Have you ever been asked to vacate a seat on a plane? And did you agree or not?
Travel forums are full of tales of people being asked – or pressured – into giving up their seats for various reasons, but mostly to keep families together, although a surprising number only want to swap their seat for an aisle seat or bulkhead or exit row. Go figure.
There seems to be two camps in the answers; people who refuse to give up their seats, and people who only give them up for a good reason, and very few will willingly give up a good seat for an inferior one.
If you paid for a specific seat or booked in early and selected your seat the time of booking, I can understand travellers being miffed with the suggestion they suck up for the convenience of others.
However, the flip side of the argument is some families may need to travel last-minute for any number of reasons, or their flight has been changed and it may be too late to choose assigned seats together. Do you let a toddler sit away from their parents, and would you even enjoy your flight with a minor sitting next to you on a flight?
My brother-in-law is 193cm – six foot four in the old scale – and travels a lot. He usually goes business overseas, but for short domestic flights he pays extra to get an aisle or exit row because it can be excruciating for him in today’s cramped cabins. I would get second-hand annoyance for him if someone asked to take his seat, especially as he’s paid for it and especially if it was for something such as a couple preferring to sit together.
In an extreme example there is the case of the late Renee Rabinowitz, who successfully sued Israel’s national carrier El Al, for discrimination after she was forced to move from her seat next to an ultra-Orthodox man who refused to sit next to a woman.
It seems they picked the wrong woman to move on as Rabinowitz is a former a lawyer and Holocaust survivor who initially complied but when she found out the scale of the issue – there was an organised legal campaign against the practice – she sued the airline.
So what’s the solution? Depends on the situation and the alternatives.
If someone asks you to give up your seat, I think I speak for many people that if I had paid extra for a seat I would want some sort of compensation, either a better seat in turn, some discount flight vouchers – especially if was in business or premium economy – or free stuff, i.e. drinks or food.
But of course if it was for a flustered parent and I was in economy, I’d almost always move. They’d have my sympathies and frankly, I don’t want to look after someone else’s child. Thankfully my children are well beyond this and would probably prefer to sit on their own, but back in the day if I had to ask a stranger to move, I most definitely would shout them some snacks or drinks.
The cold, hard truth is that, unless the airline is providing a solution for you, you are under no obligation to give up your seat.
Have you ever given up your seat? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section below.
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