When there are only middle seats left….

On a recent trip a delay meant I was one of the last few to board a Southwest flight. When I got on the plane it was as I expected….only middle airplane seat2seats left.  There were probably about ten, all in the back. There were a few other people from my previous flight boarding at the same time in front of me. As we worked our way to the back of the plane I noticed the people next to open middle seats were almost all looking out the window.  I wondered what they could be looking at.  Was there some kind of commotion happening outside??  As I got closer it became apparent there was no commotion. These people were trying to ignore the late boarders in the hopes that we wouldn’t sit next to them, giving them a more comfortable flight.  Every single one of us had to grab the attention of the person in the aisle seat to ask for permission to sit in the middle.  I even heard one passenger sigh when asked if the seat was taken.

I partially blame the airlines for this by making seats so close together that people drool over the possibility of an open middle seat.  And I don’t blame the passengers for hoping the middle seat remains open on the flight.  Who wouldn’t want a little extra breathing room?   However, ignoring passengers as they are trying to find a seat just seems….I don’t know. Is it rude? Is it inhospitable? Is it a totally natural reaction so I should let it go?  It’s bad enough that this individual is going to have to sit in the middle for an entire flight, to make it difficult to engage or to make it seem like it’s an inconvenience to give up the open seat next to you feels downright rude. No one wants to be the jerk who takes away your space! But we all have to sit down, and it makes an uncomfortable situation even more awkward if you silently guilt them for choosing the seat next to you. The right thing to do is to look up and at least attempt to make eye contact and smile.  If you do this you’ve done your due diligence in my opinion.

When flying Southwest we all pay for the same seats.  Until those airplane doors close those seats are up for grabs.  So next time you have an open seat and someone needs a place to sit do the right thing and make people feel welcome.  Not only will this make the skies a friendlier place it will help speed up the boarding process. Of course, it’s also one more reason that makes people avoid Southwest….

Readers, how should passengers on open-seating flights act when only middle seats are open?

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  1. I flew SW in December and was fortunate to be an A. When the center seats were all that was left the pilot mad an announcement to set everyone’s expectations. He announced something like “A is for Awesome, B is for the back of the plane and C is for Center Aisle. This flight is full, you WILL have someone seated next to you. We all know the tricks..averting your eyes, leaving bags on the center seat. Please go ahead and clear off your seats and welcome your new seatmate.

  2. Fly an airline with assigned seating and refresh the seat map every five seconds? In those situations, there’s no better sound than when the door shuts.

    Or… Completely blank stare, straight ahead. Don’t make yourself too big or too small. Don’t put your arm on the shared armrest. (Let’s be honest, the middle seat is miserable enough that both armrests should be its occupant’s.) If someone asks to sit, smile politely.

  3. I usually just take my shoes off and try to pass gas if I can. I wouldn’t go so far as to ignore people, though…

    Actually, these days I usually travel with a lap infant, so no one is choosing that middle seat.

  4. Smiling and waving to the people coming up the aisle will almost guarantee that your middle seat willbe the last to be filled…

  5. Never make eye contact then you will be asked for that seat. I only fly SW so im never in the middle. But i make sure to take i off my shoes. I dont fart because there are too Many people. People dont like feet. That seems to work everytime. Even flights they say are full.

  6. Honestly people need to grow up and stop acting like five year olds. No one wants to sit between two other people and barely able to move but these days airlines give no choice. Taking your shoes off and other passive aggressive moves just exhibits the selfish behavior that is at the root of modern society’s problems.

  7. It’s basic human nature to want “more” even when we don’t deserve it. Taking off your shoes, looking sideways, placing bags on seats are all passive-aggressive behavior. The best way to address passive-aggressive behavior is to meet it head on. Lean forward with a smile and state: “Hi, it looks like I’ll be your seat-mate today!” Ignoring the eye-rolls and sighs takes power away from the passive-aggressive person.
    We’re adults so we can most certainly handle this inconvenience without it bothering us.

  8. Folks,
    We don’t live in a society. I don’t owe any of you a thing. I don’t take my shoes off or fart or any other passive aggressive childishness but I am certainly not going to greet you or make you feel at home because since we don’t live in a society, I don’t care about you or your feelings. Besides, most of you are terrible to be around anyway.

  9. Rule #1: don’t fly SWA.
    Rule #2 if you failed to follow rule #1: unless you paid for an extra seat, you are not entitled to try to hoard it.

    If you take off your shoes, you run the risk of having your bare feet stepped on.

    Your best bet for keeping the middle seat is being fat. Nobody wants to be squished next to some fat person taking up part of your seat space.

  10. I used to invite the first skinny person that walked by to sit by me. There are so few anymore that you better get one’s attention while you can. That being said, I don’t fly SWA anymore unless I’m desperate. They jammed in that extra row of seats and getting B listed when paying for early bird boarding is unacceptable. I don’t heart SWA anymore.

  11. Something like this happens on my commuter bus. There are two seats on each side of the aisle. People will either get on the bus and sit in the aisle seat, leaving the window seat empty, or they will put their bag bag on the aisle seat. I get on when the bus is about 70% full and I love making someone move who clearly is trying to avoid sitting next to someone. There are repeat offenders 🙂

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