Self-Upgrader Takes Former Surgeon General’s First Class Seat, Refuses To Move

Former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who served during the Trump administration, reports that a self-upgrader tried to take his first class seat this week. And it wasn’t just someone trying to sneak into the cabin and grab an empty seat – they persisted. They claimed the seat was theirs. They wouldn’t move. But the good doctor held his ground.

He’s being roasted on twitter for complaining about a ‘first world problem’. He runs a health equity program and many commenters wonder about the equity of first class. He does, however, point out that he received a frequent flyer upgrade. He didn’t pay for the seats.

For his part, Dr. Adams wondered who the entitled one is here?

In a meaningful sense upgrade algorithms are an equalizer – they don’t pay attention to skin color (the former surgeon general, by the way, is black). They pay attention to how much travel you buy – the amount of time you’re crammed into a seat. It seems that someone suffering modern air travel the most is most deserving of a bigger seat, from an equity standpoint.

It also seems notable, for any readers who wish to make this political because Dr. Adams served as surgeon general during the Trump administration, that when he criticizes the current President he does so while criticizing the last one as well.

And he seems to spend most of his time on twitter not just promoting vaccination but doing so in the trenches actually engaging anti-vaxxers directly. My hat’s off to the man. But no one would have messed with C. Everett Koop like that.

(HT: @Anticoagconsult)

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Pretty cool that the SAME guy served as Surgeon General and head of the Federal Reserve Bank at the same time.

  2. May want to fix the glaring typo, Jerome Powell, which you indicated at the beginning of your post, is currently the Chair of the Federal Reserve. While he was appointed during Trump administration, he is definitely not Jerome Adams, whom you later correctly refer to.

    Jerome Jared, Jerry, all the same… ya know what I mean. 🙂 LOL

  3. The point of the article is that the person who just decided to sit in a first class set that they did not pay for or did not get upgraded to is in the wrong. Frequent business flyers getting upgraded is a welcome perk. Most people who fly rarely see this as elitist. However, spending hours and hours walking through airports, staying away from family, etc. is not as glamorous as many in the public believe. It’s a job. So an upgrade is welcome. And some self entitled idiot who steals a seat is totally in the wrong. I’ve had people sit in my economy class aisle seat (my preferred, self-selected & pre-reserved seat), because they wanted to be closer to their companions on the other side of the plane, and didn’t want to sit in the middle seat. I called the flight attendant, since the man didn’t want to move. I’m not the jerk for wanting my reserved seat, he is. Luckily, the flight attendant was able to upgrade me to first class on that flight, and I didn’t have to sit next to him.

  4. Ah, come on folks, one of the entertaining aspects of VFTW is Gary’s typos. It wouldn’t be the same without them 🙂

  5. I suspect many of the people criticizing him about this being a “first world problem” are also people that love to virtue signal. And they’re completely ignoring the fact that they’re arguing that a BLACK MAN should have just given up his seat and taken one at the BACK OF THE BUS…. I mean airplane.

  6. No shortage of idiots on planes these days. As I’ve said many times on these blogs, a no tolerance, immediate and permanent “no fly” status is one part of a solution. It assures a continual decimation of idiots on flights, whether self upgraders , thugs, drunks and other ‘ne’er do wells’

  7. Anyone complaining about him wanting his seat (or being upgraded in the first place) is either ignorant of how travel works or is jealous. Yep he got a free upgrade from his coach seat due to his status. I wouldn’t have a problem if he flew paid first class. I worked with a number of companies where senior executives were entitled to paid first class travel. If they can be more productive it is money well spent.

    BTW, anyone that thinks he should just accept the situation and not make the guy move is crazy. First of all, if ANY of us (regardless of which class cabin you are in) boards and finds someone in our seat who won’t move you would get a flight attendant to straighten it out. Secondly, so if he wanted to just ignore the situation and let the guy have the seat (which NO ONE would have done) what other seat is he supposed to take since all the others have been assigned.

  8. I don’t care who you are or what your politics, your seat is your seat and anyone who tries to hijack it deserves to walk to their destination, with a future ban from the airline in question. Not to mention who is stupid enough to think an airline doesn’t know where their seat really is?

  9. Seriously, with everything we now know, you’re still using the term “anti-vaxxers” to describe people who made the intelligent decision to avoid being injected with an experimental, toxic substance?

    Actually, I guess it’s better to be an “anti-vaxxer” than a “fool”.

