Is Squatting Better Airplane Seats Becoming a Thing?

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Airplane etiquette isn’t quite like pornography. Apparently people don’t always know the right thing to do when they see it.

So I offer a well-intentioned tip to infrequent flyers: If you want to sit in a certain seat or sit with your traveling companions, pay for it upfront. Your fellow passengers did.

I saw an article today in the New York Times titled Elbows Grow Sharper in Segmented Airplanes. It addressed the growing tension between infrequent and frequent flyers — namely when infrequent flyers ask or in some cases, insist, that others give up their seats so they can be more comfortable, take advantage of premium seating, etc.

The article goes on to talk about the peer pressure these passengers exert in order to have their way, even in some cases retaliating with not-so-subtle elbows to their seat mate.

I will sometimes switch to a different aisle seat or sometimes a window to accommodate people, but for all other requests I just nicely decline. I do feel bad for the 6’4″ person sitting in the center seat but I fly 100,000 miles a year to make sure that doesn’t happen to me!

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  1. Amanda

    April 14, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    This happened on one of my flights recently. A guy boards, pops his things up into 1st class cargo space and plops down in the seat behind me. A few minutes later another man boards and kindly says “I think you are in my seat”. Sure enough, the 1st passenger was actually in “group 1” (on AA) and was in the way BACK of the plane. He was obstinate and rude and angry he was being made to move to his actual seat.
    My thought, buddy, this is not Southwest Air, keep on a truckin’.

  2. JEM

    April 15, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    > I do feel bad for the 6’4″ person sitting in the center seat but I fly
    > 100,000 miles a year to make sure that doesn’t happen to me!

    I also fly more than 100K miles a year, but I do switch seats occasionally to give a 6’4″+ person some leg/elbow room (one time it was a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves crammed into a non-reclining economy seat in front of the exit row – he looked about as pathetic as a giant could have). I’m only 6’0″, so I justify it by figuring it’s just the nice thing to do (I can’t help it – I grew up in the midwest).

    And everybody in the row is going to have a better flight when the endomorph spilling over both armrests can spill mostly into the aisle instead.

    However, I tend to switch only when it’s my initiative (or when the person at least acknowledges that I’d be doing them a favor). I’m embarrassed to say that my butt tends to wedge firmly into my seat when someone appears to assume that I’ll just switch for their convenience, which tends to happen more up front.

  3. diane

    June 15, 2015 at 3:52 am

    Yesterday I boarded a plane out of Vegas, using my first ever upgrade to first class due to mile status. I learned that there was a squatter in my seat who refused to move. My seat was 1A, hers was 5A (the first row in coach). She was resolutely ensconced in the first class seat, wrapped in an airline blanket, had pulled her ball cap down over her eyes and was ignoring the hullabaloo among staff members as to how to handle her. Her initial words were “I need to be near a bathroom”. She didn’t speak again, apologize, or look chagrined. In fact, she looked ready to do battle with anyone who might take this seat from her. Airplanes accommodate people of all abilities and disabilities, and the staff was planning to move her near a bathroom in coach. The staff was split in their choice of how to handle it, and the woman was left to stay in first class. My first thought was “it that all it takes to get a seat in first class?”, followed by, “why did they give in to her demands?” She was quiet, possibly ill, but possibly faking, as she guzzled a (free!) mixed cocktail down in seconds. She definitely won that round with not a look or word of apology to the eight staff members and countless passengers who were inconvenienced because of her decision to squat in first class.

  4. dr

    December 15, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    I will almost never give up my seat. I pick it in advance and try to get the best one possible. I MAY do it in a like-for-like switch, but perhaps not even then. However, if someone poaches my assigned seat I tell them once to vacate, then move it up to the FA. If that doesn’t work, I get the head FA or even ask to speak to the gate agent. As a frequent flier I can tell you that this sort of thing is happening more and more. Never allow yourself to get walked over, and never worry if the other pax around you think you are being a jerk. Their opinion does not matter, as you will never see them again. What’s more, they can offer up their own seats.

  5. drd

    August 12, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    This happened to me this week. I had paid extra for an E+ seat on united. I board to find a guy in my seat who said he wanted to sit with his girlfriend.

    I normally NEVER give in to a squatter. If they are in my seat before I get there, they are getting kicked out. Besides, able bodied adults being separated are not people who need to sit together, they are people who WANT to sit together. It’s not like splitting up a child and adult.

    But I was tired, so I asked to see his BP. You never know if they are offering a better seat. His BP showed he had a middle seat two rows up. Uh…NO. He insisted that he had already switched with the aisle passenger in that row, so I would get that seat. Seeing has he did not have the BP and squatters can lie about what seat they are offering, I kicked him out and took my rightful seat.

    But it gets better. I come to find out that he and his girlfriend were “non-revenue” passengers. That is, airline employees riding at a discount, or in some cases, for free. One of the requirements of being a non-rev is to NEVER ask a paying passenger switch. Doing so can get your non-rev privileges revoked, and may even get you fired. Squatting is presumably even more of a sin.

    So I filed a complaint with UA in the hopes that they learn a very important lesson in how to be a non-rev.

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