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Is It Rude To Ask To Switch Seats On A Plane?

Is It Rude To Ask To Switch Seats On A Plane?

If you’ve flown a decent amount, odds are you’ve been in a situation in which a fellow passenger requested to swap seats with you. Perhaps you were in the middle seat between a couple or in the midst of a family with young children and separate seating assignments. Or maybe someone just wanted to trade with you without a clear reason.

The choice to oblige this kind of request or not has sparked debate over the years. Is it considered rude to ask someone to switch seats, or is it actually rude to say no to this ask if the conditions are reasonable?

Below, experts weigh in on the etiquette of asking a fellow air passenger to switch seats with you and best practices for approaching this situation.

Is it rude to ask a fellow passenger to switch seats with you?

“There are certain circumstances where it might be understandable to ask a passenger if they would consider changing seats ― perhaps when you are separated from a young child or family member who needs assistance,” said Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and corporate trainer specializing in adult behavior. “Of course, you want to select a passenger who you can offer to exchange an equal or better seats so that you can sit next to a friend or family member.”

It’s inconsiderate to ask someone in a premium cabin to swap with you for your economy seat. Similarly, you shouldn’t expect someone in a window or aisle seat to switch for your middle seat.

“Convenience and comfort are considered when making arrangements,” said Jackie Vernon-Thompson, the founder of From the Inside-Out School of Etiquette. “Some may have longer legs and paid additional fees for that extra legroom. Others may feel more comfortable resting their head on the side near the window, or they may like the cozy feeling near the window. Asking a fellow passenger to change their seat, more than likely, will place them in an awkward position.”

She added, however, that it can be “a wonderful thing” to offer to switch seats if you notice you’re sitting by a couple with separate seats or parent and child sitting separately so that they can be together.

“I have both switched seats and rearranged the seats around me,” said Jodi R.R. Smith, the president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “When traveling with family, we do occasionally take our chances, reserving the window and aisle in a three-seat row. Then, if the plane is full, we then offer the passenger assigned the middle seat the window instead. They…

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