A recent Reddit thread detailed a traveler’s ethical dilemma on a 14-hour flight from Asia. They were given an upgrade on board to the exit row – a seat with more legroom. The passenger seated next to them asked if he’d trade seats with the man’s pregnant wife. She was seated towards the back of the plane.
- Switching seats is voluntary. We can all try to be accommodating, but we don’t have to give up our seat because someone asks.
- The wrinkle here is that the woman the seat was for is pregnant. Does that add any special additional obligations?
I moved there, window seat with a 20ish dude already settled. I just quickly settled down also, just the moment I picked up my headphone for some ipad entertainment, window seat guy suddenly smiled to me, “hi excuse me, my wife sitting far behind is pregnant now, she’s not very comfortable with the narrow seat, do you mind switch seat with her ?”
It’s a little bit strange that the complaint was that his wife’s seat was narrow as opposed to having less legroom. The exit row seat isn’t going to be wider.
No switches happened. The husband kept his exit row seat for takeoff, and later the couple switched seats. According to the passenger, his family and friends think he had an obligation to switch to let the couple sit together. That is insane.
I have six general takeaways.
- If being pregnant imposes a duty on anyone, surely it imposes a duty on the husband before other passengers.
- But he wasn’t concerned with his pregnant wife. After all, he had the exit row and she didn’t. Why should someone care more about your wife’s comfort than you do?
- If they’re concerned with their seats that should have been handled in advance.
Pregnant women are generally capable of sitting in airline seats. If the woman needs a specific seat, then she should book it.
- Sometimes it’s not possible to book the seat you need. For instance, if your flight is cancelled you’re stuck with whatever is available.
- So if you want to trade, don’t expect to ‘trade up’. You need to offer passengers something equal or better than what they already have.
- Consider offering money.
The man with the good fortunate of being gifted an exit row seat for his 14 hour flight enjoyed it and slept most of the trip. The husband and wife didn’t need to sit together. Notice that the husband didn’t offer his seat to the passenger next to his wife in back.
Air travel doesn’t always work out the way that you want. Seat assignments don’t always work out the way that you want. Your desire for a different outcome, though, is between you and the airline – it doesn’t impose an obligation on other passengers to disadvantage themselves for your benefit.
Sometimes they will! There’s no harm in asking. But it’s perfectly fine for them to say no.