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Airplane seats: seat selection, premium seats, changing seats

A simple brainstorming question: how much do you often change seats in an airplane? For the sake of simplicity, I'm considering only transatlantic and long-ish flights for which seats are assigned first place, not a Ryanair flight... Do you consider paying extra for these "extra-legroom" seats, "seat in a row of 2" seats, "seat in an emergency row" option etc? And what about changing seats? Do you have much experience about either end (asking or being asked)? Do you think the latter (changing seats) has been influenced by the former (more and more 'premium' seat)?

Posted by
2829 posts

Being age 30, male, and more often travelling alone than not, I find myself quite on the wrong end of the "do u mind changing seats?" scene. It was worse when I was 23-25 though. I myself take long shots to reserve myself a good seat. Usually in an aisle seat. Sometimes I pay for extra legroom seat (I'm just 5'11", but I have large shoulders) Generally, I'd not mind if someone asked me to change seats to a similar one (aisle for aisle, window for window, premium seat-aisle for permium seat-aisle). I don't carry tons of carry-on, so that is relatively easy within reason (no last-rows, near bathroom, non-reclining seats please). However, most of the time people are asking me to take a middle seat and that is a non-starter, except in extremely rare circumstances (child with special needs, very old and frail passenger - which I never faced btw). Couples or teenage children wanting to be together don't qualify for my empathy in going for a middle seat. I'm a very calm person but twice I was quite bothered by flight attendants trying to ask me if I would mind changing premium seats for regular ones to give space for a "big passenger". Then I understood they don't have a way to knowing if you paid extra for the special seat of just got lucky, so the 3rd and 4th time I just spelled "sorry, I've paid extra to get this seat" - which was true. At least for me, the worst scenario is the family-of-5-arriving-at-the-last-moment-and-wanting- to-take-a-row-for-them, especially in cases like missed connections.

Posted by
864 posts

I'll change seats for a like seat (exit row or aisle say). I do pay for a premium seat which saves me lots of grief with a bum knee. Like many situations in life it's better to say no upfront, promptly and politely. No I can't bake cookies for the 3rd grade outing, no I can't come to your third wedding etc. I will say "no, I can't change seats I have a bad knee" I mean don't be a jerk. Poor planning on another passenger's part isn't my responsibility. That said, I have changed seats with clearly uncomfortable guys in business suits seated next to two unaccompanied young children, clearly clueless seniors and once with a blind guy. Course it helps that my carry on fits under the seat in front of me.

Posted by
45 posts

As a poor college student, I never pay extra for premium or extra leg-room seats. I always check seatguru to make sure I don't get a seat that doesn't recline, or whatever. I try to always get an aisle seat because I like to get up and walk around. Like the others mentioned, if someone asks me to change seats and it's for a good reason (small children, elderly, etc.) I usually will if it's for a window or aisle. I've never been asked to take a middle seat. When flights are not full, I usually move around immediately in order to score at least 2 seats that are next to each other so I can have a little more space, but I only do so once we are in the air and the seatbelt light has been turned off. I'm not one of those that hold up the boarding because I'm hunting down a better seat and have to keep moving.

Posted by
472 posts

Not exactly changing seats, but once when my son and I were flying to Amsterdam, we were very pleased to have an empty seat next to us. Almost immediately, the flight attendant came and asked if we would mind letting a man who was seated next to a screaming child sit with us. We said yes and enjoyed talking with him but I'm sure that my 6'4" son would have liked room to spread out on an overnight flight. Extra legroom seats are starting to look better to me all the time, especially on the way over.

Posted by
2788 posts

I fly between Seattle and Hawaii often on Hawaiian Airlines and pay an extra $25 for an emergency exit row seat on the isle (the one next to the door is much colder). I am 6'3' so really enjoy the extra leg room on a 5 1/2 hour flight. We go to Europe every summer (flying coach for budgeting purposes) but last summer we had the change to upgrade to "Economy Extra"(or something like that) for $250/each. We jumped at it as it had extra leg room for a 9 hour flight and we ended up the 2 of us in a row for 4. That was on KLM and after take-off I see why they were try to sell them as the section was only half full.

