount I think it’s worth.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Comparing changing seats to the vouchers of oversold flights is an interesting argument, Jeff — and in that case, even $100.00 could be considered a bargain.

  4. Tom says:

    Why not? It’s not immoral. Parties should be free to negotiate and contract, right?

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I never indicated that accepting money to change seats is immoral, Tom — and sure, parties should be free to negotiate and contract as long as it results in a win-win mutually beneficial outcome…

      …I basically have never experienced that situation and have never really thought about it.

  5. Luke Vader says:

    It’s an interesting topic since we all know (and airlines do, too) that many seats are more desirable than others. Window and aisle seats are good, middle seats are bad, seats next to a lavatory are bad, emergency exit row seats are good, etc. The fact that airlines now charge to let you pick advance seats (and deny that opportunity to those who buy Basic Economy fares) also serves as proof. Of course, the now ingrained practice of airlines un-bundling services and charging fees for each and every benefit offered has gotten passengers to consider the incremental benefit and worth of everything they get (and pay for).

    The phenomenon of passengers offering cash to switch seats simply extends airline-passenger transactions into the person-to-person realm, to an inflight bartering/auction of sorts. Perhaps this is a growth opportunity for eBay (when everyone still has Internet access before aircraft push back on the ground)?

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Oh boy — I can just see a burgeoning industry forming, Luke Vader

      …but do such services not already exist today?

  6. Ron says:

    I’d lean towards no, simply because I’m personally that way, resisting change and all that.

    But put that aside. If you’re offering me an obviously inferior seat, like from an empty to non-empty row then it would depend how bad the seat offered seat is and how long the flight is.

    Hour or two, $20-40 is fine. (As long as it’s not the middle). International 12+ hour? We’re talking in the 500-1k range.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I suppose it all depends on the subjective equation of comfort versus cost, Ron — and there are myriad factors for which could be accounted at arriving at such a decision…

  7. In a heartbeat… unless I was traveling with my family or if I was tired and needed to sleep. Other than that, I usually stay awake on flights to catch up on reading or to watch movies, so I wouldn’t worry about the “economy lie flat”. However, the more I can see you want it, the more the price goes up. #Econ101

  8. Carl says:

    Sure, I’d take money for my seat as long as the seat I am switching to is not a complete nightmare. The price? That depends on the quality of the exchange and how much I think I can gouge out of someone.

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