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Expert explains how to respond if a passenger asks you to switch seats

Expert explains how to respond if a passenger asks you to switch seats

If you've ever had this awkward interaction, listen up

If you've ever had the incredibly awkward experience on a flight or train where another passenger has asked you to switch seats, this one is for you.

How are you meant to react? Are you a bad person if you refuse to give up your window seat so a family can sit together? What's the right response?

In the pressure of the moment, you might think that you have to move, I mean, especially if you're a Brit, there's nothing worse than that kind of confrontation.

Diane Gottsman is an etiquette expert at The Protocol School of Texas, and after seeing a number of videos doing the rounds on social media from people who've either refused to move or have asked people to get out of their seats, she has given insight into the correct behaviour.

Speaking to the Independent, Gottsman said there's actually only one acceptable scenario whereby a fellow passenger can legitimately ask you to switch seats.

What should you do if someone asks you to swap seats?

She told the outlet that only if there was 'no possible way' for a parent or guardian to pre-book seats together with a young child you should consider moving.

However, even in this instance, she says the onus is on the other passenger to try and sort the situation out with the airline or travel company before boarding the plane because 'asking a fellow passenger puts the person you are asking in an awkward position' and relies on them showing some 'goodwill'.

And if you're just trying to get a better seat or be closer to your pal, Gottsman says you shouldn't bother another passenger.

Basically, you should have thought about that when you were booking your tickets.

She told the paper: “Wanting to sit next to a friend, or preferring a window seat rather than an aisle, is not a good enough reason.

"If you and your spouse are separated, it simply means you booked late or did not plan in advance to book seats together."

Gottsman's advice comes after a video began doing the rounds on social media, which showed a man confronting a fellow passenger who was sat in his train seat.


The confrontation began when the man boarded the crowded train and spotted the woman sitting in his seat that he had purchased ahead of time.

As the TikToker asks for his seat, she laughs and gestures to other empty seats on the train. Despite not being in the right seat, she hesitates and tries to avoid moving further down.

Even with the woman’s stubbornness, the man refuses to budge.

“It’s gonna be difficult. My place is 103 and I need my place. I’m so sorry,” he pointedly states, at which point the stranger begins to move from the seat.

Maybe just keep to your own seat next time, eh?

Featured Image Credit: Matthew Ashmore / Stockimo / Richard Watkins / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Social Media, TikTok, Travel, Plane Etiquette