“My Child Wants to Sit by the Window.” I Paid for a Comfy Seat on the Plane and Refused to Swap With Another Passenger
A long flight is not a pleasant experience, especially when it happens to be at night and the passengers are faced with the task of sleeping in a seated position. This can be made easier by buying a business class ticket or paying a little more for a seat with extra legroom. The protagonist of today’s article chose the latter option, but when she walked into the cabin, she found that her seat was occupied by a teenager whose mother insisted that she should swap seats with her son.
Planned a long-awaited holiday
“Hi! My name is Emily. I work as a marketer in a large company and unfortunately, I rarely allow myself a holiday. The last time I took time off was three years ago and only recently was I able to free up two weeks in my work schedule for a long-awaited vacation. I decided to go to Hawaii so I could combine some lazy time on the beach with activities like hiking in national parks.
There was one problem, though, I could only get tickets for the flight from New York to Honolulu, which is almost 12 hours long, and departs in the early morning. Anticipating getting to the airport in a half-asleep state, I made a point of buying a seat with extra legroom in advance. This way I could comfortably catch up on my sleep on the plane, and admire the vast Pacific ocean once I woke up. Once the tickets were bought, I fully immersed myself in planning the trip and dreamed of the long-awaited holiday. Unfortunately, I faced difficulties as soon as I got on the plane.”
Found other passengers in her seat
"Getting up early in the morning to catch my flight, I predictably didn’t get much sleep. What’s more, I’d been tossing and turning the night before, not being able to fall asleep, which is a common thing before a trip for me. So, in the taxi on my way to the airport I was already looking forward to a comfortable nap on the flight. I get on the plane and, to my surprise, I see a 12-year-old kid in my seat, browsing his phone. His mother is next to him.
I ask them if they got their seats mixed up. I show them my ticket and seat number, double-checking it myself. Maybe, in my sleepy state, I got it wrong. But no, the seat was correct. The child’s mother asks me to swap seats and, nodding at the boy, adds:
Looking at him, though, you wouldn’t have thought so. During the entire conversation, the child stares silently at his phone, sometimes frantically tapping the screen with his fingers. I refuse, and tell the mother that I understand her perfectly, which is why I booked a comfortable seat in advance and paid extra for it on top of the standard ticket price. But the woman doesn’t let up."
Tried to calmly explain her stance
“The last thing I wanted to do was to start arguing in the middle of the plane. More and more people were entering the cabin and taking their seats, while I was standing there, for the third time, trying to calmly explain to the woman that this was my seat and I didn’t want to give it up because I’d hoped to get some sleep and also admire the ocean and the clouds. But with each reply the woman’s tone was becoming more aggressive. The neighboring passengers were already starting to stare at us.
For the next 20 minutes I was bombarded with a ton of accusations and insults. The woman asked me: ’Do you, young lady, have any kids yourself?’ To which I quickly replied that it was none of her business, but in response I was told that it meant I had none and therefore I didn’t understand what it was like to be a mother. Then she pointed out my supposedly infantile nature, since a grown woman wants to admire clouds instead of just moving from point A to point B. My manners also came under attack: ’You could have let the kid have it, is that so hard?’”
Flight attendants intervened in the conflict
“The plane was almost full, the flight attendants started checking the cabin before departure, but our argument still went on. Moreover, practically all the passengers around us were staring at us at this point. My reasoning didn’t work, the woman refused to give up the seat, and the child was still staring blankly at his phone. A flight attendant walked past, and I asked him for help, showing my ticket and explaining the situation.
The flight attendant explained to the woman that the seat by the window was taken and asked them to go to theirs, as indicated on the tickets they had bought. She was still trying to argue for a while, but then another flight attendant came up and also asked the mother and child to go to their seats. Then, with an extremely unhappy expression on their faces, they stood up and walked to the middle of the cabin. At about the same time, a late passenger arrived; he had the seat next to mine (the one where the woman was sitting). I wonder how the situation would have turned out if he had arrived earlier.”
She’s glad that she finally learned to assert her personal boundaries
“I never did get any sleep on that flight. I spent the entire journey upset, and replaying the conflict in my head, but I was glad that I had asserted my boundaries. Especially since I’d always had difficulties with it before. I was once ’pushed off’ a bench in a park by a group of people who said that there were no other free benches available. Another time, while waiting in line at a fridge in Whole Foods, a man cut right in front of me and took the last slice of pizza I’d been eyeing up. And I can’t even count the number of times someone ’stole’ my taxi.
Every time in these situations I didn’t want to cause a conflict, I was afraid of confrontation and ended up backing off. But this time, I was very tired and hadn’t been on holiday for a long time, so I didn’t let myself be pushed around anymore and defended my stance. I got to catch up on my sleep at the hotel, and spent two amazing weeks in Hawaii. As for this story, I still tell it to my friends.”