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Should Delta Passengers Be Allowed to Swap Cabins with a Companion – Inflight?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Delta One business class seat and domestic first class seats RenesPoints blog


Say you’re enjoying first class and your companion (significant other, friend, whoever) is back in coach. You’re having so much fun up front — but you’re a nice person and you really want to let your companion experience it, too.

Would you go back and swap seats them during the flight?

The Back (and Forth) Story

FlyerTalk member tomSEA was seated in first class, his family back in Comfort+. He writes that halfway through the flight, he traded spots with his wife. He was “scolded by the (flight attendant) that they can’t allow people going ‘back and forth and back and forth.’”

He told the FA that he and wife would swap seats only once, the beverage he ordered up front was available in Comfort+, and that the first class seat was originally his.

“They dropped it and all was well,” he wrote. From what I gather (and gather from reading some of the responses to his post), no one got out of hand or acted like this guy.

Is Cabin Swapping OK?

I’m always happy to go from coach to first class, so invite me anytime you see me back there! 🙂

Seriously, though, I think tomSEA’s gesture was kind. And it’s not like he took the liberty of reseating his wife into an open first class seat so they could both enjoy the benefits simultaneously.

Personally, if the person sitting next to me is respectful and polite, I really don’t care how they got there. (But this person should never, ever be allowed in first class.)

First class in a Delta Air Lines 737.

But I understand Delta’s point of view — and it seems they handled everything just fine in this situation. If everyone were swapping seats, the already crowded aisles would be more jammed. Snacks and beverages might be abused. It’s more chances for people to grab the wrong carryon.

There have been several times when I was upgraded but not my wife. I’m happy giving her the seat — and we decide before boarding who gets it. Same thing when traveling with friends. Or a client that hires me for a job on which we’re traveling…

The only rule my wife and I have about “splitting cabins” is the person in first class has to sneak back Brownie Brittle once during the flight. 🙂

What Do You Think?

Should mid-flight cabin swaps be allowed? Should people even swap a first class with a coach seat anytime before or during the flight? Would you swap seats inflight? Or would you mind being seated next to someone who swapped?

Tell us in the Comment section below! — Chris

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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  1. I don’t agree with mid flight swapping. My opinion is that it should be done once during the boarding process only. Decide who gets to sit upfront and that’s it. I also advise the Gate Agent and the FA that I’m giving up the upgrade that’s for me to my wife. And they’ll say that’s so nice of you. I tell them my wife is always number 1.
    When ever I get upgrade to First Class or Comfort +, (I fly more than my wife). I always give my wife the front of the plane and I’ll sit in the back (with no inflight swapping). The last several flights we’ve been on we both have been upgraded to First Class and Comfort +. Currently I’m only a Silver Medallion at this moment. There was only 1 flight where we didn’t get upgraded this year (2019). Otherwise we’re at 99% upgrade with DL.
    I book my wife and I on the same reservation.

  2. MIchael R Karpiel Reply

    Actually we just did this a few weeks ago. My wife and I both got upgraded on a short hop DTW/ORD but we were travelling with her Sister and husband.

    We decided to let them sit in F and when we boarded we just sat in their coach seats and they sat in our F seats.

  3. My wife and I are about to try this. We are debating a long haul flight from NYC to SYD with our 3 little kids (I know, “what are you thinking!?!” it’s for a family wedding). Given prices, only able to snag one first class / delta one seat. Our thought is better one and we can each take a shift getting some rest shut eye while the other works it back in coach. Would be incredibly disappointed if a FA prevented us from our “flawless” plan.

  4. I see absolutely nothing wrong with swapping a first class seat with a family member during the flight and have done it several times without incident. Seriously — who should really be bothered by this? Would I crowd the aisles any more if I went to the bathroom?

  5. Mike S, I’m going to now contradict myself now. I would agree to allow for swapping for you and the kids/family to get rest in Delta One. I would have no problem with this everyone taking turns, and I hope the FA’s don’t mind either. I see a different angle on this in your situation for inflight swap. I know this is a long flight 22 + hours.
    I say go for it and have fun in Australia.

