During the Holiday Season: A Call to Give Up Your First Class Seat to Traveling Military

This holiday season, I’d like to offer this modest proposal to all of us who get upgraded when we fly:  please give up your seat to a traveling soldier in uniform on your flight.

I was rather touched by this post on Airliners.net that mentions the story of a Delta passenger giving up his first class seat to a soldier on his flight.  A number of others responded that they have seen the same thing happen when they have traveled.

I know that the upgrade is a well-deserved perk after a day hawking widgets in Atlanta.  But whatever your day was doesn’t in any way compare to whatever the soldier went through.  My political leanings are, to be blunt, on the far left of the political spectrum.  I bring that up because no matter what you feel about the war, there is no way to understate the sacrfice that our soldiers have made for what has been a pretty unpopular undertaking where few Americans have had to sacrifice anything.

The discomfort you’ll feel for 90 minutes in coach on a full 737 will force you to think about what 12 months in the desert without your family must be like.  And you’ll realize that if paying $3 for a bag of chips is the worst indignity you’ll suffer that week, you’re in pretty good shape.

If you’ve given up your first class seat, or witnessed others doing the same, I’d love to hear about it – please leave a comment below or write to me at jared (at) onlinetravelreview.com.


  1. great idea – recognizing a soldier’s contribution to our country by giving them a first class seat is a neat idea. Sitting in first class is such a luxury and makes even the worst flight more bearable.

    I am pretty sure that military personnel have places at the airport to hang out during flights, so this idea might be duplicitous – if you belong to one of the airline clubs, you could bring a soldier in as your guest, while waiting for your flight.

    Spread the joy this season, take the pain out of flying!


  2. I love the idea of inviting soldiers in their Battle Dress Uniforms to visit your airline club with you! It certainly beats the USO and sitting around the gatehouse.

    I am a flight attendant for a regional carrier, so I am often their “freedom flight,” ending a journey that takes anywhere from 30 hours to an entire week (darned sand storms.) I take great pride in serving them for their final flight to meet their loved ones. I have learned their insignia so I may address them properly. I ask about spouses, children, parents, etc. and who will be meeting them at the airport. Most often our soldiers are happy to talk to an average American who shows genuine interest and appreciation for their service. I have learned a great deal about their “jobs” and been humbled by their stories of life in the desert. I make a special announcement as we are marshaled to the gate requesting passengers to please remain seated, allowing our soldiers be the first to deplane so they can “get busy enjoying their 14 days of R&R.” I offer them gum to “get kissable” then bid them farewell with hopes to be their flight attendant on their next trip home.

    I cannot emphasize their gratitude for these small gestures. I firmly believe every effort made to befriend our traveling soldiers will make you feel good and proud, just as I know they will feel important and appreciated. More importantly, they begin to feel like they are home. I guarantee you will find personal satisfaction in your gestures. Carry this on year round, as most are not fortunate enough to make it home for the holidays. It’s not about politics, it’s about a person who wants to go home worse than you do.

  3. I was traveling home to Minneapolis from San Antonio on 12/17. It was one of those late flights, crowded gate — you know the feeling. But I had been upgraded to first class so I was grateful. I boarded early and sat in my first row seat. As I sat there, I watched several military guys in uniform boarding. I asked our flight attendant if they were serving dinner — they were. I decided to go on back to coach to find a soldier to trade seats with. When the guy across from me hin first class heard me say what my plan was, he asked to take my seat for one of his business friends. I declined, telling him I was trading with a soldier. I found a Navy kid who couldn’t have been more than 23 years old. When I asked if he was traveling alone, he said “yes maam.” I then asked if he wanted to switch seats with me. He was pretty blown away, saying “yes ma’am, thank you ma’am!” I told him it was me who sould be thanking him. The passengers around us cheered for him as he went forward. The flight took off and landed and I drove home in the extreme Minnesota cold. When I got home, I discovered that what goes around comes around. In my absence, my daughter had come over and decorated my house for the holidays. Merry Christmas everybody!

  4. To Judy – I sometimes think I’d like to be an american, just to be able to feel part of moments like the one you just shared.

  5. Hi Judy,

    Thanks so much for sharing that – I’m sure the sailor you gave your seat to was shocked…Merry Christmas!