Should I feel guilty for refusing to give up my seat to a family?

by Christopher Elliott on June 27, 2012

No, you can't have my seat. / Photo by Wex Dub - Flickr

There are at least two sides to every story, and in the recent controversy involving kids and airline seating, the other side didn’t get a lot of airtime.

I’m here to correct that.

It’s voices like Carla Overbeck, who recently overheard a flight attendant ask a passenger if he wouldn’t mind moving so that a family could sit together. (As a refresher, airlines are charging extra for more desirable economy class seats, leading some to conclude that families would be separated — a claim I doubted).

“Of course I wouldn’t mind if I had a middle seat to give that up for another seat,” says Overbeck. “But I think I would be upset if I were asked if I were willing to move from an aisle seat. There would be a guilt factor if I said no, but I would be unhappy with myself and the airline if I said yes.”

In fact, there’s a largely silent majority of non-parents who meekly suggested they shouldn’t have to give up their seat for a family. And that’s especially true if they’ve paid extra for a premium seat, they say.

As reader Jennifer Minchau, herself a mother, admitted, “Those who have paid for premium seats might be reluctant to give up their seat up for my special snowflake.”

All of which raises the question of who has more rights: flying parents  or paying passengers?

It shouldn’t ever come to this, of course. But it apparently has and it could happen with more frequency in the future.

So let’s go there.

No doubt, parents do enjoy special rights when it comes to air travel. Some carriers allow them to board early. Babies are offered a drink first, along with first class passengers. Parents with young kids are sometimes given bulkhead seats in order to manage a toddler on a long flight.

Yet at the same time, airlines cater to those who pay extra. Even if you’re in the back of the plane, if you’ve shelled out $25 for an exit row seat, you have the right to that seat — maybe even a special right to the seat as opposed to the passenger who requested the exit row at check-in.

Airlines place their flight crew in a difficult position. They’re rewarded for their company’s profitability. Yet they’re also asked to keep passengers happy and to mediate any in-flight disputes, including those between parents who think they’re entitled to sit next to their kids and other passengers who think they’re entitled to the seat they reserved.

This money versus morality argument — oh, that’s something the airline industry doesn’t do very well.

I’m reminded of Raj Wadhwa, who was flying from San Francisco to Chicago on United Airlines with his wife and kids, ages 10 and 12. The flight was completely full, and his family had paid for the trip with miles. That’s an important detail.

“Once we were boarded — and we were about 10 minutes past the scheduled departure time — one of the flight attendants informed my wife that my 10-year-old was being bumped to make room for a revenue passenger with a higher status,” he says. “It seems the passenger who was bumping my daughter had missed his connection from an international flight and was not willing to take the next flight — even once he found out he would be bumping a 10-year-old — and the gate agent was going to allow this to happen.”

Wadhwa and his daughter disembarked and took the next flight. He complained to United, and it sent him a form apology and a $25 flight voucher.

The absurdity goes the other way. And nowhere can you see it on more consistent display than at my home airport, Orlando. Every flight is filled with kids on their way to a theme park vacation with parents who think they deserve to board first, sit together for free, and have the flight attendant tell them how cute their kids are, even if they are not.

The passengers who paid extra for their premium seat have a right to sit there. They have the right to not feel guilty when a flight attendant asks them to move in order to make room for a family, and they don’t feel like it. They shouldn’t feel bad for wanting to feel a little bit of comfort on what is arguably the most uncomfortable way to travel in America today.

But don’t fault these passengers or the parents or the flight attendants who have been put in a difficult situation. The blame for all this falls squarely on the shoulders of the airlines, whose managers obviously didn’t consider the implications of selling seat reservations.

It’s up to them to find a solution.

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  • Waegook Tom

    Bumping a 10 year old off a flight after paying with miles?! Surely the airline could’ve found another passenger to bump?!?

    I agree completely with the last paragraph. Airlines are the ones who cause problems, not the passengers or flight attendants, and their greed and money-grabbing are what is dragging the reputations of certain airlines – particularly the US-based carriers – through the mud.

  • Waegook Tom

    Bumping a 10 year old off a flight after paying with miles?! Surely the airline could’ve found another passenger to bump?!?

    I agree completely with the last paragraph. Airlines are the ones who cause problems, not the passengers or flight attendants, and their greed and money-grabbing are what is dragging the reputations of certain airlines – particularly the US-based carriers – through the mud.

