Get your shit together, people.
RULE #1: If the flight is not full, you may move your seat after you ask a flight attendant to point out unclaimed seats and receive his/her permission to swap. You don’t get to just sit wherever you want. This is ticketed air travel, not some free Indigo Girls concert in Central fucking Park. If the flight IS full, please observe the following additional rules:
RULE #2: You may switch seats with another person if and only if
a) You really need to sit with your travel companion. Perhaps you are a baby. Or a translator. Or a conjoined twin. If you are one half of a couple who wishes to make out for the duration of the flight, you may not switch seats with anyone. No handys in the bathroom either — there is a line out here, you inconsiderate twerps.
b) You have an extremely tight connection and are hoping to get closer to the front of the plane for ease in de-boarding. NOTE: You’re probably not the only one, Bucko, so simmer down and let the flight attendants help you work it out.
c) You are the chaperone of a large group of traveling students. In this case, you are morally obligated to switch your seat to one that is located in the midst of your charges. No one else should have to suffer through five hours of Camp Christwood’s First Mission to Haiti.
RULE #3: After you’ve determined whether you are eligible to switch seats, a strict protocol should be followed:
a) This is a one-to-one trade. If you have an aisle seat, you need to find another human with an aisle seat in a different row who is willing to switch with you. Your middle seat does not get you extra legroom just because you want to giggle over Us Weekly with your sorority sister Gina en route to Cancún.
b) An exception can be made for up-trades, i.e. you being willing to give up a prime aisle (long legs) or window (likes to nap) seat so that the person you want to trade with — in a middle — benefits from your need to control your environment while trapped in a metal tube hurtling through the air at 550 miles per hour.
c) DO NOT STAND IN THE AISLE HEMMING AND HAWING ABOUT SEAT-SWITCHING. PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO BOARD THE GODDAMN PLANE.
d) Do not, under any circumstances, TAKE someone else’s seat before you ask. The I’ll just sit here and we’ll work it out later approach is shitty. You are a shitty person. You wouldn’t want somebody to do that to you, so don’t do that to somebody, capisce? Sit in your own damn seat, wait for the person whose seat you want to show up, and work it out like adults, not sneaky little shits.
e) Do not GIVE AWAY someone else’s seat in some kind of shell game approach to getting the seat you covet. Case in point: on a recent flight from Santo Domingo to Miami, I boarded the plane to find an elderly Dominican woman in my window seat. The window seat is important to me, so I was forced to explain to her, in my halfway-decent Spanish, that she was in my seat, and try to determine what seat she was supposed to be in, so we could get her resettled. I thought she was simply mistaken about her row or something. But no, the three sneaky old American shits across from us finally copped to having given her my seat so they could all sit together. (Nevermind that, in their original arrangement, they would have been sitting aisle, aisle, middle and the Dominican Lady in the window seat, meaning there would be no more than sixteen inches of space between aisle buddies, and the occasional passing beverage cart.) So then, while everyone is trying to board behind us, I have to get Sneaky Americans to admit that they wanted her window seat but only had an aisle to trade and couldn’t explain that to her since they do not speak Spanish. Please refer to Rule 3a above, assholes. Because I would not relinquish my window seat (as mentioned, these happen to be important to me and I go online and select them in advance so that I don’t cause this kind of ruckus), instead of a ONE-FOR-ONE TRADE, Elderly Dominican Lady actually got traded an aisle for her original window, and maybe, just maybe, THAT WASN’T COOL WITH HER. Maybe she prefers window seats like I do! Did Sneaky Americans care? No, they were not only completely unwilling to deal with the consequences of their own bullshit maneuver, one of them just kept shouting at Dominican Lady to “Sit! Sit down!” as though she were deaf, or perhaps an unruly, English-speaking puppy. Thus leaving it to my husband and I to explain — again, in our imperfect Spanish — what had happened, and make sure she was okay with having landed in an aisle seat. Oh, and later she asked my husband to fill out her immigration form for her, which probably means she can’t even read Spanish, let alone understand English, and we learned she was 80 years old and traveling unaccompanied, so fuck those people who just bounced her out of 22A into 22D without even trying to be polite about it.
RULE # 4: Do not try to switch seats on an airplane.