Do you prefer window or aisle? Maybe you’re most comfortable in the bulkhead or even an exit row? Other passengers go for the area least affected by turbulence, over the wing.

Passengers put a lot of thought into selecting just the right seat, and everyone has their own opinion as to which is best, and why.

But not everyone gets the seat they want, at least not always. And when they don't, they often turn to fellow passengers to swap.


Related: Passenger Etiquette: The Basic Rules of the Armrest


How to Say No When Asked to Swap Seats on an Airplane

It’s hard for most to say no to someone who just wants to sit beside a loved one. Typically, people are willing to oblige, even if it means swapping out their preferred aisle seat for a window, or vice versa.

But what if you’re asked to swap seats and you don’t want to?

It doesn’t matter if you paid extra or opted for the most appealing freebie seat on the map, the seat assignment printed on your boarding pass belongs to you and you alone. Unless otherwise instructed by a member of the flight crew, you aren’t required to give up your seat or swap with anyone else.

If a fellow passenger does ask you to trade seats, the decision is entirely up to you.

It may seem impolite to deny a parent’s request to sit next to their child, but others would counter that it’s rude of them to ask in the first place. After all, maybe you paid extra for this particular seat, or, at the very least, chose it after careful research. The seated passenger may have a medical condition that prompted them to choose a seat close to the aisle or the toilet. It’s impossible to know, just as it’s hard to say what prevented the other party from choosing better seats in advance.


Related: Finally! Middle Seats Will Soon Be Larger on Some Airlines


How to Switch Seats on an Airplane

In cases where you do decide to refuse a request to change seats, make an effort to do so in a polite and friendly tone to help soften the blow. You don't owe anyone an explanation, but a little context might help diffuse an uncomfortable situation. Say you wanted this particular seat because it’s by the aisle and you have to get up frequently, or whatever the reason may be.

If you’re receptive to the idea of trading seats, it’s ok to scope out the other seat before you agree. This way you’ll know if it's a dreaded middle seat, or in the last row across from the toilet, or somewhere else most people go out of their way to avoid. Unless, of course, you really don’t care where you sit, so long as you get there.

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Featured image: Matej Kastelic / Shutterstock

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