After the story of a Reddit user's refusal to swap her exit-row seat with the pregnant wife of another passenger sparked plenty of debate, Fox News Digital reached out to etiquette and travel experts to see what they would have done in the awkward but increasingly common situation.
In the original Reddit post, a user explained that after receiving a free upgrade to an exit-row seat on a 14-hour flight, a nearby passenger asked if the person would switch places with his pregnant wife — who was sitting in a smaller seat several rows behind them.
The Reddit user declined to switch seats, saying that instead, the man should offer his wife the larger seat if he wanted her to be comfortable.
This was a perfectly fine action, two etiquette experts told Fox News Digital about the scenario.
"Compelling someone to make a decision on the spot, without a lot of information or time to inquire, sounds impolite and a bit unreasonable," author and etiquette expert Rosalinda Randall of California told Fox News Digital.
The passenger who refused to switch seats was not acting rudely, Randall said.
"No one has the obligation to switch their seat, nor explain why they won’t switch," said Randall. "And the person making the request has no right to expect, or get angry, when they don’t get their way" on the matter.
Randall suggested that a person requesting a seat swap do so calmly, or have a flight attendant assist with the ask.
"Offer to buy [the other passenger] a beverage or two, [or] to pay for airline extras," she suggested.
Elaine Swann, another etiquette expert from California, shared similar sentiments with Fox News Digital.
While there is "nothing wrong at all" about asking a person to switch seats, the person doing the asking has "to be prepared for the answer to be yes or no," said Swann.
"The ask doesn't mean that you automatically get it," she said.
A person who desires someone else's seat on a plane could do something to sweeten the deal, suggested Swann, such as buy the person a drink, snack, or some form of entertainment for the plane.
"Certainly the best time to ask that person [to switch seats] is during the boarding process," said Swann, "before they've gotten fully comfortable in their seat."
When asking to switch seats, Swann suggests that people not "make a big stink about it" and try to avoid making the person feel guilty for wanting to sit in their seat.
That, too, applies to the person being asked to change seats, said Swann.
"It's your prerogative as to whether or not you want to say yes or no," she said. "Because a person asked you to change your seats does not mean that you are required to do so."
Clint Henderson, managing editor of news at the travel website The Points Guy, stressed that people wanting to swap seats should ensure that the seat they are trading is either equal to or better than the one they will receive.
"These days, your seat assignment likely had some kind of cost, whether you paid for it outright or got it as a perk of status," Henderson told Fox News Digital.
"Of course, if it’s an even trade and you are a generous person, you are likely to be kind and make the switch — but sometimes people who want your seat are offering you a bad deal on a switch," he said.
He continued, "I’m not going to give up my aisle seat in the first few rows of the coach cabin for your seat in the back."
If a person is seeking to swap seats so they can be near a family member or friend, or because they have to get off the plane earlier — that's "worth asking," said Henderson.
"But they don’t have the right to get mad if the person says no," he said.
"'No' is a complete answer and they don’t owe you an explanation either," he added.
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