A passenger's story about refusing to switch plane seats with a mom who wanted to sit with her teenage son has reignited TikTok's flight etiquette debate




A screenshot from Surya Garg
A screenshot from Surya Garg's TikTok and a picture of an empty plane.  
  • TikTok user Surya Garg shared a story about being asked to switch seats on a plane.

  • Garg says she was asked to move seats so a mom could sit with her teenager, but she refused.

  • The video created debate and reignited popular flight etiquette discourse on the app.

A TikToker shared a story about being asked to swap seats on a plane so a mother could sit with her teenage son, receiving a huge reaction and reigniting a wider debate about seat-switching on the app.

Surya Garg, a TikTok creator who has 1,826 followers, said in a video posted January 18 that she met "the absolute worst person" to sit next to on a flight, and wanted to share the story to contribute to the highly controversial plane etiquette debate that's recently been circulating online.

"I feel like this has been a big debate on TikTok recently which is like, if you're sitting in a seat and someone with a family comes up to you and says, 'hey, will you switch?' - do you switch or not?" she said in the clip.

Garg went on to say that she's usually happy to swap seats with a family that has young children, but that on this particular occasion, she was asked to switch seats by a woman who wanted to sit with her son, who looked like he was at least "16 or 17 years old," and who was over 6 foot tall.

"This was not her child. He's her kid, but like, he's an adult," she said.

The TikToker said the woman asked her to move from her window seat to a middle seat a few rows behind, which she considered to be a downgrade, telling the woman that she paid extra for her seat and didn't want to move.

According to Garg, the woman started "muttering profanities" under her breath for the duration of the flight because the TikToker refused her request.

"Was I in the wrong here? I need someone to tell me," Garg asked at the end of her video.

The clip followed TikTok's popular storytime format, where creators speak directly to the camera about something they say they experienced. Often, these videos do not show corroboration of the story being described, sometimes leading to speculation that they have been fabricated in an attempt to go viral.

The clip received an impassioned response as people debated the details of the story

The video blew up, receiving 1.1 million views, while most of Garg's previous videos received hundreds of views each. Thousands of comments weighed in on the situation, many saying they thought Garg made the right decision, as they disagreed with a passenger offering a worse or less expensive seat when asking to switch with someone else.

Other commenters discussed their thoughts on people traveling with children, and whether the age of the child in question would determine whether they'd be willing to swap.

"Honestly, you're not wrong I think the kid has to be 12 or younger in order for me to move. Otherwise don't even ask," wrote one commenter.

"Bestie I wouldn't even give up my window seat for a middle for a mom w a toddler," another comment read.

Several comments came from people who said they were parents, who wrote that they tend to plan ahead when traveling with kids, making sure to pay extra for seats where they can be seated together with their teenagers.

Seat switching is an explosively controversial topic on TikTok

TikTok users who have shared stories about refusing to move seats on a plane have previously gone immensely viral, as people have debated their decisions or shared their own stories about similar experiences, formulating discourse around plane etiquette that has taken over the app.

In October 2022, a woman named Maresa Friedman received more than 3 million views on a video where she mentioned that she refused to give up her first-class plane seat so a family could sit together.

When another user named Brian Pakpour stitched her post, urging people to "do better" and have "compassion," Friedman responded by accusing him of not being "compassionate," adding that the reason she did not want to move seats is that she has a disability.

On TikTok, people seem largely supportive of moving seats for another passenger when there is a small child involved, but users appear to be against the idea of moving for an adult who wants to sit with a family member or friend, saying that these passengers should accept responsibility for their lack of forward planning.

In mid-January, a TikTok user named Arleen ignited the debate again when she shared a story about intervening in a conversation between two friends who wanted to sit together and another passenger who she felt was being pressured into downgrading from her premium economy seat to meet their request.

"You don't ask someone to downgrade for your convenience," said one top comment on the hugely viral video, which has now received 4.4 million views.

Garg typically posts vlog-style clips and stories about her everyday life in New York City, including stories about her travels. She did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider's Digital Culture team here.

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