Man Denies Exit Row Seat to Pregnant Woman On 14 Hour Flight

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.

  1. If being pregnant imposes a duty on anyone, surely it imposes a duty on the husband before other passengers.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The entire conversation should have started and ended immediately with the husband. What a self indulging jerk. I cannot imagine telling my wife, pregnant or not, she is relegated to a lesser comfort seat while I park my sorry a** in a better one!

  2. Perhaps the husband and the pregnant wife were trying it on by just paying for one emergency exit seat ( because they were tight) and felt they could emotionally blackmail anyone sitting in the exit row to move what with the pregnancy excuse. It’s not uncommon to pay USD 80 per seat on the overwing exit.
    Maybe it’s a completely made up story? Reddit is full of stories like this

  3. If he indeed wanted to sit by her, he could go back and ask the person sitting by her if they would like the nicer seat, and he can stay with his wife.

  4. Multiple commenters have nailed it. A heavily pregnant woman should not be seated in the exit row as she will struggle to aid and assist in an emergency, and will most likely have very limited agility and mobility as well.

  5. If it was a Boeing aircraft the pregnant woman was possibly safer sitting far away from the exit door. Has anyone checked those bolts?

  6. Question.I was always told that you have to be fit to sit in the emergency debit road. A pregnant woman might well have difficulty opening the exit door in an emergency.

  7. The exit row must be occupied by those able and willing to help in case of an emergency. If she is that uncomfortable just sitting in a seat for the flight, doubt she would be able to help those around her in case of an emergency.

  8. I thing one huge and glaring issue maybe being over looked and that is safety. Being pregnant may impare a person’s ability to perform speedify and successful emergency exit duties if required. That alone should the what is considered before any further debates about swapping seats.

  9. FAA Regulation prohibits a pregnant woman from sitting in an exit row – If a passenger seated in the exit row is pregnant they are, by law, required to be reseated. That would’ve end it.

  10. Anyone who is unable to assist the cabin crew in the case of an emergency would not be seated at an emergency exit. IE infirm passengers, passengers requiring assistance unaccompanied minors. As retired CC when you’re in your jump seat you’re looking for your passengers that would be able to assist you in an emergency, a pregnant woman would not be my able bodied passenger.

  11. The husband was the jerk here. If his wife could not sit comfortable in her seat, HE should have been the one to change seats with her. But as others have stated, the exit row should only have able bodied people that can help in emergencies. She would not be that person.

  12. Simple solution, give your pregnant wife to the better seat not your selfish self. I’ve often received upgrades when traveling with my wife and she always moves first and we never considered asking the person next to her to move back and have my coach class seat.

  13. So he wants his wife to have a better seat, so swap with her himself then, if her comfort is that important to him that should be his first move

  14. How pregnant was she? Remember the pre take off SAFETY lecture prior to take off? One of the questions is, can you open the door, are you physcailly able to help others, do you have any impairments that will cause you to not to be able to help others?, If so you will not be allowed to sit there. Im not saying that a pregnant woman can not inane emergency. but I see more of a problem. I have seen older people, people with kids, obese, and others that are not capable, sitting in those seats. A few times while in those seats I have had people ask me to trade with them. I kindly said no as I was picked or was in that seat because I was willing and able to do the job. I am 6/4 250 pounds retired Marine and Fire fighter. The flight attendants were happy to have me there

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