GUEST POST from Don: Giving Up Your Seat…


There have been a rash of stories about trains, planes, buses and other public conveyances where one passenger asks another to give up his/her seat…or conversely, where a passenger who has paid for a particular seat is forced to tell an interloper to move.

There are many parts to this drama.  First, allowing one passenger to ask another for this kind of favor is generally unnecessary.  If the carrier SOLD you a particular seat, it should be no longer your problem as a passenger.  It is the responsibility of the carrier to ensure you got what you paid for.  The representatives of that carrier should never come to you requesting you move for any reason, unless they also come with an offer of payment for the privilege you purchased.  Even then, it should still be entirely your choice.

Second, every seat SHOULD be assigned by the carrier at purchase.  This is the second way to eliminate this unnecessary drama.  So, if a family wants to sit together, the airline should make them choose seats when they buy the tickets.  If they need a child to sit next to an adult, then they should request seats that are next to each other (and pay any associated extra fees).  If they fail to make that request, then their failure is entirely their own choice.  They should not be asking anyone to “swap.”  They had their opportunity.

Third, even in the case of a medical issue that was not known at the time of purchase it changes nothing for any other passenger.  It remains the responsibility of the carrier to accommodate, not another passenger’s.

Finally, people who take up more room than they purchased… This is also a carrier issue.  They should require over-wide passengers to purchase multiple seats (next to each other).  Or, (better) they should have extra-wide seating available for purchase.  Understand that this is a respect AND comfort issue.  An over-wide person should not be forced to sit in a too small seat.  A 150 lb person should not be forced to give up part of the seat he/she purchased.  The carrier should prevent this unnecessary problem.  

Notice a pattern here?  The carrier takes responsibility.  Every passenger is granted basic rights and every passenger is allowed some liberties (at point of purchase).  It reduces the drama.  It increases sensibility.

It also makes the transaction more logical.  The carrier received the compensation for the “aisle” or “window” seat, or the “business class” seat.  In many cases the carrier received as much as 5x the payment for those “special” requests.  So, the passenger should not have to deal with another passenger who wants to be granted his/her “special” seat.  

The carrier knows what it would cost if a person bought the ticket TODAY for that seat occupied by a customer who purchased it 3 weeks ago.  Therefore, the carrier can determine that the requester would have to cough up $496 more to recompense the moved passenger.  Only the carrier would be able to charge the requester for the difference and present a refund (the difference between his ticket cost and the cost of purchasing it TODAY) to the passenger who gave up that privilege.  Then there are “incentive” fees and “hassle” fees, etc.  In the end the person wanting a change of seating could find that they owe over $1,000 for the joy of taking someone else’s seat.

You know what?  Let’s make this very easy.  DO NOT ALLOW SEAT CHANGES.  Require that people who would not fit in a regular single seat purchase a space in which they would fit.  DONE. 

One more big issue for people like me:  Anxiety.  I already detest flying or riding in public conveyance of any sort.  I do fine normally, but sometimes I have to take calming medicine to keep down the growing claustrophobia.  I think there are many people with the same or similar issues.  I know lots of folk who will endure 5 long days in a car rather than fly to Oregon.  (and 5 days coming back).  Anxious people. if they fly, want to get on the plane, close their eyes for 3-4 hours, and get off at the destination (nothing else).  

It happened to us once decades ago…we paid for our 2 year old to have a seat, then we were told on the plane that we would get a coupon for a free flight if we held her on our lap.  But we never received a coupon or instructions on how to get one.  We did not fly often, so we had no clue.  So, short story…we paid for a seat we never got to use and never got the promised “coupon.”  It was not fair.  We should have been given a coupon the moment we agreed.

Would I ever give up a seat again for a “promise?”  Nope.  Don’t ask.    

It is a simple transaction.  I pay for a ticket and choose my seat.  I get the seat I paid for.  No changes, please, unless the plane is non-flight-worthy.

Copyright 2023 Donald Whelpley

[PLEASE NOTE that Don is always open to discussing the thoughts and opinions he shares here and welcomes comments as shared in the comment section. He doesn’t use other social media platforms, as I do, and won’t see whatever you’d like to share with him elsewhere. ~ Sherry]


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