Are You Ever Morally Obliged To Switch Seats On A Plane?

As what point does looking out for your own interests become "asshole" behaviour?

Are You Ever Morally Obliged To Switch Seats On A Plane?

Image Credit: Getty Images

At what point does looking out for your own interests on a long haul flight go from “expected” to “selfish”?

One brave woman just fired up this exact debate, asking Reddit’s “Am I the asshole?” (AITA) community whether her behaviour on a recent 10-hour flight qualifies her as an “asshole.”

The Reddit user (u/tresspassingchickens) says she refused to switch seats with a mother, who was travelling with a toddler, twice, on a 10-hour flight from the US to Europe.

Why? She claims she is 6’5,” with “damaged knees from soccer” and so considers “legroom and the ability to get up and walk frequently…a must.”

She explained on Reddit: “I booked an aisle seat in economy plus for the above reasons. Normally I try to get bulkhead seats or business class if reasonable but this was a last minute flight for a death in the family. The other two passengers in our row of 3 were a woman and her toddler.”

“The toddler was screaming bloody murder in the waiting area and continued to once seated in the middle seat, leaning away from mom and against me while doing so.”


“I have very sensitive hearing due to ruptured eardrums, so I put in noise canceling earphones but those can only do so much when the source of the sound is less than a foot away.”

“A flight attendant took notice and asked me for my drink order prior to takeoff, which I guess shows how visibly uncomfortable I was.”

Things then got worse, with the person in front reclining their seat (which hurt the woman’s knees). The woman then went for a walk and then when she came back the mother asked if she would mind switching to the window seat.

The woman refused, and explained she didn’t want to have to be climbing over them all flight (and waking them up, as it was a long flight) to get up to walk.

The woman then claims that on her next walk, the flight attendant said there was a space in business class and asked if she’d like to move up.

“We were close enough to my seat that the [mother of the toddler] heard and asked if they could be upgraded instead. The FA just shrugged but I said I’d take it. It was an aisle seat and the middle was empty, so the two of them could have taken it too.”

“I couldn’t refuse the chance to get a bit of sleep. I had a ~3 hour train ride and then tram after landing, I’d need to stay awake after 2 hours on the train and then immediately go to a funeral because it was late morning when I arrived at my mom’s house.”

“While in line for customs the woman was a few people behind me, she called me a prick and kept raising her voice to make comments about me to her son like ‘that mean lady wouldn’t let you have the nice seats.’ I don’t know why it was offered to me first, but AITA?”

Image Credit: Reddit

Reddit swiftly pronounced the woman not “the asshole” and branded the mother, who had the cheek to try to take someone else’s upgrade, the asshole.

“NTA [not the asshole],” one Reddit user wrote. “You were lucky. They wouldn’t upgrade a toddler. The rest of business class would revolt.”

Another said: “The FA didn’t offer them an upgrade, so she had no more right to it than if she had gone and asked some one in Business to trade with her.”

Others chimed in on why she was offered the move. “Flight attendant saw your situation and took pity on you,” one said. “There was no chance they were moving a toddler up there.”

RELATED: Passenger’s Sneaky Act At 40,000ft Leaves Seat Mate Stunned

“Yeah, you needed that seat, they wouldn’t upgrade a toddler, and an entitled parent like that, who isn’t parenting,” another Reddit user added. “My sisters are both right [sic] attendants, and they have often told me about having to upgrade someone who was sat in a bad situation, and pretty much every time the person responsible for the upset demands they be the one to be upgraded.”

The story also sparked discussion around what kind of person overhears someone getting an upgrade and inserts themselves into the conversation (see: the various comments along the lines of: “Who overhears someone getting an upgrade and pipes up requesting they get it instead of the person it was offered to?”).

Others said you are never obligated to switch seats (even though in some situations it might be the nice thing to do).

“You can reserve specific seats well in advance of the flight and I often pick a specific area/seat and often pay extra for it,” one Reddit user said. “You’re not obligated to move seats, especially if it’s for a downgraded seat.”

Read Next