Home Travel Awkward: He Wouldn’t Switch Plane Seats, Then Got Yelled At For Ignoring Her Kids. What Would You Have Done?

Awkward: He Wouldn’t Switch Plane Seats, Then Got Yelled At For Ignoring Her Kids. What Would You Have Done?

by SharonKurheg

The internet is chock full of interesting things. Case in point, Reddit.

Reddit is an American social news aggregator, web content rating, and discussion website. Registered members submit content to the site, such as links, text posts, and images, which other members then voted up or down.

Reddit has an area called AITA, which stands for “Am I The A-Hole.” They describe the community as, “A catharsis for the frustrated moral philosopher in all of us, and a place to finally find out if you were wrong in an argument that’s been bothering you. Tell us about any non-violent conflict you have experienced; give us both sides of the story, and find out if you’re right, or you’re the a-hole.” It’s sort of like a jury of their peers kind of thing.

We’ve mentioned other situations from AITA in the past:

Welp, I fell down another “Reddit rabbithole” the other day and found a situation where the writer asked for clarification as to whether or not they were an a-hole:

AITA for not switching seats with a mother on an airplane, then ignoring her children?

I was flying to visit my family and had an aisle seat, which I was very thankful for because I get kind of claustrophobic in middle or window seats. I was getting buckled up and everything, when a lady comes over with her two kids (maybe 4-5 years old. looked like twins). She sees me sitting there and asks if I would be willing to switch seats with her. I don’t remember exactly where her seat was, I think it was a few rows behind mine and it was a window seat.

I didn’t want to switch and I told her as much. She got very annoyed and asked me again, and again. The flight attendant told her we were going to take off soon, so the lady asked me to move yet again. When I said no, she said that it was fine, but I would have to watch her kids. I told her I wouldn’t do that, and she should have bought seats together if she was that concerned.

She got all huffy and just went back to her seat. I put my headphones on and started watching a movie, and didn’t really pay much attention to the kids. They started arguing at some point, and it led to one of them crying. After a few minutes of screaming, the mom came over and asked why the hell I wasn’t doing anything. I said that I wasn’t going to take care of someone else’s kids, and I had explicitly told her that at the beginning of the flight. Eventually the flight attendant found someone in an aisle seat that was willing to switch with the lady, so that person took the window seat, the lady took my seat, and I took the other aisle seat.

When I told my family about it, they said I was an a-hole and should have just watched out for the kids. I don’t think it’s my responsibility though, they’re not my kids and it’s not my fault that the mom didn’t buy seats together. Also, if something happened and the kids got hurt or something urgent, I would have helped. I just didn’t want to spend my entire flight tending to them and breaking up arguments. AITA for ignoring them?

(To clarify the story a little, I think the mom must have had Basic Economy seats and was separated from her 2 kids. Said kids were in the middle and window seat of the writer’s row, and writer had the aisle.)

So, was the poster an a-hole?

The original post is about 6 months old and now archived, but at its peak, it had about 1,500 replies (you can read them here – heads up that some of the replies include adult language). Not surprisingly, the responses varied.

Replies seemed to go into one of a few camps:

  • Not The A-Hole – the writer was under no obligation to switch seats or watch the kids
  • You Are The A-Hole – the writer should have switched when asked, or at least kept an eye on the kids, in the name of being helpful to your fellow man.
  • The Mom Was The A-Hole – She tried to bully the writer. That set aside, she should have gotten the flight attendant involved much earlier, when she couldn’t get anyone to switch. The kids’ argument would have been nipped in the bud if whatever “musical chairs” had been done earlier in the flight
  • The Airline is The A-Hole – . People traveling with young children (or anyone who is not physically or mentally able to fend for themselves) should automatically be sat together, regardless of what type of ticket they bought; it’s a matter of safety.

The whole story reminded me of a situation Joe and I went through, a few years ago. It was when Basic Economy was a relatively new concept and not everyone knew the implications of what you could and couldn’t do if you bought a Basic Economy seat (let’s face it – a lot of people still don’t know). An older woman spent quite some time trying to get people to switch seats so she and/or her daughter (who had bought the tickets) could sit next to the pre-school aged children in their party. Once everyone was settled, Joe had a long conversation with the woman, to get a better idea of what “Jane Q. Public” knew about Basic Economy. It was quite an eye-opener. You can read about it here.

