Most American travelers would switch their airplane seats if asked, but the reason matters
April 30th, 2024, Janice Fernandes

Most American travelers would switch their airplane seats if asked, but the reason matters

For many passengers, securing the ideal seat with family or a favorable location is crucial. These coveted spots often come at a premium, thanks to airlines' increasing charges for seat selection. So, what would it take for travelers to relinquish their seats if asked by a fellow passenger? A new YouGov survey reveals that most US travelers are generally willing to be accommodating if the request to switch seats is reasonable, but the reason matters. Roughly three-quarters (75%) of travelers would be willing to switch seats with someone who wants to sit next to a younger family member, such as a child or dependent. This willingness is consistent across most age groups, with a slight increase for those aged 65 and over (83%).

A request for sitting next to a spouse or partner would sway slightly fewer travelers to switch, though most would still do it (66%). Again, older travelers are more likely to agree to switch for this reason (75% of 65+) than younger travelers (53%).

The allure of a better seat has a more significant influence, nearly on par with switching for a family member, with 72% of all respondents saying they would switch seats if they were getting a window or aisle seat, or more legroom. Travelers between 18 to 29 years old are nearly as likely to switch for a better seat (68%) as they are for a younger family member (66%). While those over 65 years (67%) are less likely to switch for a better seat, the figure rises to 73% among 30-44-year-olds and 76% for 45-64-year-olds.

The promise of compensation, such as money, sways slightly fewer travelers, with 54% overall willing to switch for an incentive.

Interestingly, sitting next to a friend is the least persuasive reason for a seat switch. But still half (52%) of travelers say they would agree to move for this scenario. 

A minority (4%) of travelers say they would not switch seats under any circumstances.

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Methodology: YouGov polled 700 US adults on April 24, 2024. The survey was carried out through YouGov Surveys: Self-serve. Data is weighted by age, gender, political affiliation, education level and region. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Self-serve.

Image: Getty Images