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A Quick Question about Switching Seats

We just boarded our flight home from LAX on United and because we changed flights at the last minute (yes, the flight we wanted opened up yesterday because, as I keep saying here, you need to check if award seats open at the last minute), our family was seated in 4 different rows in Business.

We switched with someone before we boarded so we just needed one more seat so we could all sit together. We got on the plane and my wife asked a man if he would mind switching seats, and he agreed and could not have been nicer about it.

Immediately after, a flight attendant pulled him aside and said, “I wanted to make sure you were ok with switching seats” which made him (and us) feel as if we had done something wrong (we spoke with him after).

I don’t know if the passenger was GS, so that may be why the flight attendant was asking. Or maybe the flight attendant was being overly protective? I can’t imagine he was going to force a 7 year old to sit alone. Did the flight attendant think he should have handled the arrangements rather than us asking ourselves? I guess my question is, how do you handle it when you want to switch seats for family reasons? Should we have asked the flight attendant to handle? Or were we ok handling ourselves?

Curious what everyone thinks.

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  1. other than with certain seats that are safety related, passengers within the same class should have the freedom to change among each other without any stigmas from FA. FAs are like eggs, you ll bound to run into a few bad one.

  2. I really don’t see this as a big deal. I’d only get the FA involved if I were having difficulty making my own arrangement.

  3. What’s “GS”? (As in, “I don’t know if the passenger was GS…”

    There are many stories on Flyertalk and other places about people being angry simply because they were asked (not pressured, not forced) to switch.

    Perhaps the FA has had experience with passengers who complain to the airline because they were asked to switch?

    Personally, I think your approach was the right one. Unfortunately, asking to switch seats is often awkward in one way or another.


  4. Given the number of times where I’ve found someone else in my seat, I suspect that the FA wanted to verify it was truly voluntary, rather than him simply trying to avoid a fuss.

  5. Some people book their seats weeks or even months ahead of time based on their needs or preferences. Seats can vary wildly, even in Business Class, hence the popularity of sites like

    I fly a lot and have grown weary of others asking me to move, especially when I have already settled in. If you did not book your seat ahead of time, why would you inconvenience others, even briefly? It was appropriate for the Flight Attendant to confirm that the passenger was not bothered or feeling pressured.

    Finally, and with all due respect, if you booked a seat at the last minute and you put a child alone hoping others would move, that was your risk. It was you who would have “forced” a 7 year old to sit alone, not another passenger or the Flight Attendant, by acting so entitled.

    Air travel is so disruptive, invasive, and discourteous these days. Your fellow passengers have the right to be left alone.

  6. asking yourself is totally cool.

    my only rule (since i only sit in coach) is that if the person asking has a middle seat, and i’m in window or aisle, then i just think the person asking is an idiot. otherwise it’s all good.

  7. I have no problem asking someone to switch, or being asked to switch. In general, I’m not able to since I’m travelling with my family. I’ve had success about 50% of the time asking someone if they would take my aisle or window so that I could take their middle seat. Usually when they won’t switch it is because they are also travelling with their family.

  8. Just try finding a flight attendant in coach during the boarding process — you have to take matters into your own hands.

    That said, you never want to ask someone to trade for a worse seat — especially a middle. That’s just rude. Aisle to window is fairly dubious, too.

  9. I think the FA was just trying to provide good service. Many travelers-myself included-deliberately pick their seat, often months in advance, for reasons of personal preference.

    I once flew internationally, in business, and gave up my seat – twice – so families could sit together. I ended up sitting in a far less desirable seat, right next to the lavatory at the back of the business class cabin. The FA noticed, thanked me for helping other passengers, and provided me a bottle of champagne (at the end of the flight) for the inconvenience and for being kind to other passengers. As you might imagine, I was really impressed by that gesture. Maybe, if the passenger had said he did mind but did it to be polite, the FA would have offered him his choice of meal first or something as a ‘thank you’ for helping another passenger at personal inconvenience.

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