The Etiquette of Things: Seat Etiquette Prisoner’s Dilemma 


Here I go again to Detroit. Tomorrow I cross into the land of darkness for Thanksgiving in Cleveland followed by a drive to Columbus, Ohio for the game of the year.

Back on Delta and seated in the back,  I noticed something worth blogging about. In row 29, only the window seat, 29A, was taken. This left B and C open. Across the way, seat D, C, and E were all occupied. Before takeoff, the passenger in 29D got up from her seat and without asking Mr. 29A took a seat in 29C. Subsequently 29E moved forward to 29D.

The scenario is the airborne version of the prisoners’ dilemma where the optimal result is paradoxically for both inmates to confess. If one snitched on the other, he would gain the most at the expense of the aggregate. Here, Mr.29A, by not spreading out immediately, missed out on having three seats all to himself. But, the people in the row, taken as a whole, benefited.

Is this the way it should be? If I’m in 29A obviously I wouldn’t protest the move because that would be selfish. But if I’m in 29E, the middle seat, I would not commandeer the available aisle seat nor implore my neighbor to move so I could be more comfortable. The way I see it, 29A lucked out and he should be able to enjoy his luck. If this was a flight longer than five hours, TPOL’s  cutoff for sitting in the middle, then all bets are off.

What do you think?

Tweet at TPOL, I’m bored.

No free drinks in coach make TPOL a dull boy


  1. Considering that the sad expectation these days is that there will never be an empty seat next to you, so I’d say that everyone acted pretty sensibly. As a result, a number of people got more comfortable seating. While an extra half seat buys you some space, what do you really need 3 seats for anyway? JMTC.

  2. As an utter non sequitur, Greg at FM posted earlier about the Sapphire Reserve card, and listed Restaurants Plus. I asked if the program stacks with Rewards Network, but got no answer. Is he pretty good about getting back? For that matter, do you know? If so, it’d be a pretty sweet stack.

  3. have fun at the big ten battle brah. hopefully, unlike in coach, you can find free drinks at the game. otherwise, smuggle some minis in or something. your sorrows will need drowning.

    and maybe your seat at the game will have you lucked out next to a hottie. and hopefully she won’t get up and move.

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