Football Star Cam Newton Offers $1500 for an Extra Legroom Coach Seat, Gets Denied

I’ve come up with my share of Coasian solutions during air travel. I’ve paid a child $5 not to recline his seat so I open my laptop and work during a Cleveland – Los Angeles flight. I paid a teen $10 for a seat at an OTG iPad near my gate during a 4 hour delay. I haven’t ever bought another passenger’s seat, though.

A View from the Wing reader, though, gave up his seat so a family could sit together and then promptly sold the seat to another passenger for $100.

Airlines maintain that seat assignments aren’t guaranteed, so if they move you they don’t have to give you any compensation (other than perhaps refund a fee if you paid extra for the seat). On the other hand seats have value, some seats are better than others, which is why passengers will pay extra. Once you’re seated in a seat you have a usufructuary right to it, and since it’s yours you can effectively sell it to someone else as long as cabin crew don’t object.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton — who was NFL MVP in 2015; 2011 Rookie of the Year; and won the Heisman Trophy, a national championship, and was first pick in the NFL draft all within a year — flew coach back from Paris after Men’s Fashion Week. He’s four years into a $103.8 million five year contract extension, and is 6 feet 5 inches tall.

No doubt upon boarding he looked at the seat, thought about the 9 hours ahead, and felt trapped. He offered a man sitting in a bulk head seat $1500 to switch. The man with the bulkhead seat declined.

$1500 is better than $150 per hour of flight. Sitting in a more cramped seat for 9 hours isn’t pleasant, but it’s a pretty decent way to make $1500. United Airlines learned after David Dao wouldn’t give up his seat that it can be worth $10,000 in travel vouchers to get someone to voluntarily give up their seat.

Cam Newton, credit: Pantherfan11 via Wikimedia Commons

Cam Newton should have considered upping his bid, asking other passengers with extra legroom seats if they’d be takers of the offer, or taking a moment to learn what passengers with better seats subjectively valued — surely someone on board with extra legroom was a Carolina Panthers fan and could’ve been treated to an NFL VIP experience.

(HT: Tocqueville)

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. Poor fellow. While it could have been bad planning , more likely some life complication forced him to want to leave earlier (or later). I would think he isn’t trying to save a buck.

  2. I once had a brush with NFL fame on a plane. It was a very short flight from SEA->PDX and my wife and I were fine sitting apart for one hour. However, without asking, Drew Bledsoe volunteered to move so we could sit together. Pretty nice.

  3. It would have to be a “show me the money” deal…no IOUs. Although, an IOU might actually be worth more if listed on eBay.

  4. I think Cam Newton needs to be appreciated for *Offering* to pay someone to change their seats. He tried to make it worth someone’s time to reimburse them for their better seat, and likely offered cash.

    I can only imagine how other celebrities and politicians would force or threaten the airline to bump someone from their seat so that they could get it instead, and this happens. If Cam went direct to someone and offered cash as a fair reimbursement to trade seats, I respect that.

    It’s too bad that no one took him up on the offer though.

  5. I would have exchanged if for his hat if he signed it and a picture of him, me, and his hat on my iphone. He can keep his money. Cam Newton rocks.

    LOL. I’ll bet his hat cost almost $1,500.

  6. Stupid. I mean “I would have exchanged the seat for his hat……” Too much beer. It is Sunday, and today was a beautiful sunny day in New York.

  7. He probably didn’t ask more people because with social media he would know that it would get blasted over the internet and he might come off poorly. I wouldn’t have given it up for $1,500 either.

  8. I guess I appreciate his frugality, but given his net worth and income, why on earth is this guy not flying business class?

  9. Why is Cam flying commercial? Absent an emergency I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t shell an extra $2-5k for a C/F seat. There are dozens of ways every day to return from Paris to USA. Of course he probably knows nothing about booking travel.

  10. Apparently, Cam’s flight was cancelled (he had FC) and his re-booked flight was full up front.

  11. Why is Cam flying economy? I presume it’s economy since Business and First has good enough space.

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