Passenger Loses His Cool When He’s Unable To Sit Next To His Wife On The Plane ‘It’s Her Birthday!’

A Melbourne-based couple traveling on Virgin Australia couldn’t get seats next to each other in business class when they booked. Virgin’s Boeing 737 premium cabin has just two rows up front.

So they took a window seat and an aisle seat on the other side of the aircraft, and tried to switch with another passenger when they boarded.

  • The husband with the aisle seat asked the man sitting in an aisle seat next to his wife if he’d switch. That man would just be trading an aisle for an aisle, but he refused.

  • He did offer to switch with the wife, though, so that he’d take the window and she’d have an aisle seat – across the aisle from her husband.

  • The husband pleaded to let him sit with his wife, noting the other passenger wouldn’t be giving up anything and it was her birthday. But the stranger wouldn’t budge.

A couple of things strike me as odd. While the couple couldn’t bear to be apart (but still in the same row) for this domestic flight within Australia, they did not take the man up on his offer to let them sit in aisle seats across from each other. (Explanation: she’s “super nauseous’ and needs to be near a window.) And – apparently – they choose to focus on this rather than being happy with switching passengers in window seats.

Swapping would have been ‘the nice thing to do’ but ultimately “will you switch seats?” is a yes or no question and the passenger whose seat you want can choose which one to say. The husband framed his approach the correct way initially – at least offering something of equal value – too many passengers offer up their worse seat and want someone to give up a better one. But really lost his cool when denied.

@jaykloss_ AM I IN THE WRONG?! #wow #seatselection #fyp ♬ original sound – JK

I was once asked to change seats so that a couple could sit together, only to learn that they were already seated together, they just didn’t like the bulkhead, and they stuck me with the bulkhead (I don’t like the bulkhead either!).

A reader once gave up his premium seat so that a family could sit together only to have the family sell that seat to another passenger and not actually sit together.

You should book seats together if it is at all possible, even if it’s more costly to do so. You shouldn’t impose a cost on other passengers to save yourself money, though sometimes you can get away with it. However if there aren’t seats together, or you lose your seats together for operational reasons (my wife and I were split apart on our honeymoon by an air marshal so we asked another passenger to switch), then it’s reasonable to make the request.

It is also reasonable for the other passenger to refuse that request. They have a property right (or, really, a usufructuary right) in the seat to which they’re assigned – at least in Western societies. (In Nigeria your seat may be considered to belong to your elders out of respect.)

If the passenger won’t switch for free, what about paying them for their seat? I once paid a young teenager $5 not to recline on a Cleveland – Los Angeles flight so I could work on my laptop (I had their parents’ permission). That’s a straightforward Coasian solution to the problem.

In the end a cabin with just 8 seats isn’t always going to accommodate people together, especially when not booking early, but fortunately such an aircraft usually operates shorter flights. So unless it’s a child you’re trying to sit with, who needs supervision, then splitting up may not be that big of a deal.

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. So stupid. Pay to sit together if it’s that important. I pay to have my autistic adult sit next to me or another family member. It’s really not that vital we all sit next together since we all are adults and live in the same house and see each other every single day. The only one is my special needs son that we like to keep close by but honestly he would be fine where ever he sat but since he’s non verbal its important for me to make sure he’s ok.
    I’m not really understanding all these tic tokers making big deal over seats. Put on your big boy or big girl panties and just deal with it.

  2. Maybe if you would have put your shirt on or wore one at all, your results would have been positive. Dude where is your shirt, hard to take you seriously when you look like a white trash hillbilly

  3. Lots of stupid and selfish comments with self anecdotes. The passenger could have changed out of kindness. An aisle seat for an aisle seat. Big deal.

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