Who gets the middle seat armrests?

Posted by Imogen Searra on 22 February 2021

There is nothing worse then being allocated a middle seat when you forgot to pre-book your seating preference. Being wedged in between two strangers is at the very least an awkward experience.

From resisting sleep so as not to have your head lob to one side, to establishing dominance over the arm rests: There is a silent war waged over the middle seat before you’ve even plonked yourself down.

The middle seat on an airplane is considered the worst in terms of space and view but it actually holds a lot of power.

The question of who the middle arm rests belong to has long been disputed by air travellers. Many feel strongly about the middle arm rests belonging to the person in the middle, while some feel it’s a shared space.

Logic and reason argue that the middle seater gets the middle armrests but when logic and reason aren’t your strong suit, you may feel otherwise.

And so a silent, passive-aggressive war ensues over the armrest. If you’re in the middle, these acts of violence can be as slight as your neighbour putting their arm directly in front of yours, entrapping you.

Others can be more aggressive and less passive, such as bumping your elbow off the armrest entirely, or squeezing in the gap behind your arm and the chair.

When you’re in the middle seat, you essentially hold quite a bit of power over the people to your left or right. Assert yourself and claim the space that is rightfully yours.

Another side of the pro-middle seat armrest argument boils down to empathy. This person has little space to move, no view and nothing to lean on. They deserve the middle seat armrests.

Speaking to Reader’s Digest, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting Jodi R.R Smith said: ‘When sitting three across on a plane, the person in the middle has dominion over both armrests.’

He continued: ‘The person on the aisle has the benefit of being able to move freely and has stretching room into the aisle. The person at the window has the benefit of leaning against the window or being able to see the view, when there is something to see.

‘Both the person on the aisle and the person on the window are only being potentially touched by one other person.  But the person in the middle is not able to easily move or stretch, nor is there anywhere to lean. Additionally, they are potentially being touched by two others. Therefore, they have control over the arm rests.’

This way, each seat has their perk: a view, freedom to stretch and two armrests.






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