Last week, I wrote about a content creator on TikTok who gave some of the worst travel advice I’ve ever heard. You can read the full story here but the Cliff’s Notes version is that he advised his followers that if they want an entire row to themselves on an airplane, “to buy an entire row of fully-refundable tickets — and then refund two out of the three tickets 45 minutes before boarding.” RELATED: Hilarious Video: How to Keep the Seat Next to You Empty on Southwest Airlines or On a Bus or Train
According to his logic, the airline won’t have enough time to resell those tickets, and the customer will have a luxurious empty row to themselves. But that’s just not true since most flights are full and have a long list of standbys, including employees who don’t get cleared until 20-30 minutes prior to pushback.
Today, another content creator has divided the internet with a six-second video (embedded below) that simply says: “No one is in my row and someone asked to take my window seat and I politely declined because I don’t owe anyone anything and I deserve to be comfortable for my 15 hour flight as well.”
@mewhiskers123update♬ bug collector cover – BEN SCOTT
It’s a little unclear which seat is her assigned seat, the window or the aisle. Regardless, she has an entire row to herself and she decides to stretch out and take the entire row to lie down. It sounds like a fellow passenger saw that there were empty seats in her row and asked for one. She refused. But does she have the right?
If the window seat was her assigned seat and someone asked for it, she absolutely has the right to refuse to switch. But if someone was asking to move to the aisle seat in her empty row, that’s a different story.
I can understand those in the comments section of the video with rage about people asking for the seat that’s been assigned to someone else and I’ve covered swapping seats in other posts, including this one: Stop Falling For the Seat-Switching Scam Economy Passengers Are Pulling.
I see both sides of this scenario and I’ve been fortunate to have had the good luck of getting a whole row to myself many times before. But that was before or during the pandemic. As noted above, these days it’s very difficult to find a plane that’s not completely full.
So here’s my advice for both sides of the argument:
When I travel, I always look at the aircraft’s seat map and pick my favorite seat. If the exit row or bulkhead aisle isn’t available, I set a seat alert (here’s how to set a seat alert) so if it opens up, I get alerted right away and can then secure it. I even set a seat alert when I get the best seat on the plane because I want to know if I was moved, for whatever reason, like the plane equipment being swapped for a different type or aircraft. If that’s the case, I want to quickly grab the best seat I can on that aircraft.
If I really want extra room (who doesn’t?) and the airfare isn’t expensive, I will buy the seat next to me like I did a couple months ago on my Los Angeles to Maui flight.
If the flight is wide open (which would be an anomaly), I will look at the seat map just before boarding and then ask the gate agent if the flight really is going to go out with empty seats and if it’s possible to block the ones in my aisle. If you’re nice to the gate agent, they’re usually happy to help. That’s another reason I always bring them chocolates or gift cards.
If the flight is wide open, then I will board last and instead of sitting in the aisle or window, I would sit in the middle (if it’s configured 3×3). This way, the only people who will see you have an empty row are the ones around you and probably won’t have the gall to ask if you’re sitting in the middle.
On the flip side, if I’m in a full row of people and I see there’s a row with just one person near me, I will ask the flight attendant if I can grab either the window or aisle so we can all be more comfortable by having an empty middle seat. It’s a big no-no just to jump up and grab an empty seat, especially if it’s one with extra legroom. But the passenger who’s in the empty row is not entitled to the other remaining seats that they did not pay for.
As one person (Georgia Gkouzou) in the comments section pointed out: “u don’t own them your seat especially if paid for it. but the other two seats are free for the taking as long as the crew is ok with it.”
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