Was passenger right to not give up train seat to an elderly woman? Many say ‘yes’.

The seat debate has created a strong online debate.


The seat debate has created a strong online debate.

A train passenger in the UK has provoked strong debate after refusing to give up her first-class train seat to an elderly woman, but instead of hate, she is getting support and praise.

The woman took to the popular thread on Reddit called AITA (Am I the Asshole) to detail her experience on the London to Aberdeen service, a seven-hour journey.

She said she decided to “treat herself” to first class because of three reasons: “I was making the journey the day after returning from a two-week-long work trip abroad and I knew I’d be exhausted/totally unable to function.

“I knew I’d have work to do on the train, so I wanted to make sure I had space/comfort to be able to work.

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“On certain trains in the UK, the first-class carriages have ‘individual seats’ which means you’re not sitting next to or sitting opposite anyone. The space is entirely your own and you can spread out over the little table. I specifically booked one of those seats to enable me to work.”

She said the seat she had been assigned to was one of the ‘priority seats’, designed for those with mobility issues, but straight away she was asked to move.

“A woman got on after me who was around 60-years old and pointed at the sign above my head and, quite rudely, told me to move because she was elderly. I told her I’d booked the seat and she’d need to speak to a member of staff to find her one. She pointed out that the train was full (even first class was full) and there were no other seats. I apologised but reiterated that I’d booked the seat and wasn’t going to move.”

It appears the woman hadn’t booked a seat but was on an ‘open ticket’.

“For those who don’t know how trains work in the UK, if you have an ‘open ticket’ and haven’t also booked a seat reservation, it means you can travel on any train, but you aren’t guaranteed a seat unless there’s one available.”

A guard had arrived and offered to move either woman to standard class if a seat could be found, but the first-class passenger said “no”: “I again refused, explaining I’d booked the seat well in advance and that I needed it.”

No other passenger in first class would give up their seat, so the older woman was taken back to standard class where it is assumed a seat was found.

“I felt bad, but I also don’t think I needed to put myself in severe discomfort because someone else didn’t think ahead and reserve a seat,” added the woman.


Reddit users overwhelmingly backed her in the more than 1500 comments on the thread.

“The train company are the assholes here. They sold the disability seats as the most expensive seats on the train. Then they tried to get the person who bought those seats to move to standard. Those seats should imo never be sold unless the occupier is disabled. That’s on the train operator. Its not on you,” wrote one.

Another said the older woman was “arrogant”: “She paid standard fair hoping/expecting to get special treatment. At the very least she should have purchased at the priority price. To ask someone who had paid extra for the space to move, and back to standard, no less, is arrogant.

Several questioned “how is 60 elderly?” although there were no details on whether she had any health conditions.

Many shared similar experiences.

“I travel solo a lot, and I’ve been asked to move seats often. Just because I’m travelling alone doesn’t make me any less entitled to the seat that I PAID FOR. I’m VERY comfortable saying no, and I don’t care how the other person feels,” was one comment.

“I’m disabled and travel by train a lot, and LNER (London North Eastern Railway) normally keep a few priority seats empty, even on full trains, specifically so that people who need them can use them – it’s not always possible to book a seat reservation in advance, or people miss trains (or they get delayed/cancelled, which happens a lot!) and have to take a later one with no reservation.

“But Virgin used to let anyone book priority seats, which was a massive pain in the ass, so it’s possible that other rail companies handle the process equally badly.”

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