You’ve boarded your flight, settled in and for whatever reason, another seat is calling you. Nobody is sitting there and you have your eye on it, hoping to snag it to make your trip better. Are you actually allowed to move to a free seat once on board?

Some people are of the view that no, you need to sit where you’re sat and that’s all there is to it. Others think that any seat is fair game and if no-one is sitting there, anyone can claim it. Which is true here?

Can You Take A Free Seat?

Obviously the crew have a manifest showing which people are sitting in what seat. Moving seats could cause a little confusion, especially if you have ordered a special meal or the crew want to personalise their greeting. It also flummoxes accident investigators if people are not where they’re supposed to be.

All of that being said, it’s generally fine to move to a free seat. The only caveat being that the seat must be in the cabin you’ve paid for. You can’t go, “oh, there’s a free seat in first class, I’ll sit there!”. If that was allowed, there’d be an on board rush on every flight.

When To Move To A Free Seat

The only time it is appropriate to move is once the cabin doors have been closed. There is often an announcement over the intercom between the crew of “Boarding Complete”. That’s your cue. Get up and move straight away.

Alternatively, you can wait until the aircraft is actually in the air. Once the seat belt sign is turned off, you can then move leisurely to your newly chosen seat. Most people tend to do it once boarding is complete, I’ve found.

Should You Ask For Permission?

Some people believe it is polite to ask your flight attendant for permission. You can certainly ask them, but I have never seen them refuse a request to change seats.

Cabin crew I’ve spoken to say it doesn’t actually make any difference to them. Of course, that is for economy class passengers. People with special meals and those in premium cabins would want to tell the crew, so it can be noted you have moved.

Overall Thoughts

With Ryanair actively seating those who don’t pay for seats in the middle seat, people tend to move around pretty quickly when there is space available on their flights. Otherwise, people tend to row jump by one row to a quieter set of seats if they see them.

It’s not often you will see someone making a big move. Where there are banks of unclaimed seats in the rear of a long haul economy class cabin, savvy travellers will snag a block of four so they have their own bed to sleep in. That’s the only time I’ve seen movement of many rows.

What do you think about changing to a free seat after boarding is complete? Have you done it? What was your reason for doing so? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image via oneworld alliance.