The Unofficial Rules Of Sitting In The Middle Seat Of A Plane

by SharonKurheg

Invariably, most of us are going to get stuck in a middle seat every once in a while. It could be because you got a Basic Economy ticket. Or you booked late and middle seats are simply all that’s left. Or you’re with your partner and you graciously gave him/her the window/aisle seat. But eventually, it’s going to happen.

Sitting in the middle seat is a pain. You don’t get the benefits of having a window to look out of or immediate access to the aisle. But sitting in the middle seat gives you a few other unofficial rules and, thankfully, unofficial benefits. Like these:

If you’re in the middle seat…

…you get both armrests.

The window seat gets a window. Aisle seat gets an aisle. Middle seat gets both armrests (and if your seatmates are not in agreement with this, maybe consider investing in one of these).

Although I fear that if these come to fruition on planes, the middle seats will go up in price, it will still help with the armrest and leg space issue.

…it doesn’t give you the excuse to manspread.

The person in the window seat can’t spread his/her legs very far apart because of the wall of the cabin. Whoever is in the aisle seat will have to move his/her spread legs every time a person goes through the aisle. The person in the middle seat could conceivably manspread all (s)he wants. Don’t do it.

And if you’re a victim of a manspreader on a plane, consider this technique.

…try to time bathroom breaks.

The person in the aisle seat has the advantage of aisle access. Those in the middle and window seats do not. So if you’re stuck in a middle seat, use the toilet before you get on the plane. Then to avoid the uncomfortableness of climbing over your seatmate who has the aisle, use the opportunity to use the lavatory when (s)he goes.

I just hope you don’t get this lavatory on your plane.

Oh, and make sure to feel bad for the poor person in the window seat who has the same problem, but double (s/he has to climb over both you AND the aisle person).

…it gives you the opportunity to get a seat closer to the front of the plane. Or it can give you 2 ways to exit your row.

This one takes a little planning. But if you know you’re going to get a middle seat and have the option to choose your seat when you make your reservations, chances are there will be middle seats closer to the front of the plane. GRAB ONE! Seat 8B will allow you to exit the plane a whole lot faster than seat 64A.

Also, if you’re in a plane with a 2-3-2 (or similar configuration), grab a middle seat in the middle section; it gives you two options to leave your aisle. So if one seat mate is sleeping, you can potentially slip past the person on your other side.

…don’t have conversations with your friend/spouse/etc. who’s in the middle seat on the other side of the plane.

Talking over other people is rude. If you have a middle seat, keep conversations with your traveling partner(s) to a minimum, unless they are directly next to you. But if you’re in middle seat 14E, your aisle-side seatmate doesn’t want or need to hear about your aunt Bertha’s surgery on her infected pinky toe that you want to tell your travel mate who’s in the middle seat 14B. Tell them after the flight is over, when you’re next to each other.

…be polite about looking out the window

You still have some access to the window if you’re in a middle seat. Don’t be the person who leans all over the person in the window seat in order to see out the window better.

…you get to move over if your row has an empty seat

Say you’re stuck in a middle seat and when they close the door on the lane, one seat in your row is unoccupied. GRAB IT! And then voila! No more middle seat (and if you’re on a Southwest flight, here’s a way to help keep that seat next to you empty).


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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


derek June 21, 2021 - 7:04 pm

The unofficial rule of the window seat should be that, if requested, the window shade must be opened at least half way for the first minute and last 3 minutes of the flight. This is for safety reasons. I once sat next to a militant person (FYI, moderately obese African-American (not African) woman who was very rude) who refused to open the window shade even half way a minute or two before landing. I should have requested to move to a different seat, even to cause a diversion. Divert to where during the last 10 minutes? ha ha.

SharonKurheg June 21, 2021 - 8:05 pm

Actually, the window shade should be however the FA says to have it 😉 (Bottom half of the post: )


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