Tag Archives: seat swapping

I have had it with Seat Swappers

As the title says, I have had it with seat swappers. After years of tolerating (and sometimes accommodating) them, I have no patience with such people anymore.

I wouldn’t be wrong to say that most Indians are seat swappers and almost all seat swappers are Indians. Seat swapping is an integral part of an Indian’s psyche.

Their mission goes something like this:

  1. Buy bus/train/plane tickets for yourself and your family members/friends, knowing full well you are not sitting together. Don’t rectify the situation by selecting your seat online.
  2. Show up on the date of the journey and board said vehicle, nonchalantly.
  3. Once on-board, look for an unsuspecting victim whose seat you like.
  4. Walk up to them and politely ask/demand that they swap their seats with you.
  5. If refused, give them a nasty look and find another victim.
  6. Repeat steps 3 to 5 till all members of your party are sitting together.

Ever since I was young, I have seen them in action. Whenever you board an Indian transport, you can see people frantically discussing this with each other. I can understand 30-20 years ago, maybe when booking train tickets, you were not allowed to choose seats. In some such cases, seat swapping was necessary. But at least for the last 15 years, Indian train ticketing allows you to ensure all members of your party are sitting together. For airplanes, you could always ask the check-in personnel to give you seats together. For last 15 years, you can select seats right at the time of booking. Same for busses, now. Most providers allow this for free or for a very small charge.

Whey then, do seat swappers exist? They exist because these bastards are too lazy to do even the bare minimum mentioned above and select seats. Sitting with the rest of their group is important for them, but not important enough to select seats in advance. Also, these people have no respect for people who did bother to follow the process.

When I travelled regularly for my job, I came across such bastards on almost every single flight out of/to India. In the beginning, mostly, I accommodated them. After that, I started accommodating them, only when the new seat was the same type as my original seat. Sometimes, I went through multiple rounds of seat swapping before being able to settle down.

Eventually, I grew so tired of all this that I started to pretend to sleep after boarding. Still, some shameless people would try to shake me “awake” to swap seats.

I remember one specific incident when I was travelling to Melbourne. I had paid ₹1200 out of my own pocket to reserve a window seat on the Air India flight. As expected, after I settled in, a woman came and started crying that she and her son got different seats and asked me to swap seats. I politely told her I had paid for my seat and I was not moving. She muttered something like “people have no compassion” and started walking away. Already on edge, I immediately lost it and insulted her in front of dozens of people. I told her that if sitting with her son was important for her, she would have paid some money and made sure they had seats together. I was fuming for hours afterwards at the nerve of the woman.

Interestingly, I have seen this behaviour only among Indians. Others either selects seats in advance or don’t care where they sit. In fact on one long-haul flight from Sao Paulo to Dubai, I saw a white woman sitting separately from her 2 daughters (both <10 years) and all of them were perfectly fine and behaved the entire time.

End of Rant.