Want to Sit Next to Your Partner on a Flight? Here's How to Go About It

Traveling as a couple can be a special moment, but it doesn't give license to be a menace to others.

Valentine's Day is coming up, and gifting travel has never been more popular. Even if you aren't planning on taking a trip during the holiday itself, there's no denying the romance of going on vacation with your lover. An exception to this romance is when you begin to make your couples trip the problem of other people on your flight.

In a recent popular post on the r/AmericanAirlines subreddit passengers shared stories of insistent couples trying to get other people to switch their seats so that they would be able to sit together. Unsurprisingly, this is not looked upon very charitably by other passengers. We already know that seat switching requests are generally frowned upon, but it seems that a common denominator for many of the swap asks are couples who feel it is imperative that they are seated next to each other for their flight.

How do other passengers feel about this? Not good. In one of the more extreme cases of distaste, one commenter wrote: "There's a special place in hell for entitled seat swappers."

“You'll survive if you don't sit next to your beloved. Or if it's that important (like your honeymoon) then plan ahead and book seats to your liking," another comment stated. This response seemed to largely reflect the overall feelings most people have about seat swapping requests: It can typically be avoided by reserving seats next to each other beforehand. And if you aren't seated together because you didn't reserve seats next to each other? Maybe that's not such a big deal either.

There were two specific couple seat swap scenarios voiced in the Reddit thread that drew the most ire from other passengers. One of them involved situations where a passenger was asked to move from a seat they had paid extra for, like a window or aisle seat, while the other was anytime the request included snarky comments or the expression of  displeasure at not getting their own way.

Again, the entire dance of having to ask someone else to switch seats can be avoided by making reservations for seats in advance. Some airlines offer this for free with a certain tier of ticket, or for an additional fee depending on which section of the plane you're sitting in. It's never fun to add on an additional expense when you're planning a trip—but if you are a couple traveling together and sitting next to each other is a priority, that should be reflected in the way you budget your travel.

And if you do end up in a scenario where you and your partner are not seated together and you want to, there is some basic, until now unwritten, etiquette to keep in mind when making these requests:

  1. Read the room. Are you asking someone who is already very settled in to their seat and who appears they will be disturbed if bothered? That's not the person to ask about swapping.
  2. Don't request to trade down. No one wants to trade an aisle seat for a middle seat, or a window seat for a middle seat. You're asking for the favor, so if you're in a position to, offer up the best seat between you and your partner for the trade.
  3. Accept a "no" graciously. If someone declines to swap seats with you, respond with something along the lines of "Totally, I understand. Thank you!" and then leave it at that. Don't risk earning the title "Concierge Karen" by grumbling about a refusal to switch.

Traveling with more than just your spouse? More and more airlines are rolling out family seating policies ahead of the Department of Transportation's big push for making seating families together a requirement. So far, several major airlines including United, Southwest, JetBlue, and Frontier have rolled out policies which will allow families with children to choose their seats together at no additional cost.

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. She holds a bachelor's and master's degree in Journalism from NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She's worked in digital media for eight years, and before working at Thrillist, she wrote for Mic, The Cut, The Fader, Vice, and other publications. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.