The first time I realized that you could give away an upgrade was a Flyertalk.com thread perhaps 15 years ago where a member was on a challenge to give away all their upgrades for a period of time, maybe it was one of the folks whom I later served with as Delta forum moderator.
There’s always a bit of a question as to whether a seat you’re upgraded into is your to do with as you please, or if you don’t take the upgrade whether it belongs to the next person on the list? (You know what the next person on the list thinks.)
Recently there’s been much press over United CEO Oscar Munoz giving away his first class seat to an elderly passenger. And last year blogger God Save the Points turned it into a game, if you caught him during your travels you could have his upgraded seat.
It surprises me how people don’t think about the little niceties they can do for others when they fly. For instance how often does an airline club member guest someone in need into the lounge? My guess is that when we travel we don’t take the time to get to know what’s going on with fellow passengers. Frankly it can be awkward or stilted to try. I know I’d hate to seem creepy approaching a stranger, even if it’s to do something nice for them.
One way to overcome both the question of appropriateness and the awkwardness of dealing with the passenger you’re helping directly is to enlist the help of a flight attendant, as a man flying American Airlines from Orlando to Philadelphia on Thursday seems to have done.
He gave up his first class seat to a mother and her lap infant. She was traveling not just with her baby, stroller, and diaper bag but an oxygen machine for her child as they headed to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
And for the mom it seemed to make all the difference in the world, certainly more than a domestic first class seat on a flight blocked at under two and a half hours for someone who flies up front all the time. He enlisted the flight attendant, who went over to the mother to tell her the passenger in 2D wanted to switch seats with her.
Not able to hold back tears, I cried my way up the aisle while my daughter Lucy laughed! She felt it in her bones too… real, pure, goodness. I smiled and thanked you as we switched but didn’t get to thank you properly.
..Not just for the seat itself but for noticing. For seeing us and realizing that maybe things are not always easy. For deciding you wanted to show a random act of kindness to US. It reminded me how much good there is in this world. I can’t wait to tell Lucy someday. In the meantime… we will pay it forward. AA 588 passenger in seat 2D, we truly feel inspired by your generosity.
Bear in mind this is a bigger sacrifice for the man than it might seem. They were on a legacy US Airways Airbus A321 aircraft that doesn’t even have a main cabin extra seating section at the front (not that the mother would have been in one of those seats). Then again ship 180 doesn’t appear to have satellite internet yet either (or seat power) so he likely wasn’t giving up much productivity sitting in back either.
How do you feel about this, though? Should anyone with a first class seat — paid or upgraded — feel free to do with it as they please? Does it matter whom they give the seat to? Or should anyone choosing not to use their first class seat vacate that seat for the next person on the upgrade list?