There is always this thrill of boarding a plane. "Where am I sitting" or more importantly who is sitting in close proximity to me. If it turns out to be a disappointment, reseating is often not an option.

What are valid reasons to be reseated after boarding a plane?

5 Answers 5


You do not have much options, but you can always try one of the following:

  • Simply move to an empty seat: After boarding is done and doors are closed, move to any empty seat within the same class. Flight attendants will not mind.
  • Ask other passengers to swap: Be smart and ask people who are not with family or friends so it will not be a problem for them to swap seats. Older people hate window seats, younger people love window seats, ask the right people with a good smile for the seat and they will swap.
  • Talk to the cabin crew: They are always willing to help (if they can). Just tell them your reason and be honest, you can even say something like "the guy next to me smells bad!", or "I am planning to sleep and I do not prefer sitting next to babies", of course say that in private not in public, and they will help you as long as they can.
  • 1
    It is not usually appropriate to move about the cabin before take off. If lots of people move forwards, it ruins the aircraft balance, which is important during take off in case of unexpected engine failure during climb out.
    – Calchas
    Jun 10, 2015 at 16:36
  • @Calchas I do not think all passengers will be able to fit at the front.. a few passengers will not be able to change the CG of a plane. Jun 10, 2015 at 16:39
  • It doesn't take much to move the balance forwards. I simply mean you should ask, and if the cabin crew says "wait until after take off", this is the reason.
    – Calchas
    Jun 10, 2015 at 16:46
  • @Calchas been in the aviation business for years (cabin crew), and I have never encountered a problem because of that. This simply due to the fact that not much passengers would do that. One or two might do that, if many people stand up, of course this will not be accepted and people will be asked to sit down. Jun 10, 2015 at 16:49
  • @Calchas lucky us then, we have autopilots! anyway, a pilot might know how many people are sitting in each zone, and then calculate the weight (75 average kg per passenger), what if more fat people are in a zone while the other zone has more kids? AFAIK, take off speed is calculated putting in mind such cases. Jun 10, 2015 at 16:51

Some more info on top of what @MeNoTalk said:

It mostly depends how full the airplane is and why you want to switch. If the airplane is rather empty, there is no issue, you do not need a reason and you can switch as you like. If it is full, it depends how personal the reason is and if another (higher or lower) class is still free or if it is acceptable to get someone else into the seat.


  • If your seat is broken, they will not put someone else there, same if it is next to a baby etc.
  • If you are a woman and can argue that you feel uncomfortable sitting next to a specific man, they will most likely re-seat you.
  • If it is about sitting next to your friend/spouse, you can simply go and find someone single to switch with you or your friend. Make sure that the other person switches to the better seat (towards the front etc)
  • If the staff is very busy, you likely better help yourself and find someone who would switch with you.

General rules:

  • If you see the issue right away, ask immediately during the boarding procedure if the airplane is full. If it is not, either sit down or stand at an emergency exit and wait for the doors to close. Make sure you get your hand luggage into a bin already however.
  • Discretion and politeness is 99% for a good switch. Talk to the staff in private (as mentioned) and indicate that you are fine to switch later, too. So you take the pressure off them. Try to indicate your wish to switch as your problem/weakness instead of a demand towards the staff.
  • 5
    "If the airplane is rather empty, there is no issue" is not always true. If you are flying on a small aircraft, eg a turboprop, seating may be assigned to weight the aircraft properly. I've been denied moving seats due to weight distribution on third-full flights (and equally it's been fine on others.) This is not an unusual situation - these aircraft are common for short routes in some countries. I've flown them between Canberra and Melbourne and Riga and Tallinn, for example. The best answer is, always ask a flight attendant first.
    – David
    Feb 26, 2013 at 14:12
  • I've been told (along with all other passengers) to sit towards the front for takeoff on a 747, and we were free to move anywhere once we were in the air. Feb 26, 2013 at 14:15
  • Interesting - I wonder why for an aircraft that size? I can add I've moved seats fine on a 737 and some small Aeroflot (?) plane run by a Spanish airline I can't remember right now. In that last case, my friend and I asked the flight attendant since we wanted to get away from a smelly passenger.
    – David
    Feb 26, 2013 at 14:20

A few quick comments:

  • I've had people who were seated beside me get up and go sit somewhere else. It's not that weird, and nobody gets offended.
  • IMHO, you should NOT get up and go sit beside someone else you don't know (without a really good reason). That other person was about to enjoy a comfortable flight with some extra room, and you would be taking that away (basically saying your marginal increase in comfort is worth a significant decrease in their comfort - that's not right).
  • If your goal is to sit next to the pretty girl, then you shouldn't be doing that.

For the longest while, prior to the carry-on-luggage madness of today, I would make a point of being the very last person to board the airplane. That way I could walk down the aisle and literally pick any seat I want, knowing that nobody else would show up to claim it.

...and by the way, it isn't the end of the world if you claim a seat and someone else shows up who actually has it assigned. That's happened to me too, and I just admit I was hoping to snag a better seat and surrender it to them. Nobody cares.


Just move! I've never had a problem moving to an empty seat on a plane. Normally this works best when the plane is half-empty anyway and there's an entire empty row. Just remember to wait until everyone else is boarded (so you don't annoy anybody) - very shortly after the doors are shut is a good time - and be quick, as there's often only a short period before the plane pushes back. I've also switched seats after takeoff (and the sign is switched off), and again, I've never had a problem with that.


Don't just move! Extremely bad advice. Always involve the crew when moving to a different seat.

  1. Some flights have weight distribution concerns and certain seats will be blocked off. You have no way of knowing this as there will be no signs, simply those seats won't be assigned. And it's not something that can be handled later, the weight distribution is most important at take off time.

  2. The manifest on most domestic flights and definitely all international flights has information on who sits where. This can be important after a catastrophe and theoretically the crew will update it if you swap.

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