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Am I a Jerk for Not Giving My Seats to a Mother and Her Toddlers?

Here’s a seating situation making its way around the internet, via Reddit: a frequent flyer paid out of pocket to upgrade to a window seat in an exit row that was empty because he was hoping to catch some sleep. But, when she boarded she found a mother seated in the middle seat with a toddler on each side of her. Was she a jerk for asking her to move? Here are more of the details from the Reddit poster:

A Gamble on Unattractive Seats

I paid out of pocket to upgrade to a window seat in an exit row, because the whole row was empty and that way I had a decent shot of getting at least a little bit of sleep.

(Because I take this specific route and airline a lot, I knew a few things about this particular row – namely that you can’t recline the seats more than an inch or two and the window is usually kind of weird, which was fine by me since I just wanted to get on the plane and conk out.)

Of course, when it came time to board, I get to my row and find that a woman is sitting in the middle with her two young daughters, maybe 2 and 4, on either side of her. I politely told her that she’d made a mistake and was sitting in my seat.

The Request That Turned Into a Demand

Her response was that she was seated a row up and across the aisle, on the aisle seat, but her two kids were across from her on the aisle and middle, and she saw the empty row before I got there, and would I do her the favor of just switching?

Here’s the thing: if circumstances were different, I would have! But I explained that I had a meeting at 8:30 and paid extra for that ticket so that I could sleep. I really thought that would be the end of it, but she huffed and shook her head and buckled her kids’ seatbelts RIGHT THEN AND THERE.


A Flight Attendant to the Rescue

By this point the plane is filling up, I’m blocking the aisle, it’s causing a whole thing, so I just flag down a flight attendant and explain the situation. The mom stops ignoring me long enough to pipe up and say she needs a row where the three of them can sit together.

The flight attendant (who looked exhausted and totally done and clearly just wanted to get home as much as I did) goes, “This is an exit row. Your kids can’t sit there because they’re not capable of performing the exit row responsibilities in case of an emergency landing. There’s not going to be another empty row. Please sit in the seat indicated on your ticket.”

But It Wasn’t Over

So I sit down in my window seat and she takes her kids and moves up a row, and I figure that’s the last of it, but of course, no one else comes to sit down in my row (the gamble paid off), and so when we finally take off and hit cruising altitude, I push the arm rests up and stretch out across the row and just pass out. When we land, I’m getting my bag out of the overhead, and the woman stands up and mutters to me, “You look like you slept well, b—-.”


Well, that was certainly an awkward encounter. But, before you read the colorful comments on Reddit, weigh in. Was this flyer in the wrong for not giving up their seats for a mother who wanted to sit next to her two small toddlers? Or was the mother in the wrong even before she resorted to foul language?


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Comments are Closed.
Allan38103 December 2, 2019

This all happened on the ground? The plane did not take off with kids sitting in the exit row, right? Then the problem got resolved. There was no need to even post this. Apparently the passenger (and the writer of this article) didn’t realize that the crew would never take off with children in the exit row.

Mr. Vker December 2, 2019

Let's pretend (for a min) these weren't exit row seats. Still not wrong. Airlines now have set up so many "classes" of seats-far beyong Y, J, and F. MCE, charging for seats that can deboard sooner, exit rows etc. If you paid for that seat, its yours. And if an FA demands I move from a seat I paid to upgrade to-or got due to status-there better be a good reason that has something in it for me. Airlines made the rules. They need to enforce them-which they did here-due to the exit row qualifications.

drvannostren December 2, 2019

Yea, this one is pretty easy. If it wasn't an exit row, it would be a LITTLE stickier. But the onus is on the parent. If you wanna sit with your kids, book the seats. The other solution would be, if I read the post right, she really only needed to ask the person seated next to her two kids to switch with her, then she'd have the row for her and the kids. She didn't need to find a different row entirely. That being said, I've done the same thing, booking a seat in the hopes that no one else would show up, only to have someone sit down in the aisle seat opposite mine as if it were theirs. It's a bummer, because I would've stretched out, but as long as I can get the extra shoulder/elbow space by having the open middle, I can get a decent amount of sleep so I don't get too bent out of shape about it. It's a gamble, but I'm not THAT selfish to keep a row to myself when the rest of the plane is basically full. This though, being an exit row is a piece of cake. If the FA wasn't "done" (we've all seen that look lol) he/she probably could've asked 1-2 other people to move into the exit row with the OP and then move the family into their own row. But again, the downside to assigned seating, is it's up to the users to assign themselves seats. Failure to do so, be it free, or pay, or waiting to the last minute may result in you not sitting with the people you'd like to. Your problem, not mine.

dddc December 2, 2019

Airlines should seat families together, but I appreciate that it's not always possible with late bookings or once seat selection opens up. However, the fact that children should not be in an exit row overrides any other issue here.

Freaky December 1, 2019

I didn't do what she did and boy, was that a mistake. I was flying to Belize a few years ago on a red eye. When the plane took off I was sitting next to a couple of well-behaved 20-somethings. Once we were in the air, his friend, one row behind, said that the guys next to me were his friends and they were traveling together and would I mind switching with him. I of course said "No problem." After the switch, I was sitting next to a lady and her kid, something in the 3-4 year old range. For the next 8 hours. this lady stayed awake with the overhead lights on and played all kinds of non-electronic games with the kid. Patty-cake, counting games, reading aloud from kids books, bounce on the knee games and more. I asked multiple times if they could be quiet, shut off the lights and sleep. She got indignant every time and continued to play with the kid. And since I was in a window seat, she made a big deal of it every time I needed to go to the bathroom. After that, I swore that in the future, I will NEVER allow seat changes by myself or seat mates - unless, like Jerry in a Seinfeld episode, they move me to first class and put me next to a magazine print model - as I refuse to be abused like Elaine was in that episode.