Would You Ask Someone To Switch Seats In This Situation?

I’m really curious how folks will respond to this question.  I have a pretty strong opinion.  But, I conducted a recent poll about whether I should check my suitcase or not on a trip.  I was pretty surprised that the result came out essentially 50-50.

My wife and I were on a recent flight together.  We were both supposed to be seated in first class on a United flight.  When we woke up the morning of our flight, we were advised of a 6+ hour mechanical delay.  We scrambled a bit but managed to get United to move us to a different flight out of a different airport and on a different airline.  All in all, I felt pretty lucky to find two seats in first class on a flight out of DC on a Friday within a few hours of our original departure.

The only two seats left on that flight were window seats.

Here’s My Two Cents

My wife and I rarely travel together, just the two of us.  We were looking forward to catching up on some television shows.  Because of my travel we’re waaaaay behind on tv shows.  But, there’s no way I would ever ask someone to switch from an aisle seat to a window in this situation.

There was a time where I would have asked someone to switch from an aisle to a window to accommodate being able to sit next to our children.  I’m 100% certain that our 11-year old daughter could handle a 2-hour flight without a parent beside her.  It’s not my first choice. I’m not sure how our 6-year old son would handle a situation like this.

I’m not certain I would ask an adult to move so we could sit next to our children in this situation.  I recently read a situation about families getting split up when they clear upgrades.  It made me think more about how I would handle similar situations.  I’m pretty sure I would lean towards a downgrade in coach if I couldn’t get the kids next to a parent.  I’d talk to my children and we’d make a decision together.

Now, if I had an aisle seat and Michelle had a window but we weren’t in the same row, I’d certainly ask someone if they would trade their aisle seat for mine.  And, I’d be okay if they said no.

But, I don’t think I’d ask someone to change from an aisle seat to a window seat if it was just Michelle and I.  Some might argue it’s worth asking someone, as they might not have a preference.  That’s a valid argument.  But, I still think I’d stay hands off.

What’s Your Opinion?

I hope you’ll take a moment to weigh in.  What would you do in this situation?  Please cast a vote in my Twitter poll and/or leave a comment below.

The post Would You Ask Someone To Switch Seats In This Situation? was published first on Pizza in Motion


  1. That happened to me on a Fijian flight in biz a few years back if I recall. I asked, it was an issue for the person next to me, but not the person next to my gf. So, we switched. No big.

  2. No harm in asking, some people don’t care, and others enjoy helping others. I have made that switch more than once and have always felt good about it. It is not like you are asking them to take a middle seat.

  3. There’s a reasonable chance that somebody on an aisle would prefer a window or vice versa.. If you ask, perhaps you’ll be surprised. Just don’t be a dick about it.

  4. If you don’t want to put someone on the spot, just say you and your wife upgraded at the last minute and state where she is seated and leave it at that. The person seated next to you might then volunteer to change even though you didn’t ask. I have volunteered several times in that situation.

  5. OMG. Ask. What’s the harm? I generally prefer an aisle seat, but if someone asked nicely and explained that he wanted to sit next to his wife/gf/parent, I’d agree to switch in a heartbeat.

  6. Well I’m sure you could always find two people sitting next to each other in coach that would be willing to switch. 😉

  7. I would not ask. It’s not a big deal to me or my SO if we don’t sit next to each other during a flight. We usually have our headphones in and are catching up on netflix or amazon downloads, anyways. Half the time in coach I pick the seat in front of him so that nobody reclines into his space (he’s quite tall). Plus if we don’t sit next to each other we usually have some sort of story about our seatmate that we can have fun discussing when we get off the plane!

  8. Totally disagree with ask because what’s the harm crowd. Why is everyone about sharing all their problems with strangers because maybe they might help. Can’t make my rent this month, but maybe you could help? “You could always say no”. I have this little rash on my backside, maybe you could can take a look and give me your opinion, it’s ok to say no. The correct way to handle this is let the person seated next you you/your spouse offer their seat if they see you talking to your friend/spouse in the other row. Asking to switch puts people in a bind. Everyone needs to stop badgering strangers because of their own problems.

  9. It doesn’t hurt to ask but generally frequent flyers have preferences like sitting in an aisle seat. I wouldn’t mind switching an aisle for an aisle but not an aisle for a bulkhead window seat. The worse that can happen is that they politely decline.

    1. Globe Road Warrior, it’s a legitimate argument. But, I still think I’d err on the side of not asking. In this case, I did ask the person beside me to pass something to my wife that she needed. So, they knew we were together. They didn’t volunteer and I didn’t ask.

  10. I’m embarrassed to say I did ask to trade aisle for window during one of our first upgraded trips about 15 years ago. I honestly didn’t realize then how much certain seats (and aisle vs. window) mean to some folks. I’ve known for a long time and for many years now we rarely ask, unless it’s an obvious even swap on a longer flight.

    Once flying into MSP the man next to me in Row 1 offered to trade with Mrs. Fredd in Row 2. As several people boarding were saying “Hello, Governor” as they boarded, it dawned on me she’d passed up the chance to sit next to Jesse Ventura, the largish fellow waiting in line with us at the gate whom I hadn’t recognized.