  • Matthew Bohun-Aponte

    My view is that airlines should do whatever it takes to ensure that passengers traveling on the same reservation sit together, especially when those passengers are minors. If you are going to bump anyone on a flight, you have to keep all passengers on one reservation together, so don’t bump the ten year old unless you are going to bump the whole family.

    On two recent flights I have been asked to trade seats. First on a flight from UAE to New York, a family had two middle seats in business and an unknown number of seats in coach, and asked me to trade my aisle seat in business (paid fare) for one of their middle seats, I said no. They spent the whole 10 hour overnight flight shuffling various family members between business and coach. I had no empathy for them. The children in this family seemed to be in their teens.

    Second, on a flight from New York to Toronto, I did swap my first class (upgraded) aisle seat for a first class window seat so a father could sit next to his five year old. The man sitting next to me felt disinclined to swap, nor did his wife want to sit next to him (they had two aisle seats), but he did bitch to me about the father an son, but was only interested in expressing his own opinion, he wasn’t interested in hearing anything I might have to say. 

    Generally, I will swap to enable a parent to sit next to young child, but I have my limits.

  • Ton

     if its 2 adults plus 2 kids bump 1 of the adults

  • John Baker

    Here’s my comment from Chris’s site …

     You should receive the seat that you were assigned when you purchased your ticket. If seats weren’t available together when you purchased, you made a poor decision that isn’t my fault.

    Why do the airlines have to be special? There are a number of other situations in life where we purchase seats for time specific events (MLB, NFL, concerts, etc). I have never heard of a family purchasing seats scattered throughout the stadium and then just expecting people to move or have the ushers force them to move so they can sit together. Can you imagine someone with their little daring in the nosebleeds expecting someone else to give up the front row? Yet, we expect this all of the time on an aircraft.

    What about weather delays? MLB has the equivalent in a rainout. In MLB’s case (or at least our local team), you have the opportunity to exchange your ticket for a like ticket at any future game where there is a seat available. The airline equivalent would be that you have the opportunity to fly on a future flight that has seats available. If they aren’t grouped the way you want, you can turn it down and fly later but you accept the flight and the seat assignment together.

    For those that don’t read that often and think I might not “get it” because I’m not a parent, I have 4 yo twins and a 10 yo. I purchase my tickets months in advance. I don’t plan on the last flight of the day and my wife and I have a “bump plan” if it comes to it and we have to split up to get to our destination.

    Side Note on the UA situation. I’m willing to bet that it was a GS customer who wanted that specific seat. UA throws out their rule book when it comes to Global Services customers. It’s the only situation that make sense.

  • Frank

    Greed and money grabbing?  Seriously, do you even follow the industry?  Have you taken a look at the financial stability of the airlines’ over the past decade or two?  Inconsistent profits/bankruptcies/liquidations?  Either you cover your COSTS to operate your busniess or you GO OUT OF BUSINESS.

  • Waegook Tom

    I wonder if they considered cutting salaries of high-up executives first, before charging passengers for things like seat selection or having a bag? Fine if it’s a budget airline, but more than a bit tacky if you’re already paying a high fare as it is.

  • Frank

    “Of course I wouldn’t mind if I had a middle seat to give that up for another seat,” says Overbeck. “But I think I would be upset if I were asked if I were willing to move from an aisle seat. There would be a guilt factor if I said no, but I would be unhappy with myself and the airline if I said yes.”——————————————————————————————————–

    ….And, there you have it.  Me-me-me attitude.  I’m NOT agreeing to anything unless I’m compensated for it.  Or getting something “better”.  Common courtesy has disappeared years ago in this industry.  Personally, I dont expect anyone to move, but, I do ask and explain to the PARENTS dont expect it.  Fact it, if its sooo important that you sit with your children, and CANT get seats together on the plane, either book a different flight, get a TRAVEL AGENT to handle your travel needs or PAY for the seats together.  Apparently, it’s important until you have to pay for it. 

  • RGoltsch

    Frank, you hit the nail on the head.  Courtesy has disappeared.  Not just from passengers, but from the airlines too.  The airlines put you, the on board staff, in the middle of a fight you cannot win.People don’t care anymore about being nice. It is all about dollars and cents.  Since the airlines monetized the different seats, it can only be expected that people won’t give them up without compensation.  Why should they be nice when the airline made them pay for that better seat?

