Airplane Etiquette: The Dreaded Middle Seat

a close-up of a seatI know that I am lucky. In four years of traveling for work, I have only had to sit in the middle seat while flying three times. Because I have elite status with American, I typically get to pick a pretty good seat. On Southwest, I usually remember to print my boarding pass early enough that I can pick out a window or an aisle seat.  But as of this past Tuesday, I have had to sit in the middle seat four times. Luckily, it was a short flight. But even on that short flight, I got some nice time for introspection while the guy to my right was jabbing me in the ribs with his elbow. How can we make it easier on those poor people in the middle? Here are a few ways that I came up with.

  • Be aware of your personal space. And by extension, of the personal space of the person next to you. Their space is limited enough already without you leaning over to get stuff out of your bag and putting your head in their lap.
  • Let them have the armrests. They have to suffer so much already, just let them have it. What can make a bad situation worse? Having the guy on your right jab you in the ribs with his elbow as he pushes your arm off the armrest.
  • Help them when you can. Don’t make them reach over you to grab their beverage from the flight attendant. Be polite when they need to get up to use the restroom. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, these are good etiquette tips for everyone.

We are all in the airplane together, friends! Let’s make this trip as pleasant as we can for everyone involved.


  1. In the few occasions where I have been stuck in the middle seat, another tip is for the person in the middle to try and go when the person on the aisle does if at all possible.

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