My First Encounter With a Fight on a Flight

Let me set the scene.

You are coming home from a long vacation. All you want is to be home in your bed, but to get there, you must first take a couple of long flights, a long layover, a red-eye flight, a four-hour time change, and two trains — totaling 24 hours of travel-time. You are traveling with your significant other, about to board your red-eye flight, and all you want to do is sleep on the plane. Are you there yet? OK, great.

Because that’s where my boyfriend and I were when this lady had to disrupt our already-unwanted journey home. To be fair, the airline was partly at fault for reassigning seats at such short notice, but she was being incorrigible and unreasonable.

My boyfriend and I were flying home from Alaska to New York with a layover in Seattle and, as a result, flew Alaskan Airlines. The airline overall was fine, but for some reason, they don’t let you choose your seats – instead, they assign them to you at the gate. My boyfriend and I were initially assigned two middle seats in separate rows. Since he is a pretty big guy (and I admittedly like to sleep on his shoulder on flights) we had anticipated on trying to switch someone seats so that we could sit together. (A seemingly futile task since we both had middle seats, but he was placed in a Premier seat, so that was our primary bargaining tool).

As the flight began to board, I heard my name bellowing over the intercom. I walked up to the gate attendant and she said my seat had been given to someone else, so I was to be reassigned. When she noticed I was traveling with someone, she quickly said, “Let me see what I can do to put you two next to each other.”

As a result, she moved another woman’s seat across the aisle (note: this is the aforementioned unreasonable woman) and reassigned an aisle and middle seat to my boyfriend and me. Great! We were excited to hear this, as we were not very hopeful about trying to switch a middle seat to begin with.

An airplane skirmish ensued.

We were nearly the last people to board the plane, and when I got to my seat, 32D, I noticed a middle-aged woman was sitting there. Naturally, I double-checked my ticket.

“Um, excuse me, I think you might be in my seat,” I said rather timidly.

I was tired, and she did not look happy. 

“No. This is my seat,” she retorted.

After a few moments of back and forth, two flight attendants noticed the disagreement and quickly came over to resolve it. They tried to explain to her that her seat had been moved across the aisle to accommodate two people traveling together.

She. Was. Livid.

And it was all based on principle.

“I already sat down. This is my seat,” she refused to move.

As my boyfriend and I stood in the cramped flight-attendant cabin, we watched in dismay that this woman refused to move. She was angry that two young people thought they were entitled to her seat. Her consistent refusal led the attendants to call a TSA agent to come remedy the situation. The plane was waiting for us to be seated to take off, and people were starting to notice.

As the scene escalated, I said two my boyfriend, “Oh no. This is about to become one of those viral videos where this lady gets dragged off the plane by her hair, and we are now a part of it.”

Luckily (or maybe unfortunately), this did not happen. What came next was rather humorous to us (the two flight attendants, my boyfriend and me) huddled together, rows behind her. The TSA agent approached the woman and told her that her seat had been reassigned at the gate and asked her to move over a row and back one seat (still an aisle seat, mind you). She yelled at him and told him that she was entitled to this seat, as it was assigned to her on her ticket.

To that, he replied, “I told you when you boarded, your seat had been reassigned to 33C.”

Her: No, you didn’t. My ticket says 32D.

Him: Yes, m’am. *shows her the iPad with seat assignments listed* See, on here it says you are now in 33C. So please move over to your correct seat.

Her: This is my seat! Am I not important enough to sit here? That girl has to sit by her boyfriend, and she is more important than me, so now I have to move?!

The back and forth went on for a few moments, when he had finally had enough.

Him: Look lady, either move to your seat or we’re kicking you off the plane.

And he turned on his heel and walked away. 

We were trying not to laugh in dismay at what we had just witnessed. We whispered in the back about how we didn’t understand why it was such an issue for her. But apparently this was her hill to die on.

After a few moments, she begrudgingly stood up, glared at us, and moved to her new seat. We quickly sat down and buckled up, ready for take off.

But that wasn’t the end of it. For about the next 15 to 20 minutes, this woman proceeded to loudly protest her disgust to the woman next to her.

“I can’t believe they would make me move just because that girl thinks she can get anything she wants, and she just has to sit by her boyfriend! She thinks she is more important than me.”

She continued to rant, until the message became somewhat derailed and quite comical.

“Young people think they can do what they want. The world revolves around them and no one else matters.”

Okay, so now this has become a generational issue..?

But wait, there’s more.

“Ever since Trump got elected, they think they are in charge of everything!” she continued ranting.

Wait. What? 

Now, I’m not sure if she was eluding to “they” (us) as in millennials or white people in general, but that is neither here nor there. I was so caught off guard that she had derailed so far as to bring the presidential election into the reason behind a simple airline seating change – I actually laughed out loud.

We listened to her rant a little while longer, and I even thought about confronting her.

“Excuse me, but this whole situation has nothing to do with me. My original seat was given away to someone else too. They reassigned me, and when they saw that I was traveling with someone, they offered to make a quick switch in attempt to sit us together. I did not ask for this. I did not personally request to take your seat,” I would have said.

(And technically, my boyfriend was the one who sat in her seat, not me. So really, she should have blamed the white patriarchy. Just kidding.)

But alas, I said nothing. I knew the situation would not be remedied and she did not want to hear my point of view. So we popped in our earbuds and slept the entire flight home.

But wait, there’s more.

After the flight, we doddled through the airport, stopped by the bathroom, went to baggage claim, navigated to the air tram, etc.

And who should we see in the same elevator to the air tram? None other than the unreasonable airplane lady herself.

We laughed quietly as we waited for our air tram to arrive. Several passed by, and yet there she stood. Of course she would get on the same air tram as us. And of course she would get off at the same stop as us.

We purchased tickets for the LIRR to head to Penn Station. As did she.

We. Got. On. The. Same. Train.

I could not believe this! She ended up in a different train cart than us, so we never found out where she was headed, but we couldn’t help but joke that she is the person who stomps around in the apartment above ours.

TBH – I wouldn’t doubt that she stomps around in whatever place she lives in.

The end: Now, maybe we can chalk it up to her just having a bad day. Maybe she faced a lifetime of discrimination and this was her last straw. Maybe she’d been asked to move her seat every single time she boarded an airplane. Who knows.

But what we do know is that it was rather entertaining (and very confusing) to witness. And it finally gave me something to write about.

So . . . kudos to her, I guess.

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