    As customers, the flying public brought this on themselves. People fly based on price alone, to hell with service. Now they get what they demanded….a low price with everything ala carte. 

    So, in this grand experience of air travel, no one is courteous, no one is nice. It all boils down to dollars and cents. 

  • Anonymous

    I’ve told this story here before, I was called to the gate desk and asked to switch my seat, in front of the entiteld family.  I was considering it, even though it was a less desirable seat until I asked how I was going to get my premium seat fee refunded.  A voucher.  On an airline I don’t usually fly and after this, highly unlikely I’ll do it again.  A voucher?  No thanks.  Cash in hand talks.

    I was harassed by the rude father who saw fit to call me names during the flight.  (Note, he never offered to pay me $50 either)

    There is no question, if you reserved a seat, even if you didn’t pay extra, it’s yours.  No elite flyer should get it, certainly no entitled family.  And families, if you want someone to switch with you, don’t offer them a middle seat, and have cash, lots of it.

    You’d think airlines would have to work hard to make customer service worse, they’re at the bottom of the barrel.  Yet even entertaining the issue of “family entitlement” puts them in the customer service sewer.

  • Anonymous

    The person who reserved early and chose the seat they wanted,  out of the goodness of their hearts they are supposed to take a worse seat so some family get their better seat.  Oklay, regular joe doesn’t deserve his seat, or to trade for a better one  but the family gets to simply demand that seat?  ‘  Do you not see the hypocrisy in your statement.

    Families are not entitled to anything.  Their life choices, their life consequences.

  • Jeff Linder

    I’ve set my own personal rule as follows.  I will be happy to switch at any time to assist anyone as long as the switch is to a reasonably comparable or better seat.   In the event of unforseen circumstances I am a lot more flexible. 

    For example, a couple of years ago there was an obviously distressed family on a flight to LAX from PHL.  I had a pretty good seat but was asked to switch to a middle seat towards the back to let the family (with younger children) to sit together.  Normally I might have hesitated, but the gate agent informed me quietly that the family was heading to a funeral for their grandmother, who had died in a car crash (and they were flying on a short notice bereavement fare).  Of course I switched.

    I follow an old saying.  Your lack of planning is not an emergency on my part.  However your real emergency may be.

  • Julie

    As soon as I saw the title of this article, I had to read it.  I just had this happen on a flight out of Orlando.  My husband and I booked months in advance – he loves the window seat, so we picked our seats throughout our flights, again, months in advance.  We get to our seat and this girl (around 14 years old) is sitting in the window seat, and when I told her that was our seat, she just stared at me.  I actually wondered if she spoke English until her parents spoke up from the row in front of us, and asked if she could just stay in that seat.  They had two other children with them so there was no sitting together no matter what the situation.  They were an incredibly rude family thoughout the entire flight, the daughter next to me bounced around, put the window shade up and down, and slept sideways into my seat.  When we arrived at our next destination, the parents asked that their daughter get out now because they had a connection (as most of the passengers did).  We were at the back of the plane, they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but wanted us to move so she could stand in the aisle with them, which we did, and watched them stand there for a very long time waiting for everyone else in front of us to depart the plane.  I decided then I’m not giving up my seat again (and I’m a parent too who has flown with my children).

  • Anonymous

    You learned your lesson Julie.  You planned correctly  months in advance, and the others had a completely undeserved sense of entitlement.  

  • Oregoncarol

    Recently I was flying to Tokyo with a layover at LAX. I had an aisle seat in coach and found a father with a small boy anxiously waiting there, hoping I would switch my aisle seat, which I prefer, next to the little boy, for the father’s middle seat in the row behind. That was not appealing but it was only a two-hour flight to LA and they were extremely apologetic and nice, so I decided it was the right thing to do. I moved to that middle seat and soon ANOTHER parent with child arrived, requesting that I move to another seat farther back (also middle) so they could sit together. I did, hoping my good karma from all this seat-switching (and luggage moving) would protect me on my international journey. But two kids got to ride by their parents on their first airplane flights, and that is important too.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely nothing in the comment you quoted indicates a “Me-me-me” attitude. Who’s being selfish here? The person who booked early and/or paid for a particular seat, or the cheapskate parents who booked at the last minute and now don’t want to pay extra to be able to sit together?  If seats together aren’t available when you’re ready to book, don’t book that flight . . . or book it and don’t get all pissy when those who planned ahead refuse to move to accommodate you.

