The Spouse and Upgrades debate, take 3

This post is brought to you by The Wandering Aramean while Jason is out with two broken wrists and a microphone. Keep an eye out at MilesQuest for future guest posts by other Boarding Area bloggers.

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In February 2011, Jason posted “The Spouse and Upgrades debate.”  In that post he recounted a flight where he received an upgrade to first class, but his wife did not.  His dilemma was whether to keep the upgrade for himself (and being a tall guy, he really could use it), or to be chivalrous and turn it over to his wife.  Read his original post to find out what he decided to do.

Always take the upgrade. Always.

Even if only one of the two folks traveling gets the option, we take it. Sure, life would be better if both were upgraded but I’ll always try to ensure that at least one of us is and that the other has the best possible seat in coach, just in case. As for who gets the upgrade, I try as hard as I can to make sure it isn’t me (I’ve even given up my seat to a random stranger before). OK, no physical coercion, but I’ll say just about anything to make sure my wife takes the seat. It works out better for me that way at many levels.

There was a period of a few years, early on in the relationship, where she wouldn’t take them. I don’t know why – I’m sure she had her reasons – but she wouldn’t. Like I said before, I made sure the coach seat wasn’t a bad one so it isn’t like the flight was brutal, but it was still coach. And then, one day, She finally saw the light.

Sortof. It turn out that her seeing the light was mostly a case of being bullied into taking the first class seat. I remember the whole thing vividly. The trip was a Continental flight from Newark to Las Vegas. We were headed out for a weekend with friends. We rode out the weather delay – this was Newark, after all – in the Presidents Club. I got in a fight with a ticket agent and eventually had the station manager involved in a seating fiasco which involved most of the agents doing everything wrong that they could. I was generally ready for just about anything by the time we boarded the 757 to Vegas. Throughout the wait and even down into the jet bridge I repeatedly offered the first class seat to her. She repeatedly refused, settling for the aisle seat at the boarding door.

I stowed my bag and prepped myself for the flight and then walked back to the boarding door and chat some more while waiting for the rest of the passengers to join us. It was while I was standing there in the galley at 2R on the 757 when the shaming happened and when she finally changed her mind.

The flight attendants realized that I wasn’t actually sitting next to my wife. They asked why. Only one upgrade. I don’t recall the exact wording used for the next few minutes but I know it was all directed at me and, while playful, it was clear that I was in the wrong. Despite my efforts to defend myself (I know, I shouldn’t have even bothered; there was no chance I was going to win) the FAs there just kept piling on. I almost didn’t notice when the aisle seat emptied and my wife proudly strode into the first class cabin to take the upgrade.

And that was that. I settled into the coach seat with a pair of flight attendants standing in the galley laughing heartily at the sudden change of events. I was well cared for during the flight (and I had plenty of drink chits anyways), but it was that moment where suddenly it became clear to my wife that taking the first class seat really was a viable option. She doesn’t always take it; I still haven’t figured out how or why she chooses the flights she does. But the option is there and now she actually believes me when I say that I’m happy for her to have it.

Oh, and in a bit of strange karmic fun, the seatmate she had for that flight was a whack job who was really happy to keep talking non-stop, even when it was clear no one was listening. Ouch. Still worth it to be in first in such a situation. Plenty of booze to drown out the crazy.



  1. Giving your upgrade to your wife is an obsolete thing to do. Women wanted equal rights — you got it! Enjoy your coach seat, and put your bag in the overhead bin all by yourself.

  2. It depends on distance. If it’s a short haul, my (female) SO will take it, since she doesn’t travel as much as I do. If it’s long-distance, we’ll look for someone to give it to. Traveling together is more fun than traveling separately.

    • For us the sitting together bit is of less concern, even on the longer flights. We can always visit during the flight if we’re apart and we spend most of the longer flights asleep or doing individual things (i.e. reading/writing) anyways so sitting next to each other with both in “worse” seats doesn’t work out.

      That said, I’ll be happy to take the solo if you get split up and don’t want it. 😀

  3. After we split the upgrade (she’s 1P, I’m 1k) my wife and I do the whole “gift of the Magi” thing as we walk down the jetway. “You travel a lot, you earned it, you take it” she says. “I travel a lot, I don’t need it, YOU take it!” I reply. It’s a good problem to have.

    • Indeed, it is a good problem to have. And the conversation sounds quite similar to some of ours. At least until she finally took it the once. 😮

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