Still willing to swap your airline seat?
Now that airlines are charging extra for many aisle and window seats, a request to switch your seat so a couple or family can sit together may not go over well.
Airline etiquette has a new wrinkle now that so many airlines are charging an extra fee for the best seats -- window and aisle near the front of the plane -- and holding other coveted seats for elite-status fliers.
Case in point from a New York Times column by Joe Sharkey, who'd paid $20 extra for an aisle seat on a recent flight (and also paid with an airline credit card that snared him priority boarding). He declined a request that he switch seats to accommodate another traveler's wife.
I told the man that I preferred sitting where I was, but from his huffy reaction you would have thought that I had failed to yield a seat on a bus to a nine-months pregnant woman. "We like to sit together," he muttered darkly as he heaved his considerable bulk into the middle seat for the three-hour flight. I resisted the urge to assure him that he and his wife would still arrive in Houston at the same time.
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With the proliferation of these airline seat fees, it appears the code of conduct has changed. It's true even if you're asking someone to switch so you can sit next to your small children, writes Eileen Ogintz, who blogs on Taking the Kids.
You wouldn't think anyone in their right mind would want to sit next to someone else's kindergartner or preschooler but parents say they are not always eager to switch if it means giving up an aisle or bulkhead seat. One man, (mother of three Kelly) Lewis added, only agreed to switch so she could sit next to her preschooler after the flight attendant offered to bump him up to first class.
There are ways to get the adjacent seats you want without paying the extra fee, like booking early or checking in online at the earliest opportunity (24 hours in advance). But those tactics aren't foolproof. Sometimes the airlines make changes to your itinerary. If the gate agent or flight attendant can't/won't help, what can we reasonably expect from our fellow passengers? Not much, it seems.
Wrote one commenter on a FlyerTalk.com thread started by a fellow who was flying with his girlfriend from Boston to Norway, via London:
You cannot expect someone to take a less desirable seat just so you can sit together. Without reserved seats purchased in advance, you will probably each have a middle seat and want to swap one of the middles for a window or an aisle for which another passenger has paid extra.
A frequent flier who posted on another thread commented:
Why should I switch to a middle seat to accommodate someone who wasn't willing to pay for (a better seat) and hasn't earned it by flying a lot? It's a favor that I don't have to grant and will not grant to people exhibiting the attitude that they're entitled because they have children with them.
Ouch. Another reader responded:
It must be nice to be among the tiny, tiny percentage of people who never needs ANY sort of understanding from anyone about anything. I hope the next time I bring two small children on a long flight . . . we are sitting next to you.
There are tips to improve your chance of sitting together if you are stuck with nonadjacent seats and must rely on the generosity of fellow passengers:
- If you're seeking a swap, focus on the seats not likely to have a premium -- middle seats or those in the back.
- Never offer your middle seat to someone sitting by the window or aisle. That's rude.
- If giving up your aisle or window seat in exchange for a middle seat gets you next to your main squeeze, be grateful.
- If your group is composed of two parents with a small child, it's fine if only one of you sits with the kid.
Some parents have come up with creative solutions. Wrote "flyingfran" on FlyerTalk.com:
My daughter, son-in-law and 6-year-old grandson fly into Orlando several times a year to visit us. They do not have status and are never assigned seats together. My daughter just gets on the plane and puts my grandson in the center seat where he has been assigned. She just smiles at the passengers on either side and explains that Delta could not seat her next to her son. Passengers are never excited about having a 6-year-old child as a seat companion.
Read on. It gets better.
Our grandson has never flown without a parent next to him. Someone always elects to take daughter's middle seat rather than flying across the country with a 6-year-child. On her flight last week she put grandson in center seat and said to the adjoining passengers that grandson was quite cranky and she was glad that Delta did not require her to sit next to him. Both passengers gave their seats to daughter and son-in-law.
Why not give the mind games a rest and pay the extra fee so you can sit together? Or fly with an airline like Southwest that has open seating. Ogintz says families board after the first group gets on, or you can pay an extra $10 per person for EarlyBird check-in.
I would not be inclined to give up a seat that I had paid extra for. How about you?
More from MSN Money:
Sure, go ahead and put your 6 year old in the middle seat next to me. As a favor, I'll buy him 4 or 5 bars of chocolate.
It will be your turn to have fun when you get him later.
Seriously folks. If you expect to sit together why aren't you planning this when you buy the tickets? or worst case, when you print your boarding pass. Are you surprised to find a 6 year old next to you with a ticket when you approach the gate? People pay for their seating and airline flights can be a miserable enough experience these days without you making it worse.
Yes, you have to buy the premium seat if you expect to sit together.
Don't spread your misery around.
I fly all over on business. I don't particularly like to fly, and the airlines have made it progressively less fun over the years. The ONLY control I have over my flight experience is picking my seat, which is always an aisle. (If crowded, I'll take a window). But I NEVER take a middle seat. I take a different flight instead. It goes directly to my comfort and being able to stretch and not having shoulders and legs on both sides of me.
Ergo, I NEVER switch seats, unless offered a similar one to my own.
If you want my aisle seat, and you have an aisle seat to give me for it, I have no problem with accomodating you. But if you have a crappy seat or didn't know enough to reserve for you and your munchkin together, tough noogies. Don't take it out on me, cause I don't care.
I ended up in inferior seating with my carry-on too far away to access during the flight. I have not done it since and endured scowls and muttered comments from other passengers. Tough. I pay extra and I'm keeping my seat!
I was once late to board a plane, that had assigned seating, because the gate was moved. When I got to the correct gate, no one was there! I walked back to the departures board to make sure that I was in the right place and by the time I walked back to the gate, the ticket attendant was back.
Anyway, when I get to my seat, someone is in it. I told them that it was my seat. "Well we want to sit together, so you can sit there," and pointed to a middle seat between two above average sized travelers. The last time I was in a seat like that, I had to sit at the edge of my seat, bent forward for the entire flight. I was NOT doing that again. Oh, and there were no children involved.
I'm usually an easy going person, but that was too much for me. I told them "I'm not going to give up a window seat to sit between two people just so you two can sit together! You need to get out of my seat now." Luckily, the flight attendant saw what was going on and upgraded me to first class.
As someone who has travelled at least twice a year for 20 years I am really upset at where the airline industry is going. First off, it's insane that airlines charge for "premium" seats. However since they are, there is no reason to give yours up if you pay for one. Do not get upset if someone refuses. If one does not reserve their seats in advance the penalty is being separated. That's life.
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