  • Anonymous

    Just who do you think is being discourteous here? It surely ISN’T the person with an assigned seat who won’t give it up because someone else either failed to plan or was too cheap to pay for premium seating. The discourteous passengers are the parents who feel they’re entitled to someone else’s seat simply because they’re parents. 

  • Anonymous

    And those two kids learned how to get something they hadn’t earned/didn’t deserve.

  • RGoltsch

    Paulette, I certainly didn’t think the passenger is discourteous in this instance. I guess I was not clear in that.  But we are seeing a level of incivility all around the experience of travel.  And I believe that much of this was brought about by all these little things that airlines used to provide for free.  Wrong or right, since these things were provided for generations for no cost, fliers feel insulted that they are being charged for them now.  For me, it really depends on how the question is raised about moving my seat.  If it is a demand, forget it.  If it is a request, I’ll think about it. and I am certainly not being discourteous if I say no.

    I chose flights many times based on seat availability.  If others do not have the foresight to do the same, why should I feel bad about keeping the seat I chose?The one point I do want to make is that it is unfair the airline management has dropped this issue in the laps of the crews on board the plane. That is simply not fair.

  • Togreentree

    Blaming the salaries of the people who run the company is such a tired and uninformed knee-jerk argument that so many people seem to be making lately, which is just another way of diverting the attention for what really matters – dirt-cheap fares alone simply don’t cover the costs of transporting you anymore.  The salaries of executives are a drop in the bucket.

  • DCTA

     In theory I agree with you, but as a consumer (and a Travel Agent who sells to the public) I draw the line on trading my seat for which I have paid extra (Economy Plus or a Biz Upgrade) for anything of lesser value – and by that I mean value to me.  I’m not going to take a middle seat in a premium section when I have paid and done so early for the window or aisle.  I’ll trade apples to apples though.

  • DCTA

     But Frank – what about someone who paid extra for that premium aisle or window seat?  Seriously – if I’ve gone on your website and I’ve dropped an additional $25 – $50 for one of those, do you really think I’m going into the middle? 

  • Anonymous

    There’s courtesy, Frank, but there’s also entitlement.  There have been precious few “pleases” and “thank yous” the few times I switched my seat – it’s been more demand than request.  And honestly, it’s something I won’t do again, unless there is a really pressing reason (like a family who had to book late for a family emergency or death), because otherwise, I have a different price to pay.

    I have musculoskeletal disease and chronic injuries.  The ability to surreptitiously move my right leg into the aisle for 30-90 seconds or so for a good stretch during the trip (after drink/snack service and watching for other pax, of course) means you have a pax who can walk out of the plane on her own without a significantly increased risk of falling.  Stretching on flights longer than 90 minutes is something I actually need to do, not just a pleasant diversion.

    The few times I switched seats to be polite, I have invariably been shunted to the back of the plane in a middle seat.  Usually flanked by one seat hog, if not two, so I have almost no room to sit comfortably, let alone stretch.  I can’t go in the galley, and I’ve been chided by FA’s for trying to stretch discreetly at the back of the plane.  It’s a no-win situation for me.  And it’s a compounded irritation when I see the parents walking up and down the aisle with the child – who they absolutely had to *sit* with – for a healthy chunk of the flight.

    I know airlines reassign seats and change equipment – or sometimes, you aren’t allowed to pick your seats at booking because the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter is aligned with Mars.  But if a party has seats scattered all over the plane, I have to wonder how much prep the parents took.  (Emergencies are excepted, and they are one of the few times I make the exception.)  A flight we’re taking next week has changed schedule a few times, and I’ve made sure to check our seating assignments each time. (Once they were removed, the second time they remained intact.)

    There are people who just want what they want, even if they paid the same coach fare.  But sometimes you need the leg room (and I’m polite enough to NOT take exit row, because I know my health makes me not the best candidate, along with being a nervous flyer).  Sometimes I can manage first class if there’s a sale or I plan far enough ahead, but I can’t always afford it, so the aisle is my best option.

    Does that make me entitled then, to try and avoid aggravating my injuries?  Or does it make me a polite flyer because I don’t want to create a hassle that would have people stuck on the tarmac because a pax went down in the aisle?

  • Patmurraypm


    IF- that is the ONLY problem that family has doing vacation, they are doing OK..

