I Refused to Switch Seats on a Plane. Twice. Was I Wrong?

I am an organized person. When I travel, I book my flights well in advance. This usually lets me claim my preferred seat: on the aisle in the bulkhead row. I have long legs, and those seats tend to provide more legroom — not that I have to justify myself. This brings me to my problem: The last two times I’ve flown, a steward asked me to change seats to accommodate a parent flying alone with small children. My moving would allow them to sit together. But I didn’t want to move! (They could have booked in advance, too.) So, I politely refused. Several passengers made nasty comments. Was I wrong to hold my ground?


Generally, you are entitled to sit in the seat that you paid for — the one that is printed on your boarding pass. (Let’s put aside rules about emergency exit rows and other special circumstances.) You weren’t “wrong” to politely refuse a request to move. Any number of passengers could have done so to accommodate those families.

I wouldn’t be doing my job, though, if I didn’t encourage you to empathize with the parents. Flying with young children is challenging; doing so while sitting in separate rows, or under unexpected circumstances (a distant family member falling ill, for instance), is far more difficult. Now, none of this obliges you to change seats. Just let it be part of your calculation.

Personally, I’m a softy for switching where children are involved, and less so for adults (if I have a great seat). I suggest that stewards look elsewhere for volunteers if fellow passengers try to shame me from the sidelines. And I always ask if an upgrade is available. The complimentary wine and warm nuts of business class are a balm to many wounds.

Credit…Miguel Porlan

Our wedding is approaching. My future husband has four siblings, one of whom is single. As we finalized our guest list, it was obvious to me that his single sister would not get a plus one for the wedding. But my fiancé objected. His sister occasionally brings a male friend to family events, and they engage in public displays of affection that are awkward for everyone. Also, our wedding is taking place across the country, and including this man in wedding events over several days doesn’t sit right with me. Am I being old-fashioned?


This is your wedding. You are allowed to be as old-fashioned as you and your fiancé agree to be. Keep in mind, though, that his sister may be very important to him. And since you are asking people to fly across the country to spend several days celebrating your wedding, he may want to offer his sister the courtesy of a companion.

Still, you have an equal vote here. I’m not exactly clear whether your objection to the plus one is that his sister is unmarried, her P.D.A. with her boyfriend makes you uncomfortable or you just don’t want to see this guy at your wedding. (Maybe it’s all three!) Be straight with your fiancé and talk this through. Sadly, it will not be the last compromise you two have to reach.

I made friends with a woman whom I see at my kids’ play dates and in the park. I find myself bristling at how pushy she is: insisting that I parent like she does or attend events I’ve already told her I don’t want to go to. I’m happy to be cordial when I see her, but she isn’t taking the hint when I respond to her invitations by saying “I’m busy.” They keep coming. What should I do?


It’s not your job to placate anyone — though I recognize that women often feel pressured to. For me, it probably wouldn’t be worth the emotional energy (and possible fallout at future play dates) to stage a formal breakup with a casual acquaintance.

The next time she tries to pressure you, assert yourself: “I’ve already said I don’t want to go.” You could also change the way you respond to her invitations, from “I’m busy” — which suggests you would go if you weren’t busy — to “No, thanks.” That way, your message will be clear.

I recently moved from Denver to Saint Paul, Minn. When I meet new people, they often apologize on behalf of Minnesota (“Sorry about the winters!” — as if I didn’t know it was cold here before I came) or express shock that I chose to move (“I would love to live in Denver!”). It was funny at first. Now, it’s getting annoying. I like it here. How should I respond when people question my life choices after just meeting me?


People blurt — especially about weather in the middle of winter. We will not stop that. But you may be able to short-circuit these annoying conversations. Offer another interpretation right away: “Sounds like you need a vacation. I love it here, and I’m delighted I moved!” I’ll bet that changes these chats.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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