If you’ve flown a decent amount, odds are you’ve been in a situation in which a fellow passenger requested to swap seats with you. Perhaps you were in the middle seat between a couple or in the midst of a family with young children and separate seating assignments. Or maybe someone just wanted to trade with you without a clear reason.

The choice to oblige this kind of request or not has sparked debate over the years. Is it considered rude to ask someone to switch seats, or is it actually rude to say no to this ask if the conditions are reasonable?

Below, experts weigh in on the etiquette of asking a fellow air passenger to switch seats with you and best practices for approaching this situation.

Is it rude to ask a fellow passenger to switch seats with you?

“There are certain circumstances where it might be understandable to ask a passenger if they would consider changing seats ― perhaps when you are separated from a young child or family member who needs assistance,” said Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and corporate trainer specializing in adult behavior. “Of course, you want to select a passenger who you can offer to exchange an equal or better seats so that you can sit next to a friend or family member.”

It’s inconsiderate to ask someone in a premium cabin to swap with you for your economy seat. Similarly, you shouldn’t expect someone in a window or aisle seat to switch for your middle seat.

“Convenience and comfort are considered when making arrangements,” said Jackie Vernon-Thompson, the founder of From the Inside-Out School of Etiquette. “Some may have longer legs and paid additional fees for that extra legroom. Others may feel more comfortable resting their head on the side near the window, or they may like the cozy feeling near the window. Asking a fellow passenger to change their seat, more than likely, will place them in an awkward position.”

She added, however, that it can be “a wonderful thing” to offer to switch seats if you notice you’re sitting by a couple with separate seats or parent and child sitting separately so that they can be together.

“I have both switched seats and rearranged the seats around me,” said Jodi R.R. Smith, the president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “When traveling with family, we do occasionally take our chances, reserving the window and aisle in a three-seat row. Then, if the plane is full, we then offer the passenger assigned the middle seat the window instead. They are usually joyously grateful.”

She believes it’s perfectly acceptable to ask another passenger to swap sweats and in fact, there are situations when the flight attendant might request it as well.

“Occasionally we must swap seats,” Smith said. “This can happen if someone is unable to comply appropriately with the requirements of an exit room. When this happens, understand the safety of everyone on the plane is the priority. Be gracious.”

If you’re going to request a swap, there’s a polite way to approach it.

What’s the best way to ask someone to swap?

“Before you assume someone will switch with you, always ask,” Gottsman said. “Don’t sit in the seat, hoping the passenger it belongs to will change seats with you.”

If you decide to ask about switching, remember to state your request calmly and politely.

“We know from psych studies that people are more likely to comply with a request when there is a reason stated,” Smith said. “Be sure to include a reason. ‘I hate to ask, but the computer put my cranky toddler next to you and if you are willing, I would be happy to take your middle seat if you would like to sit in my aisle seat two rows up.’”

She emphasized that you should direct your request to someone in a “lesser” seat.

“It will be rare for someone with an aisle seat with extra legroom to want to switch with your middle seat in the back of the plane,” Smith noted.

Even if you’re offering a seemingly better seat, the other person might decline your request. It’s important to remain gracious regardless.

“It is perfectly acceptable to decline to swap seats,” Smith said. There are many reasons ranging from nervous flyers to traveling superstitions to those who simply do not do well with change.

Vernon-Thompson similarly noted that no one is obligated to give up their seat if they do not want to.

“Ask with an open mind that you will accept whatever the answer is and you won’t feel entitled,” she advised. “If they happen to say, ‘Yes,’ express an abundance of gratitude and proceed. If they respond with, ‘No,’ don’t get upset. Simply reply with, ‘I understand. Thank you for considering’ while smiling.”

Although unexpected situations can arise, there are generally steps travelers might take to avoid needing to ask about a seat swap.

“If you are particular about your seat, book your flight well in advance, which will allow you to have more selections of seats,” Vernon-Thompson said. “Consider every aspect of your needs and preferences when selecting your seat. I highly advise you not to focus on saving a few dollars by waiting for the agent at check-in to assign you a seat. Spend the extra fee, if applicable, and select your preferred seat when making the flight arrangements. Invest in your comfort.”

Ultimately, she added, your lack of preferred seat does not have to ruin the air travel experience. “After all, everyone is going to the same place and will arrive at the same time.”