  • Frank

    Riiight.  Like I want to approach a person who got an aisle or window and ask, “Hey You mind sitting in a CENTER seat for 6 hours?”  Really?!  Upfront, I say, “it’s very hard to get people to switch seats, dont expect it.” (nor do I blame anyone for not moving.  No judgement.

  • Frank

    My comment pertained ONLY to Carla Overbeck’s statement.  But, since you asked, I did have someone move for a child and learned AFTTER THE FACT that they had purchased a premium seat.  I went to the nearest liquor cart and grabbed a

    few bottles and said, “Open your hand?”  I dumped several liquors into her hand.  She smiled.

  • Frank

    Your situation is fairly common.  You’re complaining about something you volunteered to do.  No One forced you, nor does any flight attendant expect you to do it.  Most of us commute to work.  we live in one city and are based in

    another, so who knows better then a commuting flight attendant what it’s like to sit LAST ROW, CENTER.  Trust me, I know!  You cant come into the galley because THE GOVERNMENT says so.  It’s a regulation I enforce or get in trouble for not enforcing.  However, I do use commone sense when a line develops. 
    More demand then request??????  Seriously?  You gave your power away by saying yes.  What can they do when YOU/someone says, NO!  I’ll tell you—>  Nothing.  Futhermore, if someone asked me to move, I would ask, to what seat number.  Again, make your decision based on where they’re going to put you. 
    You were nice.  Personally, I appreciate help like yours.  I’ve been known to offer a cocktail, later in the flight.  Some munchies from first class, a left over meal….etc.  LET US KNOW.  People have no problem saying, hey, I’m moving into
    a center seat, would you comp me a few drinks?  I would.
    I know all about disabilities inflight.  My brother suffered DVT on a flight back from a skiing trip in Colorada.  He had an achy calf muscle for a few days and it wouldnt go away.  He finally went to the hospital and they diagnosed him with an EIGHT INCH BLOOD CLOT.  i watch passengers try to exercise inflight, unfortunately, there’s NO WHERE to do that, except in the aisle (my lousy workspace).
    Again, my above comments were about Carla Overbeck and her thought process.  =)

  • James Penrose

    Some of the blame gos to families also.  If you expect to seat a group together…book as early as you possibly can.  Or use a travel agent and make sure your request indicates a family traveling together (I am not involved in the travel industry) .

    If you can’t get seats together, call the airline or check online frequently to see if seats have opened up.  Get to the online checkin the instant it opens up as there’s a very good chance seats have become available.

    Check in at the airport as early as possible for the same reason and speak to the gate agent, they may be bale to work out a swap before boarding even begins.

    Don’t expect others to give up their carefully chosen seats for you.  I am in an aisle seat because I want it and my wife is in a window seat for the same reason.  Offering to ‘give up” the middle seat so we can sit together won’t work.

    I might choose to move to an equivalent seat so a parent and child can sit together but that is solely my choice.  The longer the flight, the more carefully I chose that particular seat and the less likely I am to ewant to move to a different seat.

    I might even suggest NOT booking seats solely on miles as a family.  Those are the next lowest class to deadheaders in terms of who is going to get bumped or reseated if there’s an issue.

    Stuff does happen and ones hopes the airline will do what they can to try and work things out but the onus is not on the individual passenger to accommodate someone else’s problem.

  • Anonymous

    I’m just wondering why this turns into a pro-family/anti-family discussion when it should be about passenger rights in general.  I guess it’s more dramatic to talk about families that get split, instead of a group of adults who booked together but were separated by airline booking mixups.  Or who couldn’t book together to begin with, even though they booked months in advance, because of arbitrary rules.

    But sadly, many parents have couched their request as a demand.  They don’t say “Excuse me, the airline messed up my seat reservations and I’m separated from my child, who is sitting next to you.  I don’t suppose I could ask you to trade seats with me?”

    I frequently get an aggressive “I need your seat.”  I have a cane presently, and that’s helped nip these discussions in the bud.  Nothing like a visual aid. 

