How a Coach Passenger Tried to Steal my Seat!

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On a recent transcontinental flight from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles on Delta, I was running a few minutes late (thanks to a delayed E train) which meant I was one of the last few passengers to board. Luckily, I was able to find overhead space for my rollaboard, however as I approached my Comfort + seat, I noticed it was occupied.

I took a glimpse around the cabin to see if any other seats were empty, assuming that this passenger accidentally sat in the wrong seat. As I didn’t see any empty seats, I approached this passenger and asked him if this was his seat. The passenger said indeed it was his seat.

How a Coach Passenger Tried to Steal my Seat!

I asked to see his boarding pass, which he refused to show me insisting that this was his seat. He then asked me if there was a problem, to which I said this was my seat. Not wanting to drag anyone off the plane, I said that I would go get a gate agent to come onboard to find his correct seat. As I was about to walk off the plane, he finally got up and moved all the way to 33E!

When he moved back he never looked at his boarding pass to check what seat he was in, meaning he knew he was in a coach seat and was trying to steal a Comfort + seat, assuming that I hadn’t shown up. Comfort Plus was full and is normally sold for at least a $100 + upgrade on a flight on this length, but somehow he thought he’d get away for it free.

Have you ever been a victim of having your seat stolen by another passenger? How did you handle it? Feel free to share below.

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  1. Sorry, but the only way to deal with these wannabethiefs is to publicly humiliate them and have them punished by the gate agents.

  2. I agree with ZO, you should have made a big fuss. That low life needed to learn a lesson.

  3. I’ve seen people seemingly wait until the very last minute to board and then sit in an E+ seat. I was suspicious but I couldn’t prove anything.

  4. Your initial approach was wrong, you don’t ask someone if this was his seat, you tell them that this is your seat (nicely and firmly). He probably thought you were a wuss with that opener…

  5. Flew Virgin Atlantic Upper Class fm UK to US. Passengers were coming fm all parts to use front, (bar drinks+, toilet, snacks, reading materials, space). VS didn’t notice. Paid premium fare. How is that fair?

  6. I’ve arrived on an aircraft multiple times to find someone sitting in my seat. The most common issue I’ve experienced is they are sitting in the correct row, but have misinterpreted whether they should be in the window or the aisle. This exact scenario happened to me on a Vietjet flight a few weeks ago. However, I have also had someone in my seat that was in the completely wrong row, too.

    I always handle the situation the same way, and I’ve never had a problem. I simply show the person in my seat my boarding pass which has the seat number on it. At this poInt, it’s undeniable the individual is in the incorrect seat. On the aforementioned Vietjet flight, I had to point out the seat illustration above the row which clearly displayed seat A is the window and seat C is the aisle. After this, the gentleman in my seat (seemingly somewhat embarrassed) moved over to the window seat without any protest.

  7. I’ve usually found that it’s a simple mistake. Usually, one of the passengers is miscounting the rows (even happened to me once recently as I sat in the 9th row but forgot rows 5 and 6 were missing). In a couple cases, it’s a booking problem because of a computer foul-up or gate agents trying to accommodate passengers on a changed flight — the most recent time I’ve seen that, we had a change of equipment and a guy came up claiming I was in his seat. I showed my computer-printed boarding pass while he looked at his hand-written one. The customer service agents had been crammed trying to deal with the passengers and I had at least one seat disappear on me while I was being helped so I was sure his agent had done the same thing — hand-written his seat assignment on his boarding pass while MINE was locking my seat in the computer and THEN dealing with the additional paperwork to shift my ticket.

    In the OP’s case, it’s pretty clear the passenger was trying to scam a better seat.

  8. I was on an AA flight last month and one of the last people to board approached me saying “I believe this is my seat”. I showed him by boarding pass, he showed me his. We both had the same seat assigned. The situation was handled by the gate agent (after about 5 minutes) where I was upgraded to business and it was a last minute change of seats. It’s always best to approach the FA or Gate Agent and remain calm / respectful. Your situation, of course, was a bit different. Hard to believe that someone would find that entitlement.

  9. One time an attractive young lady was sitting in my biz class seat. She flirted with me and told me she would make it up to me when when arrived to our destination. After we arrived, she gave me her number and told me she would change and meet up that night. Well, I later called that evening to find out it was the WRONG NUMBER.

  10. I agree with others. Why would you ask if it were his seat. You should have just said it was yours. I would never show someone (passenger) my boarding pass and would think it was a strange request whether I had correctly or accidentally sat down.

  11. I’ve seen this multiple times. Never involving me, but all 5 times involved women. The most daring was a woman who refused to move nor show her ticket. It took the gate purser plus two FA with the manifest. This woman was de-planed.Goodbye.

  12. I give them one chance and politely assume they are in my seat by accident. Anything other than them getting out of the seat immediately results in my getting an FA to boot them out. I have no time for the self-entitled games played by people who covet what I have.

    And I never swap seats for anything less than an upgrade to a higher class.

  13. As a frequent solo biz flyer, this happens to me all the time. I tend to be in F or J, but when even when I am in economy I tend to be able to snag the “primo” seats…exit row aisle, E+ aisle..the seats that seat poachers desire most.

    I rarely agree to swap requests let alone allow a poacher to remain in my seat. Not that I have a problem with swap requests, but because the swapper never offers me an equal or better seat in exchange, and frankly I am tired of other people’s failures to plan properly or their sense of entitlement in which they demand I solve their problems at the cost of my own comfort.

    When I encounter a poacher, I politely point out that the seat is mine. If it’s an honest mistake, this usually settles it. However, there have been a few times when people flat out refused to move. In that case, I get the FA to move them. But one incident stands out in my memory:

    A non-rev employee (an airline employee flying on a non-rev ticket for free) attempted to poach my F seat. I knew she was non-rev because at the gate I saw her hugging and talking shop with the gate staff. The FA took her side…it was obvious they were friends. So I turned around and began to walk off the plane with the full intent of informing the GA or a station sup if possible. The head FA saw me walking off the plane and asked me where I was going..I explained the situation, and she got an angry look on her face, booted the non-rev from my seat who then scurried, red faced, back into coach. I took my seat, and a few minutes later saw that the captain or FO..not sure which..and the lead FA were dressing down the FA in the jetway. I couldn’t hear what they were saying exactly, but the FA came back onboard looking like deer in headlights. She was curt with me the whole flight too.

    When I got to my destination I made sure to call the airline and report it, incase the other crew didn’t. Non-revs have STRICT rules about displacing or asking revenue pax to move..and my being a higher status member of the airline’s ff program certainly didn’t help her cause. They can lose their non-rev privileges.

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