We hope for them, rarely get them, but once in awhile run into flights that depart with many opens seats. What is the protocol for claiming those seats?
I wrote about my recent flight in SWISS First Class that went out with 5/8 seats filled. Even though we had only paid for an infant ticket for my son, the FAs invited us take one of the extra seats for him. But I probably would have taken the seat without asking.
Why? Because I assumed, based upon past practice over the last decade, that’s just what you do. Why do I assume that? Because that is the standard protocol I have witnessed time after time. I’ve been on many first class flights with many open seats. FAs have always encouraged passengers to spread out.
But we know what happens sometimes when you ass/u/me, so you I thought I would put the issue out for discussion.
When Is it Okay to Spread Out and Occupy Extra Seats?
The way I see it, spreading out is perfectly permissible:
- Within your cabin of service
- After the aircraft door has closed
- With the stipulation that it is a privilege and not a right
I wrote about my recent flight from Frankfurt to San Francisco on United…a flight that was only about 25% full in economy class.
While I secured a row to myself prior to boarding, most passengers staked out their claim after boarding. I personally do not like that approach to avoid the embarrassment of accidentally sitting in someone else’s seat, but I don’t see anything wrong with spreading out in this manner.
It’s all within a cabin and at least the passengers were using their United apps to view open rows in the rear of the aircraft.
When Is it NOT Okay to Spread Out and Occupy Extra Seats?
There are instances in which claiming open seats is simply not permitted or extremely rude.
- Exclusively claiming a shared open middle seat
If economy class is full and business class is empty, you cannot just take an open business class seat. Even if economy class full and extra legroom economy class seats are available, you cannot take those. Put simply, any seat that has an upcharge you should not take without permission from a FA or gate agent.
Another thing I hate is when you’re sitting in a section of three, the middle seat is open, but one of the passengers claims the middle seat (the seat itself and/or underseat) for himself. The underseat storage should be split and it is rude to drop your coat and electronic devices on the middle seat to the detriment of your seat mate. It is even ruder to sit “Inidan style” (is that even a PC term anymore?) and put your feet on the middle seat or lean over and rest your head on the middle seat if you have a seatmate on the other side.
Those are my thoughts on the issue, now I welcome yours. Generally, I think that spreading out within your ticketed cabin is not a problem. While asking FA permission is always best, it probably is not necessary.