First Class Alone: When Love Means Letting Your Partner Fly Coach

Some husbands fly first class while leaving their spouse in coach while others leave the spouse to take care of their kids.

At the same time, many couples are adamant about sitting together during flights. The inability to do so can trigger intense reactions and stress. This often stems from one partner feeling neglected or undervalued if they’re separated, interpreting it as a negative reflection on the relationship. The other partner, in turn, may feel pressured to express similar frustration over this enforced separation.

Consider the scenario of deliberately choosing to sit apart on a near-empty flight, sitting across the aisle from each other. As highlighted in this viral video, this choice can be fraught with relationship danger:

Here’s the truth. It’s ok to be separated. It does not carry huge meaning.

  • If one passenger gets upgraded, you do not turn down a seat with more room. You do not wish suffering on your partner. What kind of person would that make you? You’re supposed to want better things for them.

  • Spreading out on the couch at home doesn’t mean you do not love each other. There’s nothing wrong with spreading out on a plane, where space is even more at a premium.

When an air marshal separated me from my wife on the flight home from our honeymoon I was not pleased. And other passengers, mostly part of a high-level politician’s entourage, were uninterested in switching. You’re traditionally together during your honeymoon. But this advice even applies there.

In fact you should not even choose to assign seats next to each other in the same row, even if you want to sit together.

Your goal on a plane should be comfort, which means space. And anyone secure in their relationship should want space for their partner, not debasement. When one partner spots the opportunity for greater comfort, they should be supported and not scorned.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. He needs the armrest in order to rest his right hand — it’s going to be getting a lot of action for a while….

  2. I agree with the aisle and window idea in theory, but in practice it would annoy my wife to have to negotiate when the person with seat B shows up and we ask them if they want the window. Most likely they would, but just adds confusion and takes time away from everyone else waiting to board behind them. We usually just do aisle and middle or two aisles if there is not an aisle and middle available.

  3. My husband is 6’4″ and gets extra leg room/bulkhead/exit row whenever possible. If he can’t, a flight is torture for him. If he gets upgraded or even gets moved to a seat with more leg room, I am happy for him. I’m 5’2″Regular seats are OK for me.I do strongly prefer aisle so wherever we get seats, we do two aisle seats.

    If your marriage is so fragile that you can’t be apart for a few hours, your problem is something that has nothing to do with flying generally or for an anniversary trip.In fact, most happy couples i know (including us) do better if we have a little bit of time apart.

  4. When my wife and I fly, unless we’re in Comfort Plus on Delta, we’ll usually sit in aisle seats across from each other. That way we both have an empty side looking towards the cockpit…I’m right handed and sit on the left side aisle, and my wife is left-handed and sits on the right side aisle.

  5. My family and I non-rev (standby) fly a lot. (Wife works for an airline so we fly free.) Very often, we seat in separate areas of the plane depending on the seats. She is 5’4″ and petite but I am 6’6″ 325lbs. Space is more than a convenience thing when you are my size, it is extremely uncomfortable for me to ride in a middle seat on a long haul and it is even worse for the poor souls forced to sit next to me. I have literally skipped entire flights due to the seat that was assigned to me. Don’t get me wrong, PHX-LAX (1hr) is no big and I can survive and don’t complain about my seat, but PHX-LHR (12hrs) not a chance I am riding middle. Two days ago we flew from EWR to PHX and specifically picked a flight with 80+ open seats, wife sat with my daughter in a row and I sat in an empty row right across from them, perfect for everyone. I can hold my wife’s hand 24/7 whenever we like, neither of us are gonna die if we spend 6 hours apart on the plane.

    Second note, if their anniversary and “marriage” was so important to her, why is he the only one wearing a wedding ring?

  6. For domestic, when traveling together, just bite the bullet and get first class seats with cash or points. Avoids all potential dramas and existential questions for a few hundred bucks.

  7. I generally fly paid domestic F. And my view is that the whole family should be in the same class and I’m happy to pay for it. But I have a family member who feels guilty about flying in F, and once asked that she not fly in F. So I booked myself in F, and her in next to last row economy. She didn’t complain, since she’d asked for it, but she has not asked for it since.

  8. I normally buy aisle and window when traveling with my wife and if the middle seat shows up we offer the window and I sit in the middle. That is not because we can not be apart for a few hours but having someone to talk to makes the time go faster.
    On the other hand if I get upgraded and she does not, I always have her sit up front. There is no reason that would cause me to do it the other way round.

  9. Good one Gary. My wife likes windows, so I take middle and don’t mind because I have two seats worth of legroom.

    As newlyweds we would walk onto planes smiling and holding hands and guilt people into letting us sit next to each other

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