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Giving Up Your Seat for a Passenger in a Wheelchair

Giving Up Your Seat for a Passenger in a Wheelchair

Old Oct 14, 19, 7:28 pm
  #1  
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Giving Up Your Seat for a Passenger in a Wheelchair

What would you do?

I was flying from Honolulu to Vancouver on the Omni Airlines 767 (as flight AC 2410), which departs at 9:55 PM and flies overnight. I had reserved seats 7A and 7C which are two of only four seats on the aircraft that offer a reasonable amount of extra legroom. They are the first row in economy class. I have some mild to moderate problems with my back, so appreciate whatever extra measure of comfort I can have—hence the seats with extra legroom. (I am SuperElite so did not have to pay for the preferred seats.)

Shortly before boarding the gate agent paged me. When I went to the kiosk she said, “We have a passenger on this flight who is in a wheelchair. We are wondering if you would trade seats with him. His party would get 7A and 7C, your party would move to 8A and 8C.”

No further information was provided about why he was in a wheelchair (which in my mind could range from “he’s got a broken leg” to “he’s elderly” to “he’s severely disabled”). I didn’t think it appropriate to ask anything else. And so I decided to…

I’m not going to say what I decided to do. But I’d be interested in hearing what you’d do in that moment, and why.
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Old Oct 14, 19, 7:58 pm
  #2  
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You paid for it one way or another.

The medical desk has the authority to move you if it's necessary.

I'd trade row 7 for row 1. Probably not for row 8.
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Old Oct 14, 19, 8:25 pm
  #3  
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Originally Posted by canadiancow View Post
I'd trade row 7 for row 1. Probably not for row 8.
I suspect if row 1 were available they would have put the wheelchair passenger there. Happens all the time that people with very restricted mobility end up placed in J. But usually not companions.
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Old Oct 14, 19, 8:50 pm
  #4  
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Were they willing to give you something in compensation for agreeing to give up your special seats?
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Old Oct 14, 19, 9:11 pm
  #5  
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You have mild to moderate back pain? I would consider that a non visible disability in it's own right, depending on the severity.

Either way, you'd expect the medical desk to have taken care of this in advance, by bumping one of you up to J.

I feel terrible for people in wheelchairs who have to travel, I have a relative who is in that situation and it is quite the ordeal.

It's a pickle, no doubt about it. Noone wins here, unless someone gets opupd to J I guess.

You have my sympathy either way - back pain is no joke
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Old Oct 14, 19, 9:37 pm
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Originally Posted by canadiancow View Post
You paid for it one way or another.

The medical desk has the authority to move you if it's necessary.

I'd trade row 7 for row 1. Probably not for row 8.
"we are wondering" does not sound like a flight crew order. OP booked and selected in advance, and seems to have their own medical reasons for the seats they picked.

Unless the wheelchair pax was a last second booking or injury while IN Hawaii, I'd have to wonder where they sat on the inbound flight

On weekly transcon flights I've never seen US low cost carriers give handicapped passengers upgraded or even "near the front" seats. If they didn't pre purchase a seat they might get an aisle chair to seat 39B.

Last edited by expert7700; Oct 14, 19 at 9:44 pm
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Old Oct 14, 19, 11:23 pm
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I would also wonder, did all the people in the same row prebooked these seats, either paying or by virtue of status. If some people got their seat in that row because they grabbed it at check-in or were allocated at check-in, they should be the ones to be moved.
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Old Oct 14, 19, 11:38 pm
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Originally Posted by Stranger View Post
I would also wonder, did all the people in the same row prebooked these seats, either paying or by virtue of status. If some people got their seat in that row because they grabbed it at check-in or were allocated at check-in, they should be the ones to be moved.
Does a gate agent even have access to that information to know the difference between someone who has paid a fee for a certain seat vrs at check-in vrs auto-assigned by the software.
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Old Oct 15, 19, 1:35 am
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I am one who is VERY fussy about where I sit on airplanes. My initial reaction to seat change requests is (often unspoken), “The question is out of order.” In this case it doesn’t clear the bar for that response. Trying to put myself in the OP’s position, I probably would have agreed, not only to help the person, but also to avoid the resulting feelings of guilt, possibly self-imposed, if I declined, especially if the wheel chair person ended up in their assigned seat right behind me.

Then after boarding, if the person legitimately needed the extra room I would have felt good. If it looked like they were gaming the system I would probably have done a six hour slow burn all the way to YVR, and after calming down for a day or two done nothing else. I’ve learned that engaging with AC over this kind of stuff just gets me more worked up than I already am and nothing useful ever happens.

Now, Mr. or Ms Air Canada (or should I say “everyone”?), think about how much easier this situation would be if they had said we’ll give you a free upgrade for your next flight if you can move back one row to help out.
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Old Oct 15, 19, 2:20 am
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I would say no. And I wouldn't feel bad about it. Sorry.
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Old Oct 15, 19, 5:04 am
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Swap seats only if a better or equivalent exchanges were offered.
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Old Oct 15, 19, 6:13 am
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I kind of put this into a "lack of planning on your part doesn't constitute an emergency on my part" situation. I've had to travel a few times with a wheelchair companion and have always taken it upon myself to make sure the situation is as well in hand as can be before getting to the airport, booking first or business class, buying extra seats and noting the reservation.
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Old Oct 15, 19, 7:16 am
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I would say no. I might feel a twinge of guilty. I'd get over it.
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Old Oct 15, 19, 9:47 am
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A few years ago, we were booked YEG-YYZ on a 320 in seats 13C and D. I was SE at the time. On boarding, I was asked to wait and told my seat had been allocated to a person with special needs. I then pointed out I was travelling with my wife - the agent quickly realized that he'd overlooked that (likely because we were across the aisle from each other), so we both waited and both ended up in J (albeit separate seats). The agent was most apologetic, but I commended them for deftly handling it all.

In the OP's situation, I would have been most reluctant to move on a red eye - short haul yes, but overnight in a carefully selected seat, no. In my case above, a move to J was seen as appropriate. Does the OP know if J seats were available?
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Old Oct 15, 19, 9:53 am
  #15  
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Originally Posted by Fiordland View Post
Does a gate agent even have access to that information to know the difference between someone who has paid a fee for a certain seat vrs at check-in vrs auto-assigned by the software.
GAs certainly can see status level on AC and *A, although they might not know the nuances of which customers can select which seats (for free) when.
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