  6. I completely agree that it could get out of hand in a hurry, and it is up to the flight attendants to nip it in the bud. I think it is perfectly fine for someone to give up their upgrade for their spouse/significant other/client BEFORE boarding, but really once you are seated, swapping should be kept to a minimum. If it is ok for one person to move during a flight, then it is ok for the next person, and the next, and the next…. where does it end?

  7. I have never done this, but why not check with a flight attendant first while boarding? If the answer is going to be no, it’s better to know right away, and if the answer is yes then the FA will know when you swap.

  8. I’ve always wanted to do this with my kids but never have. I think it is fine as long as it is not abused for snacks etc. I also believe those people represent less than 5%. Sadly I travel with a couple guys that believe blankets pillows everything that is not attached is theirs and they would abuse it but that is not the norm.

  9. As I read the comments I think I agree. Should you be able to swap classes with a family member? YES! BUT!!!!!! Not on short hauls, Rock paper scissors or give it to your wife. No brainer. Causes congestion and other crap. But my wife and I have done this, on an 11 or 12 hour flight, she sleeps 6 hours, gets the good take off meal, I get it the 2nd half so I get some sleep and she is smaller and can sleep in any class. So no on short flights BIG YES on long haul. Quick note, flew to Singapore once with our 4 month old to visit grandparents. We had the miles and or money to fly us both in first with a baby in arms. OF COURSE WE WOULD NOT DO THAT TO OTHER FIRST CLASS PASSENGERS. So my wife took the seat in the beginning. Later, when our child would normally sleep, his time zone, for 6 hours she came back, grabbed my seat, I went to first, put him on my stomach and chest laid the seat flat and we both slept silently for about 5.5 hrs. When he started stirring, we went back to coach to deal with his regular fussing. But we got our sleep and no one was put out.

  10. Every time Renee poses a question like this there are a number of guys that are all too willing to let us know how benevolent they are as they give up every one-person only upgrade to their wives. Good for you.

    I guess I am very fortunate as I have been the business traveler of the couple for 35+ years and a long time ago my wife told me that she wants me to sit upfront (complimentary upgrade) I earn the miles via many flights in coach. On my end, I always make sure she/we are always in the best seat available and I always take care of her seat, especially when she’s traveling alone. I guess that’s the kind a spouse I want to be married to. One who appreciates the offer but declines. Yes, I still ask her every single time it happens to this day.

    Regarding Renee‘s question, I think the who gets the upgrade decision should be made before boarding the plane (that goes double for a COMPLIMENTARY upgrade). Once you’ve boarded, I do not think, and I have not ever even considered, switching seats with someone in flight. Just look at the responses and you can see how quickly this could get out of hand. Everyone thinks they’re special and that it would only be a “small percentage” of people abusing an upgrade. So, in other words, the vast majority of pax have to bow to your wishes.

    • @Rolo – LOL – yes Chris did pen this post. I always give my wife my 1st class seat (if we do not both get the upgrade). On a side note, I think it is funny that Delta will allow a 1st class / Delta One flyer to go back to coach but not the other way round (i.e. to visit someone or just walk around).

  11. My stance on this is: as long as by swapping those involved do not take up someone else’s seat / an extra seat, let them swap.

    If it were by my rules, I’d allow inflight resale of seats, if someone in the back really wanted for whatever reason to upgrade and there was no more space. Any First / Business pax could then swap and pocket some difference. After all, haven’t the airlines commoditised air travel? If seats are commodities, they’re fungible in each class. So let them be traded.