    As for the galley – yes, I know I can’t go in.  Just pointing out I’m not allowed. :)

    As for comping drinks – I get that from time to time.  There’s a puddle-jumper to my hometown and I book my seat in the back of the small prop plane.  Because otherwise, they have to ask about half the pax who clustered in the front to move back to balance the load.  Since it’s a small plane, rarely full, and short hop, I don’t mind.  I tell the FA’s that when they see me sitting by myself in the back during boarding, and they usually comp me a drink for being proactive about it. :)

    I flew first class last month and the relief of not having this discussion for the umpteenth time was better than the usual FC perqs put together (okay, maybe not… ;) ). I am dreading my holiday flight next week, and bracing for yet another discussion about my aisle seat.  Because even my husband and I couldn’t get seats together, and we booked in March under his Gold Elite status.  (Not saying it guarantees us good seats, but pointing out that even a FF was having difficulty booking two seats together.)  It’s gonna be a zoo…Hope you have a good holiday flight schedule :D

  • Eleem

    I fly quite a lot. Most of the time in first or business.  I would give up my seat so a family could sit together, providing I was in the same class. I have seen parents sitting in first or business with their children in coach, young children at that.  I do think that should not be allowed. I would not give up my seat in first for a child, whose parent paid a coach class ticket, so the child could sit next to mom.  I have spent flights in coach with great children next to me… and I have spent time on long flights in first with  a screaming brat behind me, kicking the seat….  Children should fly with mom and dad, and the airlines should make sure that this happens…..

  • Kevin

    Sorry, but paying with miles have nothing to do with seating together, not to mention they didn’t pay to sit together neither. If they want to be seated together, buy all 4 seats together.

    Sure the airline could have found another passenger to bump, but as the article said, since those 4 don’t have any elite status, and that’s what they are subjected to be bumped. It is no difference than overbooking. There is nothing related to US based carriers, how often do you fly other non-US based carriers ? I have seen the exact happend on other Asian or European carriers as well.

    If you run a business, ask yourself if you would treat a frequent return customer better than those only shop once in a long time ?

  • Frank

    Ms Overbeck’s ATTITUDE is she wont move unless she’s compensated for it in some way.  Actually, its more greedy then selfish.  She’s trying to get something out of it, instead of simply being compassionate to someone else’s needs.  Would

    you do that at a Movie theater?  A concert?  Oh, No, You cant have my aisle seat, it’s mine!  Would YOU say, Oh, sure, if you buy me popcorn and a soda, it’s yours.  Sounds crazy, when you take it outside the airplane. 

  • Frank

    smile.  I enjoy your posts.  You mix your thoughts with explanation and personal experience. 
    hey, this SITE wouldnt exist if everything went

    smoothly in this industry.  Seats together, bag issues, weather, overbooked flights, security, hey, ALL THESE ISSUES have existed for decades. 

  • Ton

     no but t with that kind of mileage to spend on tickets thsi guy must be a regular client

  • Ton

     it stopped being about courtesy when people were forced to pay for specific seats

  • Mapsmith

    While re-reading this article and the accompanying comments.  I do have a question.

    If you are flying on an award ticket and you are Involuntarily Denied Boarding or “bumped” what is the compensation that the airline is required to give the bumped passenger.? 

    And specifically, when the 10 year old was bumped from the flight and the father left the flight as well, was the father compensated for IDB even though he essentially volunteered to be bumped to be with the son?

  • DCTA

     And that would have made me smile as well.

  • Anonymous

    I’m usually a day late, but not necessarily a dollar short, due to not being attached to the internet. However, I did read while traveling a week or two ago that Allegiant is requiring that at least one parent be seated next to a young child. Perhaps others will follow suit.

  • Matthew Bohun-Aponte

    I think it’s different with a very small child. Once children get to ten or twelve, they should be able to cope on their own for a short flight, but I wouldn’t want to be seated next to a small child, who while not technically an unaccompanied minor, is for all intents and purposes travelling alone. I’d rather be uncomfortable than a babysitter. I wouldn’t go down a class though – if a parent has one seat in premium and another in coach, they should give the premium seat to a neighbour in coach.

  • Matthew Bohun-Aponte

    At around fourteen, the girl is old enough to sit on her own and behave herself on a flight. This kind of rude behaviour is all too common however, and short of creating a scene which would probably only get you kicked off, I am not sure there is much you could have done if the girl refused to move. I have heard of people deciding they like a seat better than their own (e.g. in First or Business), refusing to move, and being escorted from the plane by security.

  • Terry

    BINGO! Chris – you hit this one out of the park.  The article was great but the last two paragraphs were real keepers.  I know for fact that some of these airline managers and decision makers “don’t think” past yesterday when they make some of these decisions. 

    I have had some airline “suits” call me and tell me they were considering doing this or doing that and wondered if I could see potential problems down the road.  Usually I do and when I tell them, I always get an “oh yeah – never thought of that”.

