The Middle Seat: Flight Etiquette 101

This post is part of my Culture Clash series, where I rant and rave about whatever travel woes have my knickers in a bunch. For my other Culture Clash posts, click here.

Aisle or window? It’s a common travel question, with both choices being easy to defend. The ease of getting up to stretch your legs and use the bathroom vs the better view and ability to sleep against the wall of the plane.

 I’m usually an aisle man myself, but either are fine by me. 6 of 1, half a dozen of the other.

And while not everyone will agree which seat is best, we can all agree on one thing: the middle seat sucks.

It sucked in the backseat of your parents car growing up and it sucks now while you’re majestically flying through the air around the globe.

You’re cramped and crowded between two strangers — strangers who will encroach on your space by elbowing their way onto your arm rests and leaving you hardly an inch of space to breathe.

It happens time and time again. And it’s time for it to stop.

Now, I’m no saint (though I saved a man’s life once…sort of…)but I’ve always lived by the rule that the middle seat gets both arm rests. Aisle seat gets the outer armrest, window seat gets the innermost armrest, and the middle seat gets both of the middle armrests. 

Think about it. It’s the only fair way. 

If both the aisle and window person take their respective inner armrests that gives them each 2 and the middle person none.

It’s not fair. It’s unjust.

So here and now it ends. 

I hereby declare that the middle person gets both armrests. I will die on this hill so you might as well just say it with me now:


As a budget traveler, I often get corralled into the middle seat. It’s where they stick those of us too cheap to buy space on budget airlines so I’ve been forced into that seat more times than I can count.

Heck, even when I choose an aisle seat it often never works out. On my recent trip to and from Canada, out of the 4 aisle seats I picked in advance I only got 1 due to rebookings and cancelations. And let me tell you, a middle seat on Jet Airways is not a place I’d wish on my worst enemy (Ok, the leg room was surprisingly decent but that was about all I enjoyed).

So it seems to me that the only fair way to balance the awfulness of the middle seat is to make sure that person gets both armrests. It’s the one little thing we can do to bring more equality into the world. To even the playing field.

Because one day, you’ll find yourself stuck there. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But it will happen. It’s inevitable.

And when it does, when the cruel fates of Samsara finally force you between two strangers for the better part of a day you’ll be grateful for that extra few inches of space.

Because we all know a few inches can make a world of a difference.

So, the next time you stroll onto a plane and plop yourself down in the window or aisle seat, do us all a favour and leave the inner armrests alone. It’s a small gesture, but I promise you it has the potential to change the world

Also, don’t recline your damn seat. But that’s a battle for another day.

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