Woman Refuses to Swap Plane Seats so Mom Can Sit With Toddler and People are Divided

Families getting separated on flights has become a huge issue and other passengers are annoyed. 

Asking fellow passengers to swap seats on a flight to sit next to friends and family is nothing new, but it's become much more controversial recently and airplane etiquette has gone out the window, due to a common problem parents are having. Many people flying with kids are often separated from their young children–sometimes even toddlers who need care, and travelers are fed up. In a rant on Reddit that's resurfaced and gone viral an unidentified traveler explains how a mom asked to have the window seat so she could sit next to her daughter, and wanted the passenger to take the middle seat a row back. The person refused and people are weighing in on both sides. 

Passenger Criticized the Mom for Her "Audacity" to Ask to Switch Seats

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The original poster explained what happened stating, "I was in the bulkhead window and her toddler daughter was in the middle next to me while she was in the middle seat in the row behind me. She asked me – and just me – to switch with her so she could have my window seat (next to her daughter) and I'd take her middle seat a row back."

"Not My Problem"

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The traveler shared that it was an unfair trade and stayed in the window seat.  "Not my problem they didn't book together. Worse is we were surrounded by others from her tour group that she could've asked for a three-way trade instead. Or the tour operator. The audacity to ask just me and expect an inferior trade on my side."

The Mom Didn't Try to Switch Seats with Anyone Else to Sit Next to Her Daughter

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In response to other commenters, the person noted that the mom did not try to trade seats with anyone else and that she specifically wanted the window seat. "She didn't ask the gentleman on the aisle in my row – on the other side of her daughter, nor did she ask anyone else in the middle section of the plan or on the right side of the plane." The original poster went on to explain, "She asked me only then proceeded to be [rude]. She made zero effort to actually change seats for her daughter. So to say it's 'hard' to sit together is [incorrect] and that she was just 'caring' for her daughter is a farce. Neither of those was her concern."

The Traveler Stayed Seated Next to the Kid for the Duration of the Flight

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The passenger remained in the window seat and didn't have a problem sitting next to the child. "So, the kid was actually great for the time I was awake. She colored, played with some stuffed animals, and was generally very good. She fell asleep quickly and stayed asleep for a while." The person continued, "Despite all that, though, her mom felt the need to check on her constantly. Reaching between the seats to wake her up and make sure she was okay. Which I understand, to a degree like during meal times and whatnot. But it was seemingly every 30 minutes on a flight from Japan to LAX. Like, she would wake her daughter up to ask her if she was okay. As if she was now using her daughter and interrupting her rest just to get back at me."

People Supported the Original Poster Saying They Would Give Up a Window Seat Either

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Many people sided with the peeved passenger and explained they would have done the same in that situation. One commenter wrote, "My rule of thumb is:

1). Will only change an aisle for an aisle (my preference).

2). Will never change an aisle or a window for a middle

3). Will never change if I had to spend extra money to get my seat."

"I just started refusing altogether," another agreed. "Unless it's for an upgrade." The commenter added, "I'm sick of entitlement from people, and it seems elevated on planes and even more so of late. I don't know you. I don't generally care about you beyond reasonable human compassion. And I am certainly not responsible for your poor planning. Don't talk to me again and go away."  Someone else wrote, "Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine. And an airline not making accommodations for a toddler and parent would be more bad press than they want. Entitled parent is entitled."

Parents Slammed the Traveler

Passengers on the airplane.
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Not everyone was on the side of the passenger who wouldn't trade seats with the mom. "As a parent of a toddler, I'm surprised that you preferred to sit next to someone else's unaccompanied toddler, vs just moving. sure, someone else could move, but either someone has to move or someone has to sit next to a flying toddler. I honestly don't know which is more annoying for the other passengers." The person continued, "It's not always possible for families to book seats together for some reason, and go figure, sometimes they need to fly places. Idk what the answer is here but being infuriated about a mom trying to watch their own kid is dumb."

Someone else wrote, "I don't know how people get happy with it and think as a win situation. As a mom of a toddler that is extremely agitated and doesn't have much boundaries I would feel worried by people sited on her side. Not only scream and cry but also the discovery of opening and close tray tables touch screen, unplug headphones. I just imagine her trying to close the tray table with a water cup on top of it."

Why Parents are Sometimes Separated

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Even if you book your reservation together and select seats next to each other, there is a chance to get separated from your group. If a flight is overbooked and you're bumped or the flight is rescheduled, it's not guaranteed you will sit with your party. The Washington Post reports, "Unfortunately, sometimes getting bumped or rescheduled after canceled flights comes with getting separated from the people or the pets you're flying with. Shifting your travel plans because of a flight bump is frustrating enough, but being separated from your travel companions can really mess with logistics."

According to the Post, "Booking systems don't recognize that young children can't just do their own thing, airline analyst Bryan del Monte said. "They treat every passenger as if they're fully functional and capable of being separated." With that being said, there are laws about seating minor children with parents and seating families together, del Monte added, but since it's considered "guidance" rather than a basis for fines, airlines are generally careless about it."

The US Department of Transportation is Pressuring Airlines to Change Their Ways

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The US Department of Transportation is trying to help families stay together without paying more, and in June 2022 issued an urgent notice to airlines urging them "to do everything in their power to ensure that children who are age 13 or younger are seated next to an accompanying adult with no additional charge." 

"Parents traveling with young kids should be able to sit together without an airline forcing them to pay junk fees," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. "We have been pressing airlines to guarantee family seating without tacking on extra charges, and now we're seeing some airlines start to make this common-sense change. All airlines should do this promptly, even as we move forward to develop a rule establishing this as a requirement across the board."   American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and Alaska Airlines have stated they will offer free family seating at no additional cost. Alaska Airlines told Travel + Leisure the airline has always "prioritized sitting families together," but will now "guarantee" it, however the child and parent need to be booked on the same reservation.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more
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