The weirdness of travel…or specifically other passengers!

“Karma is a bitch” she said as she sat down in the window seat next to me.

I thought “What are you talking about?”, but had enough sense to say nothing. After all, we would be sitting next to each other for the next 5 hours on my USAirways flight from New York, JFK to Phoenix.

Thinking back the day had started strangely.

The flight was early, 0630 and I know that Terminal 8 at JFK can have long queues for security so I was up and ready for the 4am shuttle from the Hilton at JFK. I came down a few minutes early to check out, and then wandered out to the bus. At about 3.59am a family of four with large cases turned up at the bus. Well in truth Mum and the two teenage kids did. Dad hadn’t come down yet. At 4.05am he turned up at the front desk, and by 4.20am, with growing angst amongst my other passengers, he was ready to let us leave. No apology, nothing!

Fast forward to check-in. My electronic ticket had been re-issued a couple of times to accommodate schedule changes and potentially missed connections. When the USAirways app didn’t let me check-in, I had to go to the check-in desks, probably for the first time in two years. A lovely agent spent some time trying to resolve the problem with no luck. She phoned her help desk which was going well until the lead fell out of the handset she was using!

Eventually her colleague managed to sort it out. My BA number had not carried through from American’s ticket and so I had it added (although the flight has yet to credit) and was off to the TSA PreCheck. Luckily there was no one there and I was through to the lounge quite quickly.

Fast forward to the gate. Boarding went well, I found a location for my carry on, and sat down.

And then they arrived. A couple who had managed to secure two window seats one behind the other.

‘Would you mind sitting in the window, in the row behind?’ she asked me.

‘I’m sorry, but I cannot sit in a window for 5 hours’ I replied.

Approaching the woman in the aisle seat in the row behind me, ‘Would YOU mind moving to the window in Row 2?’.

‘No, I’m sorry’ she said ‘I prefer the aisle’.

After much tutting, and slamming of overhead bins, the seat mate joined me. ‘Karma is a bitch’ she said as she sat down. Not quite sure where that came from!

The rest of the trip went uneventfully until the return flight on American Airlines from Honolulu to LAX. The 9pm flight was a bit hard for me, the jet lag was taking its toll and the hotel had only been able to give me a 2pm check-out, so I had been at the airport for a good while.

Boarding started early (as American seems to do these days), and I was settled in my seat when a couple boarded, almost at the end.

Walking up to me she stood over me and asked ‘Do you smoke?’.

‘I’m sorry but what are you asking?’ I replied.

‘Do you smoke?’ she repeated.

My brain was trying to process why this was any of her business, because even if I was a smoker (I’m not), it was a non-smoking flight.

‘Would you mind sitting in the window over there?’ was the next question. I was just explaining that I wouldn’t move when the guy in the aisle across from me offered to switch with the couple so I never found out why my preference for smoking, or not, had any influence on anything.

This flight passed quietly with almost the whole cabin sleeping.

But it got me wondering, is it me, or have passengers got stranger? Or is it all because I wouldn’t give up my assigned seats, that I had selected many months before, to accommodate these couples?



  1. Reading stories like this is why I no longer travel in economy… I just do not have the patience for all of that crap.

  2. You took the trouble to book your seat well in advance, why should you have to accommodate people who are not organised ?

    I think it’s rude when people ask, I also say no.

  3. The levels of aggressive entitlement and bad breeding are astounding. I will only move for families with children.

  4. @Darren – Actually it looks like the author was in first class (row 2 would only be coach on a regional jet, and JFK-PHX is definitely not operated by a regional jet). I tend to have more understanding for requests to switch seats in first class because 1) there are no real bad seats, even if I prefer aisle to window; 2) with fewer seats it’s harder for couples/families to get seats together even if they try to get seat assignments in advance, particularly as upgrades tend to clear later these days. Still there’s no excuse for any rudeness or sense of entitlement when asking for someone else to switch seats, which is after all a favor.

  5. “Do you smoke?”….people who smoke often smell like cigarette smoke. She probably wanted to know whether you might before switching seats. I wouldn’t want to sit next to a heavy smoker myself.

  6. This is some that infuriates me. Why should I be made to feel guilty about not switching to a seat I don’t want because I was proactive and selected the seat I did want months ago? It won’t kill you to be away from your significant other for a few hours, for God’s sake.

  7. Why do you prefer the aisle? I choose window over the aisle because it’s easier to fall asleep with my head against the fuselage. In the times I have had the aisle seat, I always get bumped by a passenger, crew member or, worse, the galley cart. On a recent flight, my seatmate was talking to me and a passenger bumped his arm, which was holding a mixed drink. The Jack and Coke spilled on him, and he gave the other guy some choice words. Sure, while sitting in a window seat you may have to be a little more patient and flexible when you need to get up for a walk to stretch your legs or use the lav. Other than that, why do you prefer the aisle?

  8. In 30+ years of air travel (UA & AA award program enrollments were 1981, DL in ’84) I’ve often tried to be courteous and helpful but, after too many “incidents” and too few “thank yous”, my usual reply to a request is a flat no and for stupid questions it’s “None of your business”. The ensuing silence is, as they say, deafening as well as blissful.

  9. @Bob:
    I just feel very trapped in a window. I do like to be able to get out to get to the loo without waking someone or interrupting their movie. I can sleep in an aisle seat thankfully and that trapped feeling, well it’s a big deal for me.

  10. Yeah, it’s the guilt tripping that really annoys me. The transfer of a problem from them to you by just asking to move seats and then you being the bad guy is a little annoying.

  11. @O2nz, you are right about upgrades, but that is also part of the issue. If I’ve booked and paid for First (not very much but still paid), and their upgrade cleared on the day, then they should feel lucky to be in F, without trying to guilt the other passenger to switch seats.

Comments are closed.