Duane Pickering, a 58-year-old flight attendant from Milwaukee, agrees, saying it’s entirely within a passenger’s right to decline an offer. “It’s up to them, really. It’s their seat, they paid for it, and if they don’t want to move, they don’t have to,” he says.
But as Roscoe and Del Rey articulate, there’s still considerable social pressure on the person to say yes. It’s hard to look a person in the eye and tell them no, you will not let them sit next to their loved one or their small child, even if it means wedging into the middle seat, in the back row of the plane, between two meaty dudes who have already established dominion over your armrests.
Not to mention, Masterson says she’s seen some passengers get noticeably angry and start swearing when their request for a seat change is rebuffed. “I’ve had to step in and say, ‘Ma’am that’s their seat, and they don’t have to change,’” she says.
My policy is that I will only ask if it’s the same type of seat, which is okay according to the rules. Of course, I won’t even usually ask then.
We had a different sort of situation when we recently flew. A guy was trying to save his (exit row) seat for his girlfriend… but you can’t save a seat on a plane. My wife called him on it and was called a “nasty bitch”… but we did get the seat.