Posted by
11507 posts

I sometimes do pay for extra legroom ,or a row of two instead of three. I have been asked my a couple, clearly young and healthy, if I could trade my aisle seat for their middle seat,, so they could be together, I said no. I rather think it was rude. Sorry, your short sightness isn't my problem, I book months in advance, I am no millionairess, and I am not giving up a good seat for a bad seat.
In case of a child or sick person I would have to see how that goes, its never happened.I personally think people with very young kids( under say 10) should not be sold seats that are seperated with the idea they can beg other passengers to change. i do think young kids need to be with their grownup.

Posted by
5678 posts

I too have paid for a seat with more room. I love flying American as I get an early chance at the exit rows there. I have changed seats when a child is involved. It is often not the parent's fault that they are separated. I've heard the horror stories of parents who are stuck with seats apart from their children. Children under age 12 should be with their parents in the same row or immediately ahead or behind them. Children under age 8 should be right next to their parents or guardian. Any child under age 8 who is not next to their parents should immediately start crying asking for said parent until someone changes seats. And nope, I don't have any kids. But children that young need to travel next to their parent or guardian. Airlines need to figure out how to make this happen. It should not be dependent upon the goodwill of fellow passengers. But until they do, I'm afraid that the children need to make a fuss and a noisy fuss. Oh, maybe a messy fuss too. ; ) Passenger's disrupted need to tell the airlines to get a better policy. Whatever happened to the passenger's bill of rights? Pam

Posted by
5685 posts

I only recall being asked to change seats once recently. It was on a United flight to London and I was called to the podium in the gate area and the gate agent asked if I would mind changing to a different aisle seat so she could put a family together. I had no trouble obliging and I was glad that the gate agent was working through the problem rather than leaving the family to fend for themselves on the plane. She had shuffled several passengers to work this out. On some other flights, I've heard people asking the gate agent if they could find them seats together and the agent telling them they couldn't do anything and they would have to ask their fellow passengers. When it is a couple, I don't have much sympathy but when a family with young children is involved, I think the airline should try to help them out.

Posted by
11507 posts

Thing is, if you pay extra for a better seat, and air staff ask you to change, do you get your money back ( the difference between the better seat and the middle one you are asked to change for).

Posted by
2765 posts

I fail to understand why a parent would even book a flight that they can't reserve the seats with their children... if it's that important then the PARENT needs to step up, not assume "the airline and other passengers care about my kids" Because they don't... Periodically I see posts on travel boards going "Airline Y wants $10/$20 etc... for my familyl to book our seats, I am just going to risk it and assume folks will move for me" Why? They paid the money for the seat they wanted, but you thought that "my child makes me exempt"???? In this day and age of paying for seat ion, do not assume folks will "move" for you. Look at the seat map BEFORE you book and make sure you can seats together. Accept the seat fee as part of the cost of travel and add it into your pricing when ing a flight. (And threats of "my child will cry, my child will be sick" tend to make some of respond with "so" You get much farther being nice then acting out LOL!)

Posted by
12172 posts

For me it's a question of how much for what? Would I like a premium seat? Probably. Will I pay for it? Probably something, but not a lot. On transatlantic flights I prefer a window seat, for a place to lean on my inflatable pillow. My wife prefers an aisle seat, so she can get up easily to use the toilet. As a couple, we don't usually get asked to change seats. As a family, we usually work with the seats we're assigned (maybe dad with one kid, mom with two or vice versa) rather than asking someone else to change seats. I'm not shy about talking to people, but I'm also not forward about asking others to give something up for my benefit. Sometimes I've offered to change if I thought it would help others and really make no difference to me.

Posted by
1368 posts

I don't recall being asked to change my seat (at least recently). BUT, I was considering changing my seat after boarding and the seat belt light was turned off - to move closer to the front. I realized that my connection time was short and wanted to be closer to the front for earlier deplaning. I'll think about that next time I book the flight and make my seat selection. Linda

