USA TODAY International Edition
TikTok post refuels debate on swapping seats on an airplane
A viral TikTok has reignited a debate about whether or not to swap seats on an airplane when asked.
TikTok user Surya Garg said in a Jan. 17 video that another passenger asked her to move from her window seat, which she said she paid extra for, to a middle seat so the other woman could sit together with her son, who she estimated was a teenager.
“I feel like this has been a big debate on TikTok recently, which is if you’re sitting in a seat and someone with a family comes up to you and says, ‘ Hey, will you switch?’, do you switch or not?” she said.
The video has received around 1.1 million views as of Wednesday. Garg did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for an interview.
Other videos from travelers who have refused to give up their seats have similarly gone viral on TikTok in recent months.
How did the video fuel the debate about swapping seats?
Garg said that when parents with young children ask, she normally gives up her seat, but noted that the woman’s son looked to be “16 or 17 years old.”
“I was like, ‘ Look, I’m sorry, like, I paid extra for this seat. I think I’m just gonna sit in the seat I paid for,’ ” she said in the video.
“Was I in the wrong here? I need someone to tell me,” Garg added. The video received over 4,000 comments, with many users applauding her decision.
“Nope. Your seat. Final answer,” one user wrote. Another said, “No, you’re not in the wrong whatsoever here.”
However, one user wrote, “You’re alone.. who cares where you’re sitting? Just give the seat up. Is it really so much to ask? What are you actually losing here? Don’t be selfish.”
Should you swap seats on an airplane when asked?
Travelers should not feel obligated to change seats, said Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Texas.
“If someone’s paid extra for premium legroom on a particular flight, now you’re asking them to move to another aisle where it’s not going to be comfortable, it’s perfectly fine to decline,” she said.
If someone doesn’t want to swap, she recommended kindly telling the passenger asking that you’d prefer to keep your seat.
Similarly, Gottsman said when asking someone else to switch, politeness makes a difference “because it’s all in the tone.” Furthermore, when asking someone to give up their seat, the switch should be a fair trade.
“If you want to swap seats with someone and you have an aisle seat, and they have a window seat across the aisle, they may not want that particular seat,” she said. In those cases, passengers should only ask if they can make a seat- for- seat switch in the same vicinity, according to Gottsman.
In a recent survey of more than 1,000 American adults about controversial airplane behaviors, The Vacationer found that more than 35% said they would switch from a window or aisle seat they paid for to a worse seat so a family could sit together.
Just over 10% said they would switch so a couple without kids could sit together, while nearly 30% said they would swap in both cases. More than 25% said they would do neither.
If someone does agree to switch, consider doing something to show gratitude. Gottsman recommended asking where you can find them to send a thank you note, or buying them a snack or drink on board if possible.
“I think most people want to help out and do the right thing, but it really does have to be – when possible – a comparable exchange,” she said.