But back to our original poster. What do you think? Was the original poster an a-hole, or no? And why?

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


BB312 February 10, 2021 - 9:55 am

I empathize with everyone here. I even support the airline charging a fee for seat selection, but it really should be buy one adult seat selection get one minor seat selection free. Fees for the middle seat when traveling with a child are targeting only families. No adult wants the middle. My wife and I will even pay for two aisles when traveling without our son. And I personally would trade for the fee back in this situation, but would not feel obligated to.

stogieguy7 February 10, 2021 - 11:00 am

Yes, it’s an awkward situation. The airline could shoulder some blame for the seat assignments, but there were surely complications due to a fairly full flight and perhaps mom’s fare class. They usually try though. Mom is not the a-hole because she was stuck and it was not her choice. So yes, the guy was the [ultimate] a-hole. He could have just switched seats, which would have been far preferable to babysitting someone else’s 4 year olds anyway.

I’ve been in this type of situation and have always switched. In some cases, I’ve even scored a better seat by doing so.

Angela February 10, 2021 - 1:01 pm

I sympathize with the mom to an extent but it is her fault for either not buying seats or not understanding the rules. If I pay for my seat, I sure as hell don’t intend to give it up. Even if I didn’t pay for it but was assigned it and I like the seat, I don’t want to give it up. It happened to me years ago on a flight to Hawaii, way before basic economy. For whatever reason a family didn’t have seats together and several of us were forced by flight attendants to move and give our seats to a family. What was odd was I had a window seat and all of us on that side were forced to move to the middle row and the family was set in 2 rows on that side of the plane. Why not have put them in the middle and moved people from the middle to better window or aisle seats? Anyway, I wouldn’t watch her kids either.

Brian L. February 10, 2021 - 2:09 pm

The @$$hole is the mother who 1) expected a complete stranger to watch her kids. and 2) was rude and demanding about it. I agree with the original poster – it’s not his job to watch someone else’s kids.

Christian February 10, 2021 - 2:17 pm

While I have no love for the airlines’ basic economy policies, I’m largely blaming the mom here. She presumably tried to reserve seats when the reservation was made and discovered that she could not do so in advance, which would mean getting random seats. If she knew that seating was going to be random she should have made it a point to arrive extra early and check in in person, which may have taken care of the problem. If for whatever reason that didn’t work, she should have tried at the gate to get seated together since it’s easier to shuffle people in advance of boarding. Failing that, she should have asked a flight attendant for help. Finally, she should not expect strangers to babysit her children.
Ultimately, there’s enough blame to go around here but I really don’t see the author as being at fault. JMTC.

Lara S. February 11, 2021 - 2:28 pm

I think the mom was at fault. No one else is responsible for your kids, period.

I have been in first class and had a kid end up sitting next to me. The parents had three kids and two adults in a two-two first class seating situation, someone was going to end up on their own and their youngest wanted mom and their oldest wanted dad. They had an older pre-teen that probably would have been the most self sufficient but who also started howling when told she’d have to sit alone. I was asked if I minded if their middle kid sat next to me and as a mom was like, I don’t care but the mom assured me she’d make the older kid sit there instead if necessary if I was uncomfortable. Point being the mom and dad tried to fix the problem with the least fuss and deferring to my wishes. Asking someone to move to accommodate your poor planning and then just giving up when they won’t move and assuming they will watch your kids and not continuing to try to find a solution or get the flight attendants involved sooner is on the mom. You should NEVER demand or even really ask someone else to WATCH your kid.

And for the record, the kid needed very little help in my situation, but I did have a fascinating conversation with her about a game on her iPad I’d never seen before.

Pam Gosdis February 17, 2021 - 11:21 am

Nope, He probably purchased his ticket far enough in advance to get the seat he wanted. Why should he be punished for that? The mom is the A-hole for even suggesting that he be a “free” babysitter. She should have respected HIS rights as a paying passenger. That being said, since we don’t know when she bought the tickets—maybe the flight was full. She should have gone to the airline counter at the gate long before the flight was even boarding to voice her concerns. The employee at the counter would have made an announcement to the passengers waiting to board to see if anyone was willing to change seats so a family could be together. Instead, she just ‘assumed’ that someone would give up their seat for her. She could have nipped this in the bud before it escalated tempers. She is the A-hole.


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