    To me there are five airlines who “listen” - five airlines who want to “get it” and actually do “get it”.  1. American Airlines  2. Southwest Airlines  3. Sun Country Airlines  4. US Airways  5. Virgin America.

    Keep up the good work.
    Terry Trippler

  • Ajaynejr

    If a flight crew member is going to request that someone change seats, whhy doesn’t the crew member offer some incentives? For me pampering me in flight after the seat change usually works. It might be as mundane or sublime or ridiculous as actually stopping the kid behind from kicking the seat, or utilizing his powers of passengers having to obey crew members to give me an armrest. Or perhaps a free meal or free Internet  (sorry, a drink or a headset is not enough.).

    How come the comment box lags behind and shows my typing at just one character per second reminiscent of old fashioned Teletype computer terminals?

  • Ajaynejr

    If a flight crew member is going to request that someone change seats, whhy doesn’t the crew member offer some incentives? For me pampering me in flight after the seat change usually works. It might be as mundane or sublime or ridiculous as actually stopping the kid behind from kicking the seat, or utilizing his powers of passengers having to obey crew members to give me an armrest. Or perhaps a free meal or free Internet  (sorry, a drink or a headset is not enough.).

    How come the comment box lags behind and shows my typing at just one character per second reminiscent of old fashioned Teletype computer terminals?

  • MaryK57

    I don’t understand why the airline chose to bump the 10 year old instead of one of the parents. That’s a bit ridiculous.
      If I had a regular economy seat on a domestic flight I’d be willing to trade, even for a middle seat. But if it was for a middle on an international, or if I’d paid for a premium seat I wouldn’t trade.

  • Erikaandjeff

    When a woman declined to move from a middle seat to an aisle seat do I could next to my then two year old, I politely told my daughter, “This nice last is going to look after you for it next five hours.”…She moved immediately.

  • Lafontainer

    The question is not whether you should give up your seat, the question should be… why in the h**L do you put up with airlines putting you in this position?  Airline greed has led to nickle and dimeing passengers to death.  I’m surprised that airlines are not charging for air vents that work or seats that actually recline, or seats that have cushions.  How about $5 for a blanket and $5 for a pillow.  $5 for a second glass of water.  (Oops shouldn’t have said this – it just gives the bean counters more ideas to squeeze a little more cash from passengers.)

  • KJoyWright

    What a ridiculous sol’n to a problem! Bumping a 10 yr old, which of course really amounts to bumping 2 people ( oh sweetie, just wait for the next flight, mommy & daddy are going on ahead. Right!), thus freeing up 2 seats…. hmmm. . This is unrelated to courtesy, it is related to planning ahead, something that has gone the way of the dodo. I would guess that the family knew where their seats were before they walked onto that plane. So, sit down, be quiet, enjoy the movie!

  • LarryC

    Ok. how about this personal story:
    A number of years back, my family & I traveled to Orlando; our kids were young (5-ish or so).  We booked months in advance and chose our seats sp we could sit together.
    Months go by.. a few weeks before the trip, I go online to find that the airline changed the equipment and in doing so, scattered us all over the plane.
    I tried to change our seats at that time but it was not possible. Fortunately, when I arrived at the airport, the agent was able to move us (and a few kindly volunteers) around so that we could sit together.

    Now, please tell me what I was supposed to have done differently to prevent this!  I thought I did all the right things by booking early and getting us seats together.  But the airline, in changing equipment, messed all that up.

  • jd

    wow…..this is by far the dumbest thing i have ever heard of. i am not a litigious person but i really hope some family sues the airline after being denied a seat next to their child because i can forsee either some little kid getting hurt or molested or something. what happened to child endangerment? i guess the airlines are exempt. and do we all really think its a must that we are being charged more for”premium” seating? thats just a scam. the first time the airlines started with that we all should have refused. nope, we will just take center seating thanks. its like real estate, all those vacancies would have brought the price back to, well the real actual price that they started out with.

  • Angie

    You wrote this as singles vs. parents issue. At the end you mention us against the airlines, but the entire focus should be on the airlines. This doesn’t even touch on the parents who do pay or book so that their familes can set together and are still required to seperate. To John Baker, you must not really understand the issue. I always book my flights with my children setting next to me–even if I have to pay extra and we have been seperated may times, including today. My daughter is traveling with my mother on Delta, we booked seats next to each other and the airline seperated them, without even an appology.

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