You take your seat aboard the aircraft, ready for your flight and hoping that it departs on time. You are sitting in that coveted seat: perhaps it is in an exit row where you have more legroom; or a bulkhead where there is nobody in front of you to recline his or her seat; or an aisle seat for a quick exit to the lavatory or to leave the aircraft upon completion of the flight; or a window seat where you can enjoy some of the best views or lean your head against the wall for a quick nap…
…and then someone approaches you, asking if you can swap your seat so that he can be with his wife or she can be with her child.
What do you do?
Neither airline reservations systems nor passengers are perfect. Flights become full. Passengers may not perform their due diligence in securing desired seats — or perhaps there was a swap of equipment which led to the separation of two people traveling together, which inevitably leads to the seat swap request.
Typically, one of two scenarios occurs: you either say “no problem” and agree to swap seats; or you politely decline. Simple enough, right?
Not always. FlyerTalk members relate their seat swap request “horror stories” — and while seat swap requests may not be as nefarious as people who poach seats which have already been assigned to other passengers, some of them are experiences which many of us would rather forget.
Perhaps you are “forced” to swap your seat as a result of the lesser of two evils. Consider the experience of FlyerTalk member wimpypipsqueak, who swapped seats after being told by a father that “you better swap seats — otherwise you’ll have nanny and a screaming kid in the middle.”
By the way, I intend to write an article about traveling with children in the future, although there had been some discussion about airline flights for adults only — but I digress.
Let us not forget that now that airlines are charging extra for certain seats for passengers who have not earned elite status in their frequent flier loyalty programs, a seat swap may not be completed as easily as a result of simply asking. The reason of why you reserved that seat for that flight may have evolved from comfort or convenience to price: “I paid $25.00 extra for this seat, and I am not about to take your middle seat by the rear lavatory. Sorry.”
If the response from the person with the seat request was “I will pay you $50.00 for that seat. I need to sit next to my son, who is nervous about his first flight and needs for me to be sitting next to him”, what would you do?
According to FlyerTalk member flydrha, a flight attendant reportedly initially asked flydrha to swap a coveted Economy Plus aisle seat with a fellow passenger traveling with a large dog seated in a regular economy class middle seat before offering a Economy Plus middle seat. Although flydrha felt bad, the seat swap was not executed. What would you have done?
FlyerTalk member rymetymeuk was prepared to offer $100.00 to a fellow passenger in the business class cabin to swap seats so that he may sit next to his pregnant wife who has a fear of flying. If you were that passenger, would you swap seats?
Could the answer be in the form of a software application program for your “smartphone” called SeatSwapr? It purports to check seat availability in real time where you can either offer your seat for trade or place an offer on a seat you want. Can you actually profit by securing a desired seat and selling it to the highest bidder? I have no idea — and, surprisingly, there is no discussion to be found on FlyerTalk about SeatSwapr. Regardless, I do not intend to create a business plan on how I can earn a living swapping seats for profit by using SeatSwapr — but what do I know? Some enterprising person might be able to earn a few extra bucks per year swapping seats aboard aircraft.
Then again, sometimes seat swaps can be negotiated before a flight. Have you ever been paged in an airport lounge to work out a seat swap with a fellow passenger?
You do not necessarily need to be active in the seat swap exchange to be impacted as a result. Consider the dichotomy experienced by FlyerTalk member ddrost1, who relates two stories: one where a teenaged girl threatened loudly to throw up on her mother if she did not switch her window seat with her middle seat; and one where an aisle and an aisle seat separated ddrost1 from an attractive woman — only to have some guy take that empty aisle seat where he and ddrost1 eventually engaged in a seat swap to the chagrin of that guy.
Sometimes a swapping of seats can occur without your input, as has supposedly happened to FlyerTalk member kate21677, who complained that her husband decided without first consulting with her to honor a seat swap request in the premium class cabin where she would be sitting in a bulkhead row, which she “hates.”
It is important to note that — due to the factors, policies and procedures of the upgrading of passengers to seats in the premium cabin aboard an airplane — that two people or three people in a family may not have seats together even though they are seated in the same cabin…
…and sometimes the upgrade procedure can benefit you if you are seated in the economy class cabin next to the companion who is sitting in the premium class cabin and asks you to swap seats. The chances of that happening are slim, but it does happen — and you get to reap the windfall…
…unless the two people want to swap seats with each other between cabins during the flight rather than be together — but that is a story for another time.
The problem is that there are only so many seats on only so many flights. While there are some people who care more about arriving at their destination safely and on time than what seat is assigned to them, to accommodate every passenger with his or her preferred seat is nearly impossible.
I attempt to be as helpful as possible — but within reason, of course. I am not going to swap a seat towards the front of the aircraft with someone who is seated in that middle seat near the lavatory at the rear of the aircraft. However, I will usually accommodate requests for people who want to sit next to their traveling companions.
Of course, I have been on both sides of the seat swap request. Although I rarely ask to swap seats, I am usually successful because I am respectful and polite to the fellow passenger of whom I am requesting to exchange seats. As I have posted numerous times, politeness and respect towards others are your best tools in securing requests in getting what you want. However, I have had a few denials — one of them which was inexplicably and unnecessarily rude and without reason for the refusal to exchange seats, so I let it go. I expect to be treated with politeness and respect in return — but what can I do? Success 100 percent of the time is rare.
Anyway, what are your thoughts about swapping seats aboard the aircraft with fellow passengers? What do you believe is the proper etiquette to follow and practice? Do you have a seat swapping experience you would like to share?