AFF member maidmarion will soon be flying with Air New Zealand to the Cook Islands. There are three family members booked on this flight in Economy, but a fourth person has decided to join at the last minute and maidmarion was only able to book a Business class ticket for her. For various reasons, this member would like to sit in Business class while the forth passenger takes her seat in Economy.
There are no hard-and-fast rules about cross-cabin seat swaps. Some airlines discourage it, while others really don’t mind. Ultimately, it’s usually at the discretion of the purser or lead flight attendant on board the flight.
Seat changes are at the discrestion of the CSM on board. They generally don’t like people swapping back & forth, but a one for one swap should be ok.
That said, numerous AFF members have swapped seats with someone in a different class of travel and never had any problems. In general, most cabin crew will allow Economy/Business class seat swaps if you ask nicely at the start of the flight – either during or shortly after boarding.
Qantas for example you just tell the FA at the boarding door. They may refer you to the FA in charge of the J or F cabin and it’s all sorted before departure.
However, it is not considered good etiquette to swap seats with someone in a different cabin class during the middle of the flight. Among other reasons, this can cause significant disturbance to other passengers in the Business cabin.
Echoing RooFlyer, check with the main flight attendant. Once you’re in business, don’t try to do swaps with the girlfriend – it will be frowned upon if she tries to visit you in business or do more swaps. But you can visit her in economy as many times as you like
There is little point asking to swap seats at check-in or in the lounge, as the staff there won’t really be in a position to help. It’s best to ask as soon as you’ve boarded the flight.
I’ve never had a problem seat swapping.
Forget asking in the lounge. I’ve heard a couple of others asking and invariably they don’t receive a firm answer.
I’ve always asked upon boarding at the aircraft door. Admit I try and board later so they have the time to pay attention.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Changing seats with another passenger from different class.