When You Refuse to Change Seats with a Fellow Passenger

Airplane Interior

The request to change seats on a plane, train, or public transportation is bound to happen considering the number of people who ride them. Are you always obligated to comply?

Of course, you are perfectly welcome to accommodate if you choose. And should an attendant ask if you’d mind switching, you might surely agree. But you are being asked a favor and, therefore, the decision to grant it or not is up to you.

Why You Might Decline a Request

Not that you need an important reason to decline to change seats with someone, but any of the following reasons are perfectly valid:

  • You chose your seat carefully ahead of time and like where you are seated.
  • The reason given for changing seats does not pass muster in your opinion.
  • It’s a long flight and you want to be comfortable.
  • You need to work on your computer and chose your seat accordingly.
  • You are seated beside someone with whom you are traveling.
  • Your next flight will be a tight connection and the seat you have is near an exit.

When You Refuse to Change Seats

You do not need to discuss your reason for declining but remaining etiquette-ful is called for. Although it’s perfectly fine to refuse a request, when you choose to do so remember that it’s all in how you do it.

Must Do’s

  • Smile and look directly at the person asking.
  • Assume the best about the person asking.
  • Respond politely in a pleasant tone of voice and facial expression.
  • Be succinct. “Sorry, no, thank you.”

Never Do’s

  • Never appear arrogant or put upon.
  • Feel compelled to make excuses or explain.
  • Be anything besides succinct. “No, I’d rather not” works just fine.
  • Don’t be long-winded with any explanation as you could appear argumentative.

If it feels appropriate, you might add to your ‘No’ reply.

  • “I requested this seat in advance.”
  • “I’m already settled in.”
  • “Perhaps a flight attendant can help you.”
  • “May I push my call button to get you some assistance?”

Still, no lengthy explanation is needed. The bottom line is: you were requested to do something, it didn’t work for you, and you chose to decline. And that is okay.

Let’s face it, saying “no” is hard to do sometimes. We like to be accommodating to others, and appreciate it when others are accommodating to us. But let’s face it – sometimes you just need to keep your seat.

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