When Asking To Switch Seats, You Need To Offer Something Better To The Other Passenger

Finally someone understands and has accepted a lesson I have been preaching for years. Stop complaining that passengers won’t trade seats with you when you’re offering a middle seat in the back, and asking for an extra legroom aisle seat. If you are looking to trade, you need to come up with the best trade bait possible. Don’t expect someone to downgrade their flight experience for your convenience. At a minimum, offer like-for-like.


I would never ask anyone to switch seats unless I could offer them a better option. If they didn’t want to, I’d happily except that. Also – we ALWAYS pay extra to select our seats if we have the option. But sometimes things happen and it doesn’t work out. This guy was so nice and it was a win/win👍🏼

♬ original sound – Anna Lyn Cook

I was once asked to change seats so that a couple could sit together, only to learn that they were already seated together, they just didn’t like the bulkhead, and they stuck me with the bulkhead (I don’t like the bulkhead either!).

A reader once gave up his premium seat so that a family could sit together only to have the family sell that seat to another passenger and not actually sit together.

You should book seats together if it is at all possible, even if it’s more costly to do so. You shouldn’t impose a cost on other passengers to save yourself money, though sometimes you can get away with it. However if there aren’t seats together, or you lose your seats together for operational reasons (my wife and I were split apart on our honeymoon by an air marshal so we asked another passenger to switch), then it’s reasonable to make the request.

It is also reasonable for the other passenger to refuse that request. They have a property right (or, really, a usufructuary right) in the seat to which they’re assigned – at least in Western societies. (In Nigeria your seat may be considered to belong to your elders out of respect.)

If the passenger won’t switch for free, what about paying them for their seat? I once paid a young teenager $5 not to recline on a Cleveland – Los Angeles flight so I could work on my laptop (I had their parents’ permission). That’s a straightforward Coasian solution to the problem.

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