Getting the Short End of a Seat Swap — Reader Mistake Story
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Neal, who forgot to ask one important question when another flyer wanted to exchange seats. Here’s what he had to say:
A few years ago I was traveling from Chicago to Portland, Oregon on American. I had an aisle seat just in front of the wings, with a woman and her daughter also seated in my row. A flight attendant asked if I would mind switching seats with the woman’s husband so the family could sit together. I had chosen my seat several weeks in advance; the family had waited, which is why they were seated separately.
Everybody was watching to see if I would do the kind thing, which I did. The problem was that the husband was in the middle seat all the way in the last row against the wall of the aircraft restroom. It was absolutely the noisiest seat on the plane; I literally had to shout to say something to the person next to me. I couldn’t stand the noise, so I stood in a doorway the entire flight. I will never again give up a seat unless I can at least get something comparable to what I have.
When a fellow passenger asks if you’d swap seats, your response should almost always be either “no thank you” or “where are you seated?” Offering someone a substantially worse seat without any compensation is a clear breach of seat-swapping etiquette, and Neal’s mistake was neglecting to find out where the husband was seated before agreeing to switch. You might feel pressured to say yes in order to be nice, or if you’re being asked by a flight attendant. But so long as you’re only being asked (and not instructed by the crew) to move, it’s perfectly reasonable to politely decline with no further explanation.
Airlines are making a lot of money from fees for add-ons like seat selection, and as a result, more seats are being blocked off during the booking process. If you’re having trouble finding the seats you want, there are a few solutions. You can lean on elite benefits (including better seat selection and upgrades) that extend to companions traveling on the same reservation. Similarly, some airline credit card benefits can improve your seat assignment at check-in. Beyond that, checking in as early as possible will generally improve your options. But if all else fails and your group really must sit together, it’s probably worth paying extra to do so when you book.
I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Neal for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to firstname.lastname@example.org, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.
Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!
Featured photo by tanyss/Getty Images
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees