Man Upgrades Himself On 12 Hour Flight While Leaving Wife In Coach, Internet Brands Him Scum

Several years ago I wrote about husbands who fly business class while their wives fly coach. The Washington Post‘s relationship columnist has covered the issue, telling a woman whose boyfriend flies up front while he pays for her to fly coach that she should dump him: “His wife sat alone in coach: His epitaph writes itself.”

When only one premium cabin seat is available do you,

  • Decide that sitting together is more important, even if it’s less comfortable in back?

  • Offer it up to your less frequent flying partner?

  • Gladly take it yourself, you earned it?

And for the person left in back that’s resentful, what do they think of their partner that they’d wish for them to sit in coach? Maybe they should ask a flight attendant’s permission to split time in the seat?

A man posted to Reddit and literally got branded an ‘a-hole’ on the site (with flair!) after sharing that he upgraded himself on a 12 hour flight while leaving his wife in economy, and expressed surprised that she was upset by this.

The 25 year old US expat living in Japan said his 24 year old wife was traveling with him to the U.S. for a month and they’d booked seats together. He spent miles for his own upgrade. He asked if he was being a jerk and the internet said yes.

I told her that and she got upset because she thinks I chose business class over her and that’s rude apparently. I said to her that she’s just jealous (in a teasing joking way) and she got upset and told me to ask the airline to see if I can switch my seat back to economy.

I said hell no because I’m not going to miss my opportunity to sit in business class (which looks amazing btw, look up ANA the room). In my eyes, it’s just a 12 hour flight and it doesn’t matter if I sit next to my wife or not.

He defends himself saying these were his miles and also that he couldn’t upgrade her with him (presumably that only one upgrade seat was available).

Sometimes couples just don’t like each other that much and being in separate cabins is a great way to stay together. Slate‘s “Dear Prudence” column staked out a totally different position than past advice columns on what to do when only one person gets the upgrade.

  • Husband and wife are both elites
  • There’s often only one upgrade seat available, it goes to the husband and he takes it
  • The wife doesn’t want the upgrade – she wants them to both sit together regardless of cabin

Prudie’s advice: when upgrades are offered, you take them. And if only one upgrade is available, it goes to the person that was upgraded.

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. @ Gary — If there is only one upgrade, I agree you should always still take it. However, simply having it go to the person who was upgraded isn’t necessarily fair, as that may always be the same person. We used to have a rule that split our upgrades evenly. Now, we just don’t buy the ticket at all, unless we are both confirmed into J/F immediately. Coach is so…ick.

  2. My spouse and I were offered a minimal paid upgrade to business via a text message for a flight from Dublin to Charlotte. We each pushed accept on our phone at the same time. For some reason he was the only 1 to get it. The reason they didn’t have enough seats for both of us. Anyway I went to my economy seat. A FA came to me to say there is actually a seat in business class. I was guided to my spouse’s biz seat
    (unknown to me) & he snuck to my economy seat. So generous, sweet, and sly.

    Upon arrival he said there’s no way I would have been comfortable seated next to the man, who was spilling over into his seat.

    Either remain seated together in the same cabin or give up the upgraded cabin seat.

  3. I have always given my upgrades my wife. We’ve been married 30+ years. Let’s see if he makes it that long.

  4. I have actually done this before but it was with my wife’s consent. I’m an Executive Platinum with American Airlines and I had 8 System-wide Upgrades in my account and it’s been literally impossible to use them. I’ve tried all throughout COVID and they have NEVER cleared except on my last trip to Paris I was on the list for me and my wife. Only one cleared.

    I have a bad back and my wife told me to go ahead and take it. I did offer it to her but she said to go ahead and take it. Fortunately she let me as it’s difficult to make it on a long haul flight in coach.

    I would never plan on upgrading myself but in the situation where only one clears, I think it makes sense for one of the people to take it.

  5. Upgrades always go to my wife (although to be fair, we don’t take 12 hour flights unless there is award space for both of us in business-class). In the unlikely event that only one seat was available and we had to take that flight, I would tell her to take it, go to sleep, and switch with me whenever she got up so I could sleep the remaining hours. Mariage 101 is always put your wife first.

  6. My husband used to fly a lot for wortk, and he was always in J/F (paid by his company).He was ‘allowed’ to take me on his trips, ie, hotel stay, but I had to cover my own travel costs. Sometimes we didn’t have enough miles for me to join him in J/F, or there weren’t seats. We reached a mutual agreement that I would travel in coach and either get the very best coach seat or upgrade to Premium Economy. I didn’t have a problem with this at all, because wherever we arrived I knew I had the luxury of sleeping in and acclimating to the time zone–many times, Asia–whereas he had to be at his best shortly after arrival.

  7. “He asked if he was being a jerk and the internet said yes”. I am surprised that the internet needed to respond to this stupid, selfish jerk.

    You did something and you didn’t even know if your action was okay or not that you needed to ask the internet. Either you are the dumbest person in the planet or you just wake up from the coma. So dumb!

  8. Men are generally taller than women so it does makes perfect sense from a size perpective. Unfortunately, life is not so simple.

  9. What if there was only 1 life jacket on a sinking boat in rough water? Should life expectancy and earning potential enter into the decision?

  10. So dumb to act like there only one answer for every couple.

    I had been a “Person of size” for many years. My wife is 5’2” and slender.

    No longer a person of size, but we don’t pass up upgrades from Y to J (different story from J to F).

    The issue was assuming it was fine rather than discussing up front.

  11. Agree totally with @Thing1 and @Doug. When my wife and I flew for business, she always got my upgrade. Happy wife=Happy life.

    Now, we don’t fly nearly as much. We pay for our upgrades. Life is too short for the b.s. and angst.

  12. @RetiredLaywer. Yeah, I never understood these types of stories. I always took pride in my wife sitting in Business or First, and she always made a point of letting people know I gave her my upgrade. I seriously got pleasure out of giving it to her.

  13. Is chivalry dead?

    Oh, I’m sorry, he’s a millennial and . . . as he notes . . . those were HIS points, not HER points. Even in marriage, he can’t get past MINE to OURS . . . so, of course he can’t understand.

    I’d be curious to know whether there was a second upgrade seat available and he consciously said that he was not going to upgrade her as well with 25,000 of HIS points.

  14. If you have a serious question, always ask the internet.

    Not to be a curmudgeon here, but women want (and deserve) equality. So quit complaining and take the good with the bad.

  15. I’m shocked!

    Where are the usual commenters that would find a way to blame all of this on Biden? 🙂

  16. This has been a bit of a point of contention between my wife and I in the past. I’m huge and won’t fit in economy seats, so I book business/first with points, always. And since I’m not a jerk, I ALWAYS book my wife a seat next to me. Since points are not an unlimited commodity, she has occasionally discussed with me the option to ride in the back since that seat is considerably cheaper, but I pretty much told her that there’s no way in hell I will ever ride up front alone and either we both ride in the same cabin or we don’t go. In theory we could take more trips if we were to do that, and it WAS her idea, but from where I’m sitting, that falls into the category of choices that I would live to regret, especially the first time we had a flight that had issues.

    However, when we take the kids with us (adult kids and their children), I totally put them in economy. I love them too, but there are limits to my generosity.

  17. If there was only one upgrade and chance to experience ANA’s new business class, I’d flip for it. That’s fair. Passing up the chance to try that new seat would be silly.

    @ Thing 1, “I seriously got pleasure out of giving it to her.” I hope you satisfied her needs as well.

  18. I’m also an expat living in Japan.
    If I pulled something like that with my wife I think she would immediately de-board the flight, head to our ward office and divorce me.

  19. This guy is terminally stupid. There are about 11 ways to handle this biz/coach seat situation and he couldn’t even be bothered to think about his wife for a minute. Perhaps he’ll see the light and BUY HER a biz seat for the return flight. It would serve him right to shell out $4K… and it might allow her to consider staying married to this dope.

  20. I’m 6’3 and my wife is barely 5′. The most important thing in our relationship is that we communicate and love each other…if you or your partner will threaten rage or divorce over something rather trivial like who gets the upgrade seat, there are bigger problems to resolve. My wife usually gives me the bigger seat and she gets a giant bag of snacks and whatever she wants on the plane and at the lounge. Everyone’s happy. Like another commenter said, this guy’s biggest problem is that he assumed and didn’t discuss with his wife before he moved up front himself. He’s a young guy, he’ll hopefully learn from this.

  21. My wife has status. We’ve flown together where she got upgraded and I didn’t. Of course she takes the seat. Do people consider her an ass hole or is this a matter of gender stereotypes?

  22. Not only does my wife get my upgrades, but my kids get the upgrades even if I have to sit in coach. I travel quite a bit on business and have had the opportunity to fly international C and F countless times. I enjoy every time I’m in a premium class of service, but it’s not as special for me as it is for the rest of my family. Once I sat in coach while the rest of my family were in transatlantic F (we couldn’t get business for everyone, and I only had enough miles for them). My kids still talk about that trip. For me, it would have blended in the countless other London trips I’ve taken.

    I’ve *only* been married for 22 years, but I want to spend the rest of my life married to my wife. Letting her have my upgrades is a small down payment on the the rest of our years.

  23. As I write this from the EY J lounge in AUH, wife and 14 yo daughter are in the F Lounge. I’ll bank the WifePoints and cash out on my next solo trip. I also get 15 hrs of peace and quiet.

  24. Several years ago my wife was given an upgrade on a 9 hour flight and gave it to me. I’m 10 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier. In order show my appreciation, just before taking off I went back and gave her a free copy of USA Today. I told her to absolutely read it, no excuses, however tucked inside was a Brad new Hermes silk scarf in her favorite color palette. Being an extensive business traveler myself, I wanted her generosity acknowledged and she was delighted. We’re celebrating our 50th anniversary this year, on the Queen Mary 2 on a trans-Atlantic crossing this summer

  25. Let’s move beyond the gender stereotypes for a moment — “chivalry” generally assumes certain gender roles that just don’t apply in today’s world. If it were the wife who took the upgrade without considering her husband, she would be the a-hole. The point is to think about each other and talk about it. A marriage only really works if it’s a partnership, where each spouse always considers the feelings of the other. Taking an upgrade without even thinking/asking your wife/husband is just dumb. I’m quite a bit taller, so I bet I’d be told to take it, but the point is that we’d talk first.

  26. Everyone assumes this actually happened. I mean, it’s on the internet so it must be true. Look how many people read and or commented on the original post. I doubt the poster cares one way or the other. For what it’s worth, my wife and I rarely get to fly forward of the premium economy cabin so, either would be more than happy for the other to experience business class.

  27. No. He’s an ass…

    If I’m offered an upgrade because of status and my wife isn’t, on a short haul flight. I offer it to her — especially if one of us has a middle seat. It’s up to her to take the upgrade or not.

    On a long-haul, if there’s only one, I pass so we can stay together.

  28. I was amused that one of his arguments for this action being OK was “it’s just a 12 hr flight”.
    JUST a 12 hr flight?. In that case, sit in back, give her a present.
    Personally, if only a single upgrade is offered, my wife gets the choice.

  29. If I was his wife I would have handed him my ticket and left the airport! Then I’d have found a very good attorney, and while he was gone I would have left him with a seat in his new home to sit on and divorce papers attached at the door for him to sign. If he did this he probably disses her in other ways. Before COVID we flew a lot sometimes one of us has had miles for an upgrade. If we don’t have enough for both, we both pass…or spend the extra bucks for the other one. Heck with COVID we have given tickets to relatives and always got them Economy Comfort seats. Not 1st class but they appreciate us spending extra miles for their comfort!

  30. My wife and I do this all the time! Whoever gets the UPG if it only one of us gets to enjoy the UPG. We both have high status on AA and are not always on the same fare bucket so one of us will get prioritized over the other. Never any hard feelings

  31. When I was 1K with UA, my wife didn’t have status and only a couple of times she wasn’t upgraded (actually only one comes to my mind, HND to SFO, or was it LAX can’t remember) and I offered her to split time and her choice of first half or last half. She insisted that it wasn’t necessary but I forced back.

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