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Crewed Talk

Middle Seat Passengers – Stand up for Your Rights! (As Long as the Seatbelt Sign Is Off)

Middle Seat Passengers – Stand up for Your Rights! (As Long as the Seatbelt Sign Is Off)
Amanda Pleva

“Would you like an aisle or window?”

We all breathe a sigh of relief when we hear this question, don’t we? We know at this stage that we have been spared the discomfort and slight humiliation of ending up with a middle seat. We then go about gleefully cherry-picking our little spot in the sky like a child choosing the best cupcake at the bakery.

However, when we aren’t asked for our preference, and we watch the agent as he or she types and clicks and pauses contemplatively to see which option is less horrible to offer us, we know we are getting ready to become the meat in a man sandwich. As a flight attendant using standby travel privileges, I am, sadly, rarely the bread.

Now, literally rubbing elbows with your fellow travelers isn’t the worst thing in the world. No, the worst thing is the resentment with which the middle seat recipient is treated. It’s more infuriating because not only do we not want to have the middle seat in the first place, but the person with the better seat is angry because they didn’t get even more space to boot!

It’s hard out there for us ‘B’s and ‘E’s out there. I feel like we need a support group (“BAMS”: Both Armrests for Middle Seats?) Here would be my main platforms in my middle seats rights campaign:

1.) Everyone gets at least one armrest

This one has always been a hot topic, and the etiquette needs to be put out there in black and white so we can put it to bed for good.

Ladies and gentlemen, here are your armrest assignments.

Aisle: Aisle armrest only

Window: Window armrest

Middle: Both armrests

Should the row not be configured with a window armrest, then the window passenger gets the one closer to the aisle, and the middle passenger forfeits that one. And only that one.

There. It’s settled!

2.) You and your beloved decided to be tricky and book an aisle and a window seat, in the hopes that no one would be assigned between you. Good luck with that. But chances are, someone will be assigned to sit betwixt you two star-crossed lovers. Whatever shall you do?

Give the person the aisle or window, that’s what. I am not sure if talking over the person and passing things between the two of you is meant to punish the person for daring to receive the seat, or it’s just stubbornness keeping you both in premium seats, but this makes life utterly miserable for the person who is clearly in your way. I was recently flying in between two very fidgety people and, as they passed the umpteenth thing back and forth as I attempted a nap (this time it was someone’s baby), I ended up having whiskey spilled directly into my crotch. I had to explain the smell to my boyfriend that afternoon.

Either way, I don’t want to be there, you don’t want me there…the solution is way too easy for this to become an issue. Yet it constantly is.

3.) Do not put so much as a toe into the legroom of that middle seat

I get it. You’re tall, seats are cramped, and now my annoying body is in your way. I’m sorry for existing, but here I am, hey? But despite my legs being average length at best, I would, like you, also like be able to extend them fully. I regularly need to make blockades with my carry-on or (wo)manspread when greedy feet decide to conquer new lands. I shouldn’t have to fight for the only room my poor legs have!

4.) Remember your duty as the aisle passenger

When you chose that coveted aisle seat, you swore a sacred vow. That vow was to honor your commitment as gatekeeper to the bathroom. It’s within the confines of good etiquette for them to try and match their breaks so as to not disturb you repeatedly, but as long as good manners are observed, don’t huff or roll your eyes when you get the inevitable request to release them. Remember the covenant!

No one chooses the middle seat. It is given out and accepted reluctantly. All we ask for, as in-betweeners, is a little elbow room and a little respect.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (4)


  1. Spanish


    September 26, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    Once again – love your articles…

    Definitely in agreement on this one. If you are already suffering the indignities of sitting in coach, be thankful that you don’t have that middle seat! And mosting the definitely, giving the middle seat a slight bit of kindness would increase the comfort on the flight!

    I remember the flight I gave up window seat for lady in the back requesting for the two seats together for herself and her child (toddler, a young one). I switched. FA got me complimentary drinks, but the aisle guy wasn’t very nice. Encroaching to my seating, for example!

    Not sure if I’d switch again. Be nice to the middle seat peoples. It could be you. It could be giving up the seating to have being nice, too, to somebody else in the need.

    Thank you.

  2. UncleDude

    October 1, 2017 at 10:41 am

    So what happens if you are in a Window Exit seat with no Armrest..Middle seats has 2…You have NADA

  3. levman

    October 2, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    I am one of the lucky frequent flyers who virtually never ends up in a middle seat – and I totally agree with these rules. Nothing but sympathy for the person stuck in the middle. Regarding (2), my wife and I usually book opposite isles so we can both avoid sitting in the middle. But I’d like to recommend a rule for the person in the middle seat to go along with these: if you are going to read a newspaper, take your elbows off the armrest before you start folding it and turning pages. Ditto for other activities that put your elbows in a pointed-out position. I am happy to let the person in the middle have both armrests but I don’t appreciate being elbowed repeatedly in my side – which happens all too often.

  4. toddhicks209

    October 3, 2017 at 4:09 am

    One of the best solutions is to pick where to sit and likely be comfortable once you board.

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