Can You Give Your First Class Seat to Another Passenger?

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On a recent transcontinental flight from Los Angeles to New York (JFK), there was an interesting situation that occurred in the premium cabin I thought I’d share. This was onboard a Delta 757-200ER with 16 seats in the Delta One cabin. Several minutes before departure, the passenger in 3D showed up and sat down.

Moments later he walked back to coach and a new passenger walked up and sat down in 3D. The new passenger told me that this guy had given him his seat as his wife was seated in the main cabin and wanted to sit next to her. The original passenger in 3D was a paying business class passenger as I saw his boarding pass when he sat down and it was for J class.

All seems fine, however the passenger in 3A calls over the flight attendant to complain about what had just occurred, as one of her family members was seated in coach, and she claims he had been downgraded to an oversold flight. I don’t believe this flight was oversold as they weren’t soliciting for volunteers and I did see standby passengers being cleared into coach.

A gate agent came onboard and asked the passenger in 3A to come off the plane into the jetway so they could “talk”. 10 minutes later she comes back and the flight attendant talks to her as asks if she is going to be okay to fly. Ultimately she stays onboard and we take off with a 20 minute delay.

However, back to the original topic, if you are a paying business or first class passenger and want to give your seat to a random passenger onboard is that allowed or should you let the gate agent know so they could upgrade the next person (if it’s a route that offers upgrades) or in this case upgrade the other passenger who had been downgraded.

Ultimately in this case, the crew sided that the original passenger could give away his seat to another passenger since he had paid for it. Had this been a complimentary upgrade, I wonder if that would of changed their decision.

On my outbound flight you can read How a Coach Passenger Tried to Steal my Seat!

Feel free to share your thoughts below on a first class passenger rights when it comes to giving your seat to someone else.

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  1. Well, if I paid for the business or first class seat in dollars or miles, I should be able to give it to another passenger already on the same flight as long as I find someone willing to move/trade.

    I was upgraded one time and gave the seat to my Mom, taking her seat in coach. The FA didn’t have a problem with it and came back to complement me.

    Perhaps, especially nowadays with all of the flight related stories in the news, it might be best to proactively alert the FA so they know what’s going on and can raise an objection if they feel they must.

  2. I think it is fine, you should probably tell a gate agent or flight attendant and do it as you board, or wait until cruise and ask to swap. Any other way is awkward and creates the situation described alerting other passengers and potentially causing some hard feelings.

  3. I’ve given my complimentary upgrade to a friend before (it was his birthday) and always give it to uniformed military personnel when they’re on my flight.

    I’ve never thought twice about it or had anyone complain.

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