  12. I think swapping is a bit tacky for most situations. For a long haul international flight with a companion booked in steerage who wants to sleep, too–fine, swap…I get it. I lived overseas in Japan for years and find our domestic “First Class” is a joke (a bigger seat and edible food, sooo impressive wow). I wonder why people why seek it out so much, honestly. I’m a Delta Diamond but never rely on freeie upgrades, and keep status by nearly always booking discounted First Class with always have 2-3 international partner flights, yielding tremendous MQM/MQD. I don’t think people realize how cheap paid First Class can be…booking One Ways and creatively can work wonders. Yesterday, a round trip itinerary was $2,800 First Class to my destination, but by booking segments as One Way and then positioning as a round trip and was all in for under $1,000. Want first, buy first. Cash is king. And don’t swap. lol. N

  13. Well, I love Lucas’ idea of trading/sale of seats between passengers! It reminds me of a time when I was near the front of the line at the Comcast Customer Service Center and a guy came in and offered $100 to take my place in line. It was nearing Christmas and I happily took the money and went to the back of the line (the five people ahead of me turned the deal down).
    Anyway, I’m glad you raised this subject of swapping seats. We’re flying to Italy in September, both of us are on a waitlist to upgrade using Skymiles. If hubby ends up being the only one who gets the upgrade, he would give it to me. He doesn’t care about first class/lie-flat-seat, doesn’t think he’ll sleep on the plane either way. I’m glad to know I would be allowed to take his seat; I’d been wondering if they would give us a hard time about that.

    As for switching during the flight, I don’t see how this could get out of hand. Of those flying first class, how many are actually going to have a significant other back in coach that they want to switch with? Maybe 1 person per flight, probably a lot less frequent than that. It would be disruptive to have someone switching every hour or more often, but once or twice on a long-haul flight, and assuming they made an effort to cause the least disruption doing so, I think it’s fine.

  14. Ruth Johnson Reply

    We did this once years ago. Hubby was upgraded to First and I was in coach. After the meal he mentioned to the flight steward that I was in back and got permission to swap places with me. The steward formally greeted me by name and fed me. He made me feel very special. I appreciated it so much.

    More recently, hubby was upgraded when I was along and was going to turn it down. It was a short flight DET-MSP. The gate attendant managed to upgrade me as well. This doesn’t happen to us often, but we appreciate it very much.

  15. Well to be clear, i asked this very question at the DM line yesterday. I am flying in to ABY to pickup my daughter and her two children to fly back to SEA. My grandson and I are on one reservation and daughter with lap infant on another record. Should I get the DM up grade to first, the DM line rep said absolutely we could swap seats to allow daughter with lap infant and grandson in first and I take her Compfort + seat. Time will tell.

  16. Barry Graham Reply

    It depends. If each person consumes drinks that are free in 1st class (but not in coach) as if they had been in the cabin the whole flight, then it’s not right. Otherwise I don’t mind.

  17. Long flight, short flight mom gets FC. Men sit in back of the bus because that’s what men do. We can endure 20 hours with kids so the person who spends 24/7 with them can enjoy herself. I love traveling with the grand kids because I don’t have to share armrest or shoulder space with anyone 🙂

    No switching except on long haul flights and a wink and nod from FA.

  18. @Mike S: Sorry I’m late to the party on this one, but DO NOT attempt this DL1 swap on your flight to SYD. I did this exact thing with my wife a few years back LAX-SYD… we were both Diamond, we both listed with GUC, but for some reason, at the gate, only I cleared. We agreed that I would sit up front first – skip dinner and get as much sleep as possible – and then halfway through the flight she’d come wake me up and she’d sleep the rest of the way while I sat back in Econ. We did the swap in the middle of the night – in the dark – everyone in both cabins was fast asleep – and we got “caught” by the DL1 cabin flight attendant who loudly demanded that we swap back, said it was against airline policy – that while sometimes the FA’s will allow it on domestic flights, it is never allowed on Int’l flights – and that my wife and I should know better as Diamonds. She was so loud and upset about it that she started waking up some of the other DL1 passengers. Eventually I pulled her and the Purser (her boss) into the galley and got her to calm down, and got the Purser to allow the swap, under the condition that we don’t swap again during the flight, and that we promise to never attempt it again. The Purser was actually very cool about it – but did tell me DL1 swaps on int’l flights are big no-no. My recommendation to you, if you still want to try it, would be to get it cleared by the Purser in advance, right when you board, so that you don’t run into the same issues we had. Good luck!

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