Posted by: Inside-Out Peace | February 24, 2009

On Giving Up An Exit-row Airplane Seat

Last week I went to El Paso, Texas.  Coming home, I had an exit-row, window seat – the creme de la creme of economy-class airline seating.  Shortly after I sat down, a man roughly twice my size asked me, “what seat do you have?”, which is the polite way of saying, “I think you’re in my seat”.  I confirmed with the flight attendant that I was in fact in the correct seat, and that his was the one directly in front of me.  He took a look at that seat and muttered, “you’ve got to be kidding me”, and the flight attendant said something I didn’t catch the beginning of but that ended with, “…unless she’ll switch”.  I took one look at him, one look at the amount of unused space I had, and said, “Yes, I’ll switch”.  You would think I’d done something worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.  The flight attendant was just floored, said she’d never seen anyone do that, and I had to repeat myself before the gentleman even believed me.  Yet, I am small enough that even in the other seat, I still had a little room to spare.  It just didn’t make any sense to me that he should be incredibly uncomfortable for the next three hours, when I would be equally comfortable in either seat.  But both of them went on for several minutes about how incredibly kind I was to do so and offering to buy me drinks, until instead of feeling good about doing a nice thing, I ended up feeling bad that it was that uncommon of an occurrance!  Was it really that strange a thing to do?  If so, why?  Please comment!



  1. This happened to me in January!!! It’s nice if they said thank you, but the overboard nature of praise made me feel super awkward. At least there are two of us! 🙂 I hope it’s more common than you fear.

  2. Something similar happened to me on a 9:30 hour flight to Santiago, Chile. I just switched seats so a family could sit together and you’d think they had asked me to give up my first born child.

    I think the problem is really a lack of honesty on personal, social, and political levels. We all fell like if we just said how we really felt that we would be violating some social contract.

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