The Common Plane Seating Question That Will Drive Most Flight Attendants Up The Wall

So, you're a solo traveler and have your bag packed for adventure. You board the plane, and you go to the seat that you've selected (and quite possibly paid for). You've found space for your bag in the overhead bin, and you're settling into your seat. Then you feel a tap on your shoulder, and one of your fellow passengers is saying, "Excuse me, can you please move seats so I can sit with my friend/partner/sibling/whatever I'm traveling with?"


This scenario is one that has caused much debate online, and it turns out that it's one of those things that flight attendants hate because they often have to get involved. TikTok user @hashtagmariah posted a video about the situation, and it's one that happens pretty frequently. As Mariah described it, it's passengers who didn't want to pay to select their seats before boarding. They're seemingly expecting someone else onboard to move so they can get the seating arrangement they want, and they may bring a flight attendant into the situation.

This is a conversation that may be happening before flight attendants are even on the clock. They don't start getting paid until the boarding doors close. And as passengers are boarding, they have other things to do beyond helping settle seat disputes.


Flight attendants don't want you to feel obligated to move

It could be that the passenger hoping to get someone else to move is making the flight attendant do their dirty work by approaching the person in the seat they'd like to have. Mariah explained in her TikTok video that she will ask the person in the hoped-for seat if they'll move, but she made it clear that "no" was an acceptable answer. There wouldn't be any pressure from the flight attendant to make someone move — it's not their fault or problem that someone else's seat assignments aren't what they want or need.



#stitch with @Callie ahhhhhh yes. my favourite conflict lol

♬ original sound – ✨mariah • fitness, beauty+FA✈️

Comments on Mariah's video make it clear that this is a hot-button issue, and lots of people vehemently agree with her. Another flight attendant commented on how she handles the situation: "I say 'I don't make anyone trade seats. You can ask if you want but if no one wants to move then you'll just have to take your assigned seat.' and I smile and walk away." Another person noted, "as someone with EXTREME flight anxiety being asked to switch seats makes it even worse. I had a woman blow up at me because I wouldn't give her the window and it sent me spiraling into a panic attack."


Try to avoid having to ask someone to switch seats

There are definitely kinder ways to ask someone to switch a seat if you absolutely have to. Anaïs Monique, a former flight attendant, wrote about the seat-switching dilemma for Business Insider and gave some recommendations. Basically, her take was to sit in your assigned seat. If you do have a valid reason to need a different seat, like needing to take care of a small child or a disabled person in your party, you should check in with the flight attendant about the situation if you haven't been able to resolve it with a gate agent or when you checked in.


There may have been an honest mistake somewhere along the line where you get separated from someone in your group that you absolutely need to sit by, or you may have been bumped from another flight and are left without many options. However, as annoying as it may be, make sure to budget for seat selections when you're making your travel plans, and  remember to check in on time. That way, you're in the best position to ensure that you get the seat you want without having to hope that another passenger takes pity on you. Tensions can run high on airplanes — you're stuck in a metal tube in a potentially uncomfortable seat next to strangers — don't make things worse if you can by expecting someone else to accommodate you.