“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.