There’s always one: What to do when someone asks to sit next to you on an empty plane
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.
Before flying home — on Southwest Airlines, of course — on Aug. 25, it had been 184 days since my last flight, on Royal Air Maroc. So as a longtime flyer and true aviation geek, I was excited for my flight from San Antonio International Airport (SAT) to Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport (BWI).
I checked in for my flight, depositing my two free bags with a lonely skycap and went through an eerily empty TSA checkpoint (I used PreCheck only because I wanted to keep my shoes on and my laptops in my backpack). Once past security, I went to the only coffee shop in Terminal A — Merit, a local brand that’s popular in San Antonio, Austin and Dallas (longtime concessions Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are now closed).
Once at the gate, I was bombarded with announcements about wearing a mask onboard the flight. We also got the usual boarding announcement (albeit Southwest now boards passengers by A, B and C in groups of 10). We also got the news that our 143-seat Boeing 737-700 jet only had 32 of us boarding. Considering what the pandemic has done to airline flights, I wasn’t surprised, but I was still happy to hear it.
Southwest, along with Delta and JetBlue, are blocking middle seats at least through the end of October. But with only 32 passengers, I was happy to know that it would allow for plenty of social distancing on my flight home to Baltimore. But then a very odd thing happened.
I’m a big fan of aisle seats because I’m slightly claustrophobic, and I like sitting toward the front of the plane. With my Southwest A-List status, I’m pretty much guaranteed my seat of choice. I boarded and settled into my seat. After a few minutes, a woman stopped at my row. I expected her to take the empty seats opposite of me, but no.
The woman looked at me and asked, “May I sit in that window seat?” I seriously thought I heard her wrong while she was speaking through her mask. I said, “Pardon me?” She repeated her request to sit in the window seat in my row. I informed her that the plane was wide-open, so she could sit where she wanted. But to my surprise, she asked again if she could sit in the window seat — next to me.
I have one of those faces where people think it’s OK to ask me to switch seats — especially from people who don’t like their middle seat. I’m Facebook famous among my friends for recounting all the times I’ve been asked on multiple airlines for my seat. I’ll switch for two reasons — helping a family with small children or if the seat I’m switching to is also an aisle seat. Otherwise it’s a hard no. But I digress.
I gave her a hard no. Instead of moving on, she asked me why. I explained that I was social distancing, and that I was glad to be on a flight that allowed for this, especially considering that there were only 32 people onboard. She stood and looked at me for another 20 seconds or so, then thankfully moved on.
As much as I love to fly, I’ll admit I was nervous about my first pandemic flight. I was prepared with extra masks, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers and my own in-flight snacks. The flight crew was very professional and the flight continued without any further incidents.
For the week ending Aug. 30, domestic air travel is down 67% year over year, according to trade group Airlines for America (A4A), with numbers slowly rising. I know there will come a time when I won’t be able to say no, as passenger traffic slowly rises. It means that on my next flight — whenever that may be — I’ll look at taking even more precautions, like wearing a face shield and bringing my own latex gloves, to ensure my safety as the pandemic rages on.
Featured photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy
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