I’ve come up with my share of Coasian solutions during air travel. I’ve paid a child $5 not to recline his seat so I open my laptop and work during a Cleveland – Los Angeles flight. I paid a teen $10 for a seat at an OTG iPad near my gate during a 4 hour delay. I haven’t ever bought another passenger’s seat, though.
A View from the Wing reader, though, gave up his seat so a family could sit together and then promptly sold the seat to another passenger for $100.
Airlines maintain that seat assignments aren’t guaranteed, so if they move you they don’t have to give you any compensation (other than perhaps refund a fee if you paid extra for the seat). On the other hand seats have value, some seats are better than others, which is why passengers will pay extra. Once you’re seated in a seat you have a usufructuary right to it, and since it’s yours you can effectively sell it to someone else as long as cabin crew don’t object.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton — who was NFL MVP in 2015; 2011 Rookie of the Year; and won the Heisman Trophy, a national championship, and was first pick in the NFL draft all within a year — flew coach back from Paris after Men’s Fashion Week. He’s four years into a $103.8 million five year contract extension, and is 6 feet 5 inches tall.
No doubt upon boarding he looked at the seat, thought about the 9 hours ahead, and felt trapped. He offered a man sitting in a bulk head seat $1500 to switch. The man with the bulkhead seat declined.
— Eli Edwards (@ElisaraEdwards) June 22, 2019
$1500 is better than $150 per hour of flight. Sitting in a more cramped seat for 9 hours isn’t pleasant, but it’s a pretty decent way to make $1500. United Airlines learned after David Dao wouldn’t give up his seat that it can be worth $10,000 in travel vouchers to get someone to voluntarily give up their seat.
Cam Newton should have considered upping his bid, asking other passengers with extra legroom seats if they’d be takers of the offer, or taking a moment to learn what passengers with better seats subjectively valued — surely someone on board with extra legroom was a Carolina Panthers fan and could’ve been treated to an NFL VIP experience.