    Fortunately, she seemed happy enough with little old me. 😉

  11. I think it’s OK to ask but ask in such a way that they won’t feel cornered by the question. If you asked me and I said no then I would feel a tension for the entire flight that I may have made you upset with me because I was in flexible. When maybe I had spend months “farming” this seat location, etc. So it’s not what you ask it’s how you ask. Make it clear that you won’t be upset if told no. I also think you’d have more success on average.

  12. My wife and I were in different rows in Business after being upgraded, so I asked the person next to me and he had no problem to switch seats with my wife so we were able to enjoy the flight together. If I had been by myself and been asked by a couple in that situation, I would be happy to help out.

  13. I leave fellow travelers alone and appreciate their showing me the same courtesy.

    It is too bad about your original flight. We’ve all been there. That said, the mechanical delay has nothing to do with the passengers on the re-booked flight, and you chose to accept the two window seats. I think you were respectful.

    In addition, many times, especially in Business/First, someone has chosen her or his seat purposefully. It might even be an “aspirational trip.” S/he might also have a special meal ordered, etc. where a seat change means alerting the flight attendant. Underseat or (limited) overhead luggage might already be strategically stowed. Left-handed people often choose an aisle seat to avoid “elbowing” others, etc.

    For these reasons and more, I take my assigned seat and do not risk disturbing others.

  14. If its important and not discomforting others, simply politely ask. If its important and possibly discomforting others, apologize to the passenger (regardless agreed or not). If its really urgent, ask FA/gate agent to do it for you, and whatever the other passenger felt, a word of courtesy is in order.

    For avoidance of doubt, example of really urgent: you accompany your mother/father who clearly need assistance. You’ve secured side-by -side seat in bulkhead. But somehow the airline screw up. You may say a word to the swapped passenger, explaining the situation, that it was the airlines fault, not yours.

    1. In your specific situation, you and missus wanted to catch on tv shows. Why bother with seat swap?

      I see you’ve read Carly Stewart’s article. And from your comment above, you managed to see the point she clearly failed to understood. Maybe its a good example of your previous query (a few weeks ago) about having ‘a guest writer’ in your blog.

  15. I prefer the window. I enjoy watching the world outside, plus I have a bladder like a camel so there’s generally no need for me to get up during the flight. If I were stuck on the aisle and someone offered me their window, I’d gladly take it!

    FWIW, I read an article a few days ago which said more people prefer windows than aisles or middles.

    1. Arcanum, I love the view out the window but I generally chug a lot of water when I travel. I like control over my fate. As to the article you read, I’m betting they didn’t specifically ask business travelers. Look at any seat map leading up to a flight. Window seats are always last to fill.

  16. If the flight’s a couple of hours I’d suck it up. If it’s a long-haul or international then I would ask and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if the person says no.

  17. I have often traded my sit (as long as it’s not a middle one I do not care that deeply) for children and split couples alike, same as Sagy. I myself would also ask politely in such a situation, without thinking twice.

  18. I don’t care for people asking to switch. Generally, I’m a nice person who likes to help others. So to say no makes me a little uncomfortable. But I picked that seat because that is where I like to sit. I always feel – it’s a few hours – put on headphones, watch a movie, read a book. Be an adult. You can do that without your companion sitting next to you. Children, elderly, disabled – I make the exception in those cases.

  19. Grammar dork + my opinion. First, “…if it were just Michelle and ME,” not “Michelle and I”, as you have it written. You wouldn’t say, “If it were just I.”

    And my opinion – pretty much echoes many of the previous comments, but doesn’t hurt to ask. As they say, if you ask, you may get what you want. If you don’t ask, you definitely won’t get what you want. As long as they know it’s a polite request that they should feel comfortable turning down, and not one of entitlement, I don’t see the harm.

  20. @gobluetwo

    “Grammar dork + my opinion. First, “…if it were just Michelle and ME,” not “Michelle and I”, as you have it written. You wouldn’t say, “If it were just I.’”

    Yes I would.

    I share your dorky interest in grammar; however, you’re probably younger than I, and have heard variations on the predicate nominative so often that you now believe it’s the correct usage.


    I’ll still stick to the traditionally correct usage. If it were only I, I might feel lonely. 😉


  21. I actually prefer a window seat and imagine there could few others that could prefer window too, like Arcanum above. That said there is no harm in asking politely, as it could turn out to be a win win situation.

  22. I would never ask. Ever. Able bodied married adults can be apart for a few hours. My needs in that situation are not enough to justify disturbing another passenger, who likely picked that seat in advance, to move. Adults sitting together is not a need, it’s a want.

    This is also why, in almost every situation, I refuse to swap seats when asked. Short of offering me an upgrade or a fat wad of cash, I see no reason in this day and age of advanced cost based seat selection, to accommodate anyone who either couldn’t bother, didn’t know, or suffered some logistics problem that should not be made into my problem.

    The most polite thing to do for both parties is to take your assigned seat and leave others alone.

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