Making the most of the middle seat

The middle seat isn’t anyone’s cup of tea, with the lack of leg space, privacy and freedom to stretch out. In fact, SmarterTravel found that 50 per cent of people would rather wait for the next flight than have to take the middle seat.

A recent survey found that half of the respondents would rather visit the dentist than have to tell a seatmate they need to go to the bathroom. However, as airlines cram more and more passengers onto each flight, our likelihood of getting stuck with the dreaded middle seat increases. Here are the best ways to avoid or survive the middle seat. 

Buy your way to freedom
Many airlines will offer you the ability to select your seat preferences, either when purchasing your ticket or when checking in. Some airlines will offer this for free – on a first in first served basis – while others will charge you a fee, often depending on the desirability of the seat. This additional fee may be well worth it, especially on a long flight. You can also enquire about an affordable seat upgrade with staff by calling up the airline a few days before you travel, or when checking-in or at the gate. While in high demand, better seats on the plane may become available. If you have any medical conditions that require freedom of movement, or are particularly tall, this may be the time to politely mention it to staff.

Pack smart
When you bring carry-on luggage on to a flight, you’re often allowed a ‘personal bag’ alongside your small suitcase. This will end up sitting below the chair in front of you, which also happens to be prime leg real estate. To maximise your own leg space, only pack the essentials in your personal bag, leaving the rest in your suitcase.

Armrest
One of the first rules of plane etiquette – that people in the outside seats often conveniently forget – is that the person in the less comfortable middle seat gets priority over the armrests. You don’t have to be a mathematician to realise that there isn’t an armrest for everyone in the row, so some sharing will generally have to take place. You can be both assertive and polite at the same time, just make sure you have your elbows firmly planted on those armrests.

Treat thy neighbour…
If you’re stuck between an aisle seat and a window seat, remember to consider that, while more comfortable, your window side neighbour is even more trapped than you. Before you settle in to sleep, read or watch a movie, make sure you stand up and have a little stroll or use the bathroom. This gives your seatmate the chance to do the same thing without having to disturb two people and may save them having to wake you up later.

Make some personal space
It can be hard to have any personal space with prying eyes over each shoulder, so you’ll have to try hard to make some for yourself. Bring your headphones, books, laptop, or whatever you need to amuse yourself, and send a strong ‘I’m