Is It Okay To Ask Someone To Switch Seats On An Airplane?

That may seem like a stupid and obvious question to ask. Of course it’s okay to ask someone to switch seats, we are all decent people. I thought the same thing until it happened to me.


It’s too early for this

We were booked on an early morning flight from Phoenix to Washington D.C. – Dulles. Sadly, United Airlines offered a deal I couldn’t pass up, $42 for a one-way nonstop on the weekend. So there we were, a 6:00AM flight, and both of us were able to reserve aisle seats across from one another.

Alyssa and I both prefer aisle seats so typically we will just reserve seats across the aisle, C & D. On this 4.5 hour United flight we were reserved in 32 C & D. Super far in the back but across from each other nonetheless.

Umm, that’s my seat

As I approached my seat I noticed a child was stationed there. The flight attendant greeting us was tucked into row 30 and asked, “what seat are you in, dear?” To which I pointed and replied, “that one, 32 D”.

No sooner than I could respond to the FA, the father of the child said, “can my son sit here next to me, he has anxiety?” He continued with, “You can have my seat, 29 B”. That’s when the 6′ 1″ me replied with, “sorry I am not going to sit in a middle seat for 4.5 hours, I am too tall.” I even said, “If you can find me another aisle seat I will be okay with not sitting next to my wife”.

Rather than beginning to move his child (who appeared about 12 years old), rather than looking for another open aisle seat to commandeer on my behalf, he just kept saying, “my son has anxiety”. Mind you, the child was buckled in, blanket was out, tray table down with iPad engaged, and Bose noise-cancelling headphones on. The father allowing him to set-up-camp in a seat that did not belong to him.

During this ordeal, the flight attendant in the aft galley chimed in with, “Sir, you can’t make anyone move seats”. (with an aggravated look on his face)

I do have a heart

I am not heartless, I do understand people have anxiety, but the father knew his son was an anxious flyer before he purchased the ticket. In fact, I heard him consoling the child in the gate area about how he did fine on his previous flights.

If he knew his son needed to be sitting next to him due to anxiety, there is plenty that could have been done to reserve seats side-by-side. During check-in, I observed no fewer than 20 “preferred” seats that could have been purchased for $27 a piece.

Eventually, Alyssa was kind enough to take the 29 B seat and she squeezed between two people for the long-haul to IAD. I took Alyssa’s 32 C seat and the dad and anxious son got what they wanted.

Fortunately, the middle seat next to me turned out to be vacant. After flagging down the flight attendant who observed this exchange, he went and snagged Alyssa, allowing her to move back with me. (even while the plane was taxiing)

Why was I so annoyed?

The first reason I was annoyed at the father is because he allowed his son to take-root in my seat prior to getting my permission. Secondly, after my 6′ 1″ frame approached and declined his generous middle seat alternative, he made zero effort to find another seat for his son. (or for my reasonable request, any aisle seat)

And finally, the father could have purchased two seats side-by-side prior to or during check-in. Heck, he could have asked the gate agent for two free seats next to one another. (The flight was about 85% full) But rather than spending his money and time to ensure his anxious son would be at his side, he thought it would be more convenient to have him sit in my seat and refuse to move, making me look like the bad guy.

I don’t mind switching seats for others, I was more than willing to sit away from Alyssa for a 4.5 hour flight so long as I had an aisle seat. It felt like the father thought he was on a Southwest flight and that it was first-come first-serve.

If you want something from someone else, don’t take that item and then ask for it while holding onto said item. If you want some of your friend’s gummy bears, don’t put them in your hand before asking. And if they decline your request for gummy bears, give up the gummy bears!




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