A TikToker was recently praised for a short video she made about the right way to switch seats on a plane. Since this is a hot topic these days, I’m sharing the video as well as my tips. RELATED: Are You Obligated to Switch Seats on a Plane?

Anna Lyn Cook was traveling with her husband and two kids on a KLM widebody plane. For whatever reason, she couldn’t get three seats together. It appears the middle seat was already taken in the row they were assigned. So Anna smartly chose an aisle and window for her young son and daughter (the plane was configured 3x3x3).

As Anna explained in her video: “When we booked this flight, they wouldn’t let us select our seats for some reason so our family wasn’t sitting together. When we got to the gate to see if they could move us around but they couldn’t. So we’re going to ask the person who is sitting in this seat if they want to switch with me.”

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She then shows the seats she wants and what she’s offering: “This middle seat between Emma and Taylor is the one we’re hoping to switch for. As you can see, it’s pretty tight. This seat is my seat, lots more legroom, much better.”

Turns out Anna’s fourth seat was a middle seat with extra legroom so the guy who was sitting in the middle seat between her kids was more than happy to switch. For one, it was away from kids but more importantly, had more legroom.

Anna captioned her video: “I would never ask anyone to switch seats unless I could offer them a better option. If they didn’t want to, I’d happily accept that. Also, we ALWAYS pay extra to select our seats if we have the option. But sometimes things happen and it doesn’t work out. This guy was so nice and it was a win/win??”

@annalyncookI would never ask anyone to switch seats unless I could offer them a better option. If they didn’t want to, I’d happily except that. Also – we ALWAYS pay extra to select our seats if we have the option. But sometimes things happen and it doesn’t work out. This guy was so nice and it was a win/win??♬ original sound – Anna Lyn Cook

This really is a win/win and an important tip. If you ever want to switch seats with someone, just know that having an aisle seat has the most bargaining power, followed by the window. This shouldn’t have to be said but sadly, it does. You will very rarely, if ever, find someone willing to move from an aisle or window to a middle seat.

It’s not clear why the passenger chose the middle seat in the first place but presumably there were only middle seats left so Anna rightly chose a middle seat in the bulkhead that was closer to the front of the plane and had much more legroom.

RELATED: Should You Recline Your Seat on a Short Flight?

Whatever you do, don’t try to scam people. There’s one known scam where a couple books one seat in the extra legroom section and the other reserves a seat in regular economy to save money. They then either hope the seat next to the premium seat doesn’t get filled (fat chance) so the person in regular economy will sneak up or they have the audacity to ask the premium person’s seatmate to switch seats so they can sit next to their partner. This scam should be a big fat no-no but some travelers take the bait and switch, either because they’re too kind or they just don’t know any better. If you have a premium seat and someone asks you to do this, say, “No, but you should ask your partner to switch with your seatmate in coach, I’m sure they’ll be happy to switch.”

Fortunately, American Airlines (AA) is cracking down on the first part of the scam. Per aviation insider, @xJonNYC and travel blogger Gary Leff, who posted an internal AA memo that warns flight attendants:

“It’s not unusual for Main Cabin (MC) customers to ask to change seats after they’ve boarded the aircraft – to sit next to a family member or get out of a middle seat, for instance. However, customers may not be familiar with our seat change policy, particularly when it comes to Main Cabin Extra (MCE) seats. While you may allow a customer to move to an available Main Cabin seat after boarding is complete, they’re not permitted to move into an MCE seat unless they are booked in that class. So, if a customer asks to move to a seat in a different seat classification (i.e., MC to MCE, MCE to First, etc.) politely decline their request unless there is a customer service or regulatory conflict present. If a customer asks to change seats before the boarding door closes, work with the gate agent to accommodate the request. As always, please remain on the aircraft to avoid a minimum crew violation while assisting the customer.”

It’s good to see American Airlines putting the kibosh on this but if you ever need to get seats together, here’s the right way to do it:

1. Assign right away
Assign seats together right away. Even if it means paying extra.

2. Monitor seats
Monitor your reservations to make sure the seat assignments don’t change since airlines sometimes switch aircraft, which in turn messes up the seating. The earlier you catch it, the better. In fact, I assign myself seat alerts for the seats I reserved so I know right away if I’ve been moved. I use ExpertFlyer for this. Here’s how to do it.

3. Call for help
If you still can’t get seats together, call the airline and ask the representative to help.

4. Ask at check-in
If the reservation agent can’t help ,ask the check-in agent at the airport to help switch you.

5. Ask the gate agent
If the check-in agent can’t help, ask the gate agent to help. Tip: Be extra kind to the gate agent (another reason why I bring them chocolates) and explain your situation.

6. Ask the flight attendant
If the gate agent can’t help, then kindly ask the flight attendant to help with keeping your family together (another reason why I bring them chocolates, too).

7. Have bargaining power
If the flight attendant can’t help, then make sure you have some bargaining power to entice someone to switch, like Anna did. By this, I mean a better seat (aisle or window) or one with either more legroom or closer to the front of the aircraft.

8. Bring cash
If you can’t get a better seat to offer, ask if they will switch for cold hard cash. That’s right. Offer cash. Cam Newton, the former star quarterback for the Carolina Panthers famously tried to pay someone $1,500 cash to move to a seat with more legroom but got denied. But at least he tried with cash.

9. Be okay with sitting apart
Unless you’re traveling with a small child, then it’s really no big deal to be separated for a flight. There have been many times I’ve flown without being next to my wife (or ex-girlfriends). I’ve met great people along the way because of that mentality and there have been numerous times I’ve sat next to people who didn’t even want to sit next to their significant other. In fact, I just wrote about a brother and sister who didn’t want to sit next to each other on a flight but it was because they were both obese and didn’t want to rub next to each other so they let someone else sit in between them. Read that story here.

10. Take a different flight
If you have little kids, I wouldn’t ever let them sit next to strangers. I would rather take a later flight if everything above failed. I would check flight loads and see if there’s either an earlier or later flight available and then ask the agent to switch you (agents at airports have more power than ones over the phone).

I hope this helps and please let me know in the comments if you’ve had experience with this on either end of the situation. And while you’re here, here are 7 hacks for getting the best coach seat on a plane.

This post was updated on January 25, 2024. It was originally published in November, 2022.


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