I recently flew on a long international flight on El Al. I boarded the plane and sat down in my aisle seat next to some really nice people that I started talking to. I was happy with my seating arrangement. I then got tapped on the shoulder by a flight attendant and asked if I could switch seats with a man (I am a woman) because an Orthodox woman did not want to sit next to a man. I felt like I was really put on the spot, in front of other passengers, and at the last minute. I was promised that I could still have the aisle seat. I therefore agreed. I thought that this kind of a strange request. There were many times that I wish I could have switched my seat on a flight when I was next to a smelly older man, for example, or someone that I did not want to sit next to. But I cannot do that. I respect an Orthodox person's request, however, because it is not a personal request and has to do with their religion. I get it. It is something that they have to deal with, just as a handicapped person has special requests or a vegetarian has special requests. HOWEVER, after my seat was switched, I had a bad experience sitting next to this Orthodox woman. I do not know if this was an isolated experience, but I hope it was. The woman was very annoying to sit next to and tried on numerous occassions to switch seats with me so that I would no longer have the aisle seat. She also spent a lot of time praying and tried to teach me some prayers and share some of her religion with me. I am not sure that the next time I am asked to switch seats that I will say yes. I think that sometimes when someone requests for their neighbor to switch seats, they get the idea that seat switching is an acceptable and normal thing. I felt like my personal boundaries were intruded upon a bit and that the woman that I was sitting next to was a bit less respectful than other passengers that I have sat next to during previous flights.
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