A Woman Defends Her Refusal To Switch Airline Seats To Help Families Or Couples Sit Together

Jaci Stephen likes to flies Virgin Atlantic. When she does, it is only seat in 8A. If she can’t sit in seat 8A, she she’s not going. And if you want her seat di lei, forget about it. She flies other airlines too… and unless you are a celebrity, don’t even think about asking her to move seats.

No, I Don’t Move Airline Seats So Don’t Even Bother To Ask Me …

I had to laugh that less than an hour after my story yesterday on changing seats, the UK Daily Mail (world’s best tabloid…) published a story on this very topic… from the perspective of Ms. Jaci Stephen, a columnist.

As she explains,

“I travel a lot. I have very specific seats I always choose (ask Virgin Atlantic; if I can’t get 8A, I’ll change planes). I like an aisle seat when traveling domestically because I need to use the rest room a lot. I like to be at the front because I don’t like crowds and invariably need to disembark quickly. I spend weeks, sometimes months, making sure I have my favorite seat. “

Recently she was asked to switch seats on a flight so a couple sit next to each other. She refused, prompting an angry reaction from the girlfriend di lei (the boyfriend, she shares, appeared relieved).

Another time she was on an American Airlines Boeing 787, which has both forward- and rear-facing seats in business class. Someone asked her to swap a forward facing seat for a rear seat so they could be next to their young children.

Nope. Sorry. She wanted to face forward, explaining, “I want to be at the front, facing the same direction as the pilot, because if we are going to be put in the unfortunate position of having to run, I know who I want to follow at the front of the pack. “

The father didn’t react well:

“He was furious and started shouting at me, wishing me ill for the future if this were ever to happen to me, and then stormed off to the other side of the plane to try to persuade others to move.”

The only time she did move was for a celebrity, and only because she was begged by an airline staff member.

She sums up her advice in this fashion:

“Here’s the simple fact: if you want to travel as a family or in a group, book your seats together beforehand. Your incompetency in failing to do so is no one else’s responsibility and you should certainly not be making others feel uncomfortable when they want to stick to their probably well organized plans. “

Totally reasonable. Well, almost. The way I look the matter is I am opening to switching to an equal or better seat, as long as I am asked nicely. I do understand why couples or families wish to be near each other and why it is not always their fault… not everyone has the luxury of booking months in advance. In economy class, where advance seat assignments are often restricted, this becomes even more difficult.

In all cases, I hesitate booking bulkhead seats for precisely the issue that arose yesterday, namely that you can theoretically be displaced at anytime for a parent traveling with an infant, since bassinets can only be secured in bulkhead seats.

If you make a demand, the answer is no. I don’t deal well with hissy fits and I do choose window seats for a reason… I want control of lighting when I take photos.


I think Stephen mostly gets it right. She’s certainly entitled to refuse to switch seats in the circumstances she discussed. I still find the best approach is to ask really nicely and don’t be the idiot who asks someone to move from an aisle seat or window seat to a middle seat so you can sit next to a loved one. You be the one who gives up the superior seat for the inferior one, if you want to move.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at one other element of getting people change seats… shaming.

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