The middle seat for you!

middle seatClose your eyes, and imagine you’re on a Southwest plane. You got a boarding pass in the late B’s, so you know the chance of getting a good seat will be slim to none. But as you head down the aisle, you see several window and aisle seats available in the back of the plane. You quickly count the people in front of you, and count the available seats, and realize there’s a chance. Eagerly you make your way to the back of the plane, eying the available overhead bin space. It’s not until you are almost at the back when you realize that all of those window and aisle seats you counted as open a minute ago were…still open. And the people in front of you are all choosing middle seats. What the heck? You wonder.

And then you remember. You are on a plane from Orlando, home of one million theme parks. And you realize those available seats are actually already filled with kids you can’t see. Sure enough, the only spot left is in the middle in the next to last row.

When this happened to me last week I was lucky that the guys sitting next to me were super nice, and we all shared the armrests amicably. Here are a few ways you can make things a little easier for those lucky ones in the middle seat.

  1. Get out of their way. If you are sitting on the aisle and sit down before the other people in your row, when they get there please stand up and move into the aisle so they can easily get to their seat. Also, don’t roll your eyes, huff impatiently, or indicate they are moving too slowly in any way.
  2. Let them have the armrests. Part of what makes the middle seat so awful is that if the other people won’t share the armrest you are left sitting there, trying to hug your elbows into your sides for two hours. If for some reason you MUST have an armrest, let the middle person place their arm first and then you work around them.
  3. Assist them as needed. If they drop something, move out of the way if you can so they can pick it up. Don’t make them reach over you to get their beverage from the flight attendant. And please don’t act annoyed if they need to get out of their seat to go to the restroom!
  4. Be aware of your personal space. Remember that the middle person’s space is already super limited; if you have to get something out of your bag, don’t lean over so far your head is in their lap (yes I’ve seen that happen. Awkward!!).

A friend of mine was in the middle seat a few months ago, and he and the guy next to him were playing (as he called it) “elbow wars” for the armrest. After several minutes of this, he turned to the man and introduced himself. His theory was that it’s a lot harder to be a jerk to someone you actually know vs. a stranger. And what do you know, it worked!

Readers, what are your tips for sitting in the middle seat? What do you do if someone won’t share the armrest?

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  1. Nice post. Reminds with of Ryan Bingham’s Up in the Air speech. “Imagine you have a backpack”…

    My worst SW flight was on OKC to MCI flight a few years back in the dead of winter. There was hardly anyone boarding so I’m thinking great this is going to be awesome. Only to get on the plane to find that is is FULL of college athletes. I have a strong rule to never fly in the Winter with sports teams or rock bands. It always scares me. I don’t want to end up in a snowy corn field plane crash. I was stuck in a middle seat around a bunch of horseplaying college kids.

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