Posted by
1 posts

Many airlines allow you to you seat when you buy your ticket. That works mostly, but be careful. A plane change can cause you to lose the seat you wanted. Keep checking your reservations online to ensure your seat has not been moved. I always get an aisle seat. "Economy Plus" seems to be a fact now. That means that you get an economy seat with 3-5 inches more leg room and can tilt back further in your seat. Prices for this vary, but are bound to increase over time. I paid $90 for this kind of seat each way when I flew from DC to Beijing in 2009. I am flying to Tanzania in July and would like "economy plus" seating for me and my wife. It looks like KLM will change use for each leg of the flight. We may have to pay $400 each for the round-trip to/from Africa. Keep this in mind: even if you pay for the upgrade you can be bumped back to economy class. Refunds I understand are a pain. Air France has "economy plus" and special seats that simply cost your more. We thought we had "economy plus" with AF last fall ($80 per flight). We had seats "with more leg room." That was a joke. Flight attendants frequently stood in "my space" during the flight. The tv had to fold into your armrest, so the seat was smaller. The good new? We got served quicker and had unlimited wine. Another note: AF's "economy plus" appears to be much more expensive that the other airlines I have considered, especially with the new Airbus 380. Bottom line: I will probably pay the price for the upgrade and will be happy if it works out. SEATGURU.COM will warn you of seats that have boxes where you will want to place your feet. Those boxes reduced foot and storage space by 40% at least.

Posted by
3049 posts

I've never been asked to change seats, strangely enough. I haven't flown that much in the past decade, though. Coming back from New York to SF in 2005 I was with my brother, who is a really big guy (height and width he's 6'4 and built like a linebacker). He took the window and the guy assigned to the aisle was a VERY large dude as well. Some kind flight attendant saw me squished between the two of them, literally both their shoulders were on my seat touching mine, and took pity on me, and asked the stranger if he'd be willing to move to another seat. I felt bad for the two other people who got stuck with them in their row, but I was eternally grateful to have breathing room for that 6 hour flight.

Posted by
362 posts

I just booked United which has row of two seats in economy and choose seats upon purchase vs KLM & risk having a space hogger middle seater or having to pay extra for row of 2.
I have never been asked to move, but would take a move up to business or 1st class. I try to get to Europe at least once a year. Booked once on Air France & unable to select seats until 48 hours before departure. They route share with KLM and ended up in a middle seat. Booking on KLM, seat selection is. 90 days before departure.

Posted by
2127 posts

For economy plus type seats, I would pay the $80-$100 for the over-the-pond leg of the journey. I comb plane layouts to find larger planes that also offer the two seats by themselves on the side, so as to avoid some poor soul stuck in the middle of us. When two side seats are not available, we the window and aisle on three side seats, and usually someone is assigned to the middle seat later. If there are no other better seats that the middle person spots after being in the air (and if there is one, they will usually spot it), I offer to change seats with them, giving them the aisle, if they would like........and they jump at it (for more comfort and to avoid being stuck between two people who will be talking to one another...LOL. But, I would not ask someone else to change seats with me which would result in their getting a less-desirable seat. When paying for the upgrade, I would not change (unless instructed by a flight attendant) to a non-premium seat (and even then I would want written assurance of a refund and would press kindly for that). On our last trip home from Italy, after chatting pleasantly with the flight attendant, she pointed out to me that much of the last 1/4 of the plane was rather empty (odd in today's world), so I could stretch out on 3-5 seats to nap...........niceeeee!!!! My seat in the front was still there for me after nappy time :) And, yes, game over if you miss a connection due to weather/mechanical and are being re-routed......just lucky to get a flight home, much less a great seat. That's often when families with kids need fellow passenger kindness. But, if approached directly by the family, I would ask the flight attendant for assistance for them, so he/she could work it out. If I had to move, I would want reimbursement for my upgrade cost (often a long battle) and would not want to go to a middle seat.

Posted by
80 posts

We fly international with points, so we only pay the tax on the tickets. We go with the cheap seat to save points for the next trip. On our last trip from the US to Germany we were asked to move for a family, having been there – done that we gave up our seats. All these seat changes were made prior to boarding and we were called up to the counter. We were called up a second time (on the same flight) and agreed to give up our seats as long as we did not lose leg room. At 6'4" I would prefer an exit row but will not like to be in a row that does not recline. She made that commit that we will have plenty of leg room. Upon entering the plane we found that we were moved to business class, sweet deal! I guess what comes around goes around, you never know what you may end up with. But should they ask me again, they can have my seat.

Posted by
2765 posts

I got on a plane once from Paris to Atlanta. I had an exit row seat and when I got to it "mr jerk" was in my seat. He didn't ASK me to move, he announced he was NOT moving. I just took my problem to a Flight Attendant. Mr jerk proceeded to tell her just how much money he spent on the airline, how important he was etc.... I moved out of the way while he acted out... Flight Attendant runs off for "assistance". She comes back with a smile, hands me a new seat assignment and just smiles. UPGRADE. I was in business. I could tell she wanted this kept quite so I didn't thank mr jerk, but I wanted too.