17 July 2019 07:52 PM

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RASHMI OBEROI | 26 MARCH, 2018

Can I Have Your Seat?

Please plan in advance


I travel frequently and the one thing that takes place every time without fail is the request for a seat change… Not only on my flights but on train journeys too and just like that my seat is hot property!

If I have a window seat… They want it… If I have the aisle seat… They want it… I am never in the middle seat because I plan and book my seat in advance – well everyone should, but they don’t! They will always be that couple who wants to sit together but don’t exchange a single word or smile throughout the flight or just argue their way through from one city to another! Yet, they want those adjacent seats… I would think a mild separation would give them that space to breathe easy!!

See, before you ask me if I’m willing to move, you should know that I’m not trying to be a jerk. I’m just finicky about my seat and prefer being comfortable in a seat of my liking. The selection process is a choice on offer and well, everyone should exercise the option.

When I see a couple walk down a plane aisle to their respective middle seats, three rows apart, I don’t feel pity. Either Plan… Plan… Plan or sit apart! It’s not the end of the world if you sit in different seats for a couple of hours or even less. When one member of said couple then approaches me asking to switch my aisle seat for their middle seat, the answer is “Sorry, no."

The first thing I do after buying a flight, if the option isn’t given to me during the booking process, is call the airline and get my aisle seat squared away. It takes minutes and anyone with a little foresight can and should do it. Even if that doesn't work out, or you forget, if you check in early enough you should be able to get your preferred seat. With all those options, to expect another person to give up the seat they prepared for, and sometimes paid a whole lot of money for, is presumptuous. Of course, I’m not a monster: If a child finds herself alone and scared next to a stranger (me), I’ll offer my seat.

If there is trip that involves a spectacular view popping up through the skies, then I do go to great lengths to make sure I have my window seat planned, prepped and reserved in advance before I even journey to an airport. Sometimes I even have to pay for it because a city’s beaches, the blue ocean, and jagged emerald hills are as spectacular to see during your descent as they are when you're on the ground.

Have you ever been on a flight or train where people are boarding and there’s a family that doesn’t have seats together and they go around asking people to switch seats? It’s happened several times on my flights and train journeys and I’ve seen people refuse much to the chagrin of the family. An older gentleman once remarked on the Shatabdi, “I picked my seat, dammit, and I am not giving it up because someone is too lazy to plan in advance.”

After years of reflection, I’ve realized it all boils down to two things: respect and awareness. If only people were more aware of all the people around them on flights and respected them, 99% of flights would take off without general grumpiness. Have travellers not heard of the internet? Do they have phones? It’s not that hard to get in contact with an airline in advance and rearrange seats or even when you are checking in, but why wait till you are on the plane to ask is beyond me.

An all-time favourite: “Uh, do you mind if we switch seats? I have a seat in the last row of the plane because I slept in and showed up late, but my companion and I want to sit together.” When the topic of seat swapping was tackled the consensus was that unwanted seat requests were best met with a friendly and polite response of “No” which gets the point across, but it’s hardly the hoped-for response. It takes confidence not to acquiesce, but in reality you do not owe an explanation for wanting to sit in your assigned seat, unless you’re asked for one by cabin crew.

You get the drift, right. A lot of the time, these requests are made by infrequent travellers who don’t know to select their seats in advance to ensure they sit together. Other times, the airline charges a fee for seat assignments, or just charges a fee for aisle and window seats (making it almost impossible to get two adjacent seats).

Welcome to the world of ancillary fee revenue, the same thing that led to buy-on-board food and fees for checked baggage. It’s the price you pay for getting a cheaper fare up front, so there is no point whining or complaining about it. These added fees are part of the cost of travel, just like parking at the airport, so if you insist on selecting seats together you should expect to pay them.

Travel etiquette is a huge issue now. The airline staff have a colossal problem dealing with bad behaviour. People get riled up and disputes get ugly and personal. I once had a spirited head-to-head debate about how far courtesy extends on a flight—namely, if you should feel obligated to give up your seat if someone asks. Should you really be expected to move for that couple who wants to sit together but didn't book (or check-in) on time to do so?

Best would be to - So Buckle Up… Sit Back… Relax… And enjoy the journey… Ummm, in your own seat please!
 

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