We’ve discussed the practice and etiquette of switching airplane seats this week on Live and Let’s Fly and today I want to focus on one element of it: shaming. Is shaming ever appropriate when someone refuses to change seats? We’ll look at this in the context of Irish model Vogue Williams, who recently went on a rant when an “awful” man refused to swap seats for her family.
The Power Of Shame: Was A Man Really “Awful” For Initially Refusing To Swap Airplane Seats With Entitled Irish Model?
Williams boarded a flight from Gibraltar to London with her husband and three children and “realized that she had booked the wrong seat.” While I’m not sure how that happens, let’s assume for now the mistake was innocent. Williams with the infant and her two older children, three-year-old Theodore and two-year-old Gigi, were seated together in a row. Instead of being seated in the aisle seat right across from them, her husband was in the window seat across the aisle. He asked if the man seated in the aisle would mind switching with his wife in the window seat. The aisle passenger said he would mind.
Recounting what happened on her podcast, Spencer and Vogue, Williams lamented:
“The guy was sitting in the aisle seat and Spencer was like, ‘Would you mind doing window instead of aisle so we can be all together?’
“And he was like ‘Yes Spencer, I would mind.’”
“We were just like, ‘Oh, okay dude, that’s okay,’ and so anyway when he realized he was being an absolute t**t, he looked at me with a newborn baby and the two kids beside me, he was like ‘Okay, fine, fine I’ll do it.’
“Then literally the air hostess came down and I asked her ‘Would you have another aisle seat for this f**king particular piece of sh*t over here?’”
Williams ignited a fierce debate, but immediately sparked a backlash over her sense of entitlement. It’s not like the children were separated: the kids were seated with her. While it would have been nice to have dad even closer to help, this is very different than a child having to sit alone or a family totally separated.
The language used to describe the man is disgusting. I’m sure he chose the aisle seat for a reason…maybe he requires frequent trips to the lavatory or just likes to get up to stretch.
What interests me about this story is that he was shamed into moving – the anger of Williams apparently convinced him to move.
Williams later tried to backpedal her story, stating:
“Enough of this. I would never expect or demand that anyone swaps a seat with me. It was a joke that definitely didn’t land.”
But it was clear what she meant in her initial outburst.
And for our purposes, I’ll state again that I am generally open to moving seats if asked nicely and the new seat is not inferior, but there is no way I’d even consider moving if the passenger making the request curses me out for hesitating or initially refusing (for any number of valid reasons).
Let’s not forget that every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
When it comes to moving seats on airplanes, especially when children are involved, shame is a powerful tool. I’m not at all supportive of the way Willaims and her husband handled the issue on their flight to London, but I do recognize that shame plays a powerful role in directing others toward action.
How would you have handled this incident?
image: @voguewilliams / Instagram