You better have sharp elbows, writes Allison Hope at Conde Nast Traveler. The battle for arm room is fierce.
You’re stuck in the middle seat on a red-eye, and your elbows are aching for a place to rest, but the passengers on the left and right have already claimed the armrest. Not fair, you say (to yourself, because you don’t want to start an argument with the seatmates you’re stuck with for the next six hours). It’s the epic battle of the right to rest your arm. But what is the proper etiquette for who gets the armrest, and how do you wrangle your way to elbow comfort if your seatmates don’t comply?
Scott McCartney, author of The Wall Street Journal’s “Middle Seat” column, tells Condé Nast Traveler that the “arm rests go to the middle seat passengers. It’s common traveler courtesy—they are small consolation for the seat squeeze. The poor soul in the middle seat has neither aisle nor sidewall to expand into.”
Indeed, the cold, hard comfort of the armrest seems like an apt concession for the middle seat dweller. A poll conducted by Gothamist showed that 74 percent of passengers agree that the person sitting in the middle should get both armrests, unless there are extenuating circumstances, like someone with a cast on their arm, someone in the middle seat who is a child, and their neighboring passenger larger, or similar.
If you’re in the middle and someone has already claimed the armrest, you have several choices, including:
1. Ask politely if you can use or share the armrest
2. Wait for your seatmate to fall asleep and passive-aggressively shove their elbow off the armrest (not recommended)
3. Suck it up and suffer with no resting perch
If a situation starts to escalate, call on the flight attendant to intervene. It may sound silly, but the last thing you want is for things to get out of control at 30,000 feet.
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