Frontier Airlines
Photograph ©2021 by Brian Cohen.

Seat Swap Requests and Paid Seat Assignments: What Would You Do?

Also, what if someone poached your seat for which you paid extra?

While I was seated in the economy class cabin aboard an airplane on Thursday, November 9, 2023 during the boarding process for a flight, a passenger attempted to trade his middle seat with a woman who was sitting in an aisle seat because of frequent lavatory use as the reason. That had me thinking about seat swap requests and paid seat assignments: what would you do if someone asked to change his or her middle seat with you if you were seated in the aisle — or even by the window — if you paid for your seat assignment?

Seat Swap Requests and Paid Seat Assignments: What Would You Do?

a row of seats in a plane
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

The bewildered woman asked him to repeat his request, which he did. She immediately responded by outright denying his request.

The controversy of swapping seats aboard airplanes is nothing new. For example, I asked in this article what you would do if someone requested to swap seats with you. At the time that article was published on Saturday, September 19, 2015, seat assignments were included in the fare of most airlines. Even so, readers of The Gate With Brian Cohen were hesitant to trade seat assignments aboard airplanes back then.

These days, passengers are likely to pay extra for seat assignments — especially if they pay the lowest fares and have not earned elite status with the membership program of the airline. If you paid for a seat assignment and someone approached you to trade your seat for his or her seat so that he or she could sit next to a spouse or family member or friend or colleague, would you consider it? What if the other seat was better — or worse — in your opinion?

Worse than people who want to trade seats are passengers who are known as seat poachers, as I addressed in this article back on Friday, March 13, 2015. Seat poachers simply take a seat that they perceive as better than the ones which they were assigned. Seat poaching is another controversy that has been debated for years.

A greater number of people are paying for seat assignments aboard airplanes in recent years more than ever. Seat assignments are not always inexpensive, either. If upgrading oneself from a seat in the economy class cabin to a seat in the premium class cabin is considered stealing, then would a passenger who poached a better — and more expensive — seat in the same cabin also be considered committing theft?

Final Boarding Call

a man sitting in an airplane
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

With the increase in revenue that is derived from charging passengers for seat assignments, denying a request from a fellow passenger who wants to change seats is actually much easier: “I paid more for this seat. Sorry.” Requests are usually from passengers who do not want to pay extra; so the chances of them offering to pay cash for the difference in the price of both seats is unlikely. Being kind puts the person with a good nature who would grant the change in seats to only put them at a disadvantage in many cases.

I have no idea whether the aforementioned woman in the aisle seat paid more for her seat assignment than the man who was assigned the middle seat — but even if the seats were the same price, she had every right to refuse his request.

He never did leave his seat to use the lavatory even once during the flight — but if he needed to do so, I cannot imagine that she would not accommodate his request by not letting him out.

As a person who prefers to sit in the window seat for numerous reasons, I am fortunate to have a bladder which I can control most of the time. In the rare event that I need to use the lavatory during a flight, I usually wait until at least one person in my row gets out of his or her seat; and I will usually leave with that person for minimal inconvenience to everyone in that row of seats.

For me, being considerate to other people is what matters…

All photographs ©2021 and ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

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