  10. @James N-
    Seriously, with everything we now know, how do you expect that anyone will believe your anti-scientific, harmful, conspiratorial drivel. There is nothing accurate in your post. Vaccines for Covid-19 and for many other diseases have saved millions of lives and are neither ‘experimental’ or ‘toxic’.
    Oh, and sorry to say, but your last sentence is the coup-de-grace. Anti-vaxxer = fool.

  11. Good for Dr. Adams standing his ground. Regardless of how he got his first class seat, purchase or update, it is astonishing that anyone would think that it was ‘entitled’ for him to demand that someone else not sit in it.

  12. I’ve seen it. It makes me think of sneaking from bleachers to reserved seats at a baseball game when I was a kid. But, when you’re caught, you’re caught. Accept it.

  13. @Gary
    “….for any readers who wish to make this political because Dr. Adams served as surgeon general during the Trump administration, that when he criticizes the current President he does so while criticizing the last one as well.” and
    “And he seems to spend most of his time on twitter not just promoting vaccination but doing so in the trenches actually engaging anti-vaxxers directly. My hat’s off to the man.”
    I see that you consider this gentleman laudible. I am less impressed with him, being reminded of something that was alleged of then Vice President Bush during the Iran-Contra hearings…. which was that he was either an incompetent or a liar.
    I most definitely remember this gentleman starting a conversation with “C’mon people…” and then telling us at the start of the coronavirus pandemic that masks were not only unnecessary, but dangerous. But he was later caused to change his mind and insist that we should all wear masks until Hell freezes over.
    I understand that mask wearing has sadly become a political lightning rod, which is a definite shame. At the time of the surgeon general’s original anti-mask utterance I was most definitely pro-mask, largely due to the time I spent in Hong Kong, where years after SARS, but pre-COVID, mask wearing in public was still common. It made sense to me then and now, even though, it is now an idea past its prime. Hence I mock Brandon and his idiot Vice President who persist in marching around in them whilst outdoors in the open air.
    So, while Gary my find this gentleman exemplary, I think he is a weak-mided idiot who should be asked to explain his 180s while in office.
    As to his attempted seat-stealing experience, good luck to him.

  14. What I don’t understand is what was so difficult getting it sorted out. “Let me see your boarding pass” Seems like that’s all you (the flight attendant) needs to do. Why go to the gate agent and check on a dbl booking?

  15. “Vaccines for Covid-19 and for many other diseases have saved millions of lives and are neither ‘experimental’ or ‘toxic’.”

    Thankfully, I wasn’t referring to those for “other diseases”, but focused on the most current one, which is most certainly “experimental” and most likely contains toxic ingriedients. “Vaccines”, which the current jab isn’t, will definitely contain “toxic” substances for any number of individuals. To think that they will act in the same manner in every individual is a belief that no one would advance.

  16. This is the same guy who once said that Trump was healthier than he was. If he came up to me and told me I was sitting in his seat, I would make the airline look it up too.

  17. The guy who sat in Adams’ seat was clearly a jerk. Sometimes airlines make it harder than necessary to find the right seat, though. American Airlines had some aircraft models that didn’t begin numbering rows in first with Row 1. There is not even uniformity within the same airline in how seats in the same row are designated. For example, some American 737s in first are designated AB – EF and other 737s are AC – DF. Business class and especially coach is even weirder on widebodies. Having a standardized system would make boarding easier, save time, and cut down on situations where people sit in the wrong seat by mistake. It happens even to frequent flyers.

  18. @James N
    The only ones who made the ‘intelligent decision’ not to get vaxxed are those very very few who have an allergy that would make it dangerous to get the vaccine.
    So approximately 1 out of 10,000 who refused the vaccine made the intelligent decision. The other 9,999 made a stupid decision not to get the vaccine.

  19. Not a good look to kvetch on Twitter. This episode belongs in the confines of airline customer service.

  20. How interesting to read all these comments and find that a simple situation of mistaken or intentional mistaken seating could converge with and to all kinds of relevant or even irrelevant topics like politics, vaccines, skin color, political bashing of parties you don’t support,, character and perception of the main character in this report/story, and even commebts or aeticle typos,, rather than simply focusing on the main topics of stealing airline seats, upgrades, adherence to assigned seating, and airline seating procedures. This article makes for good discussion, doesn’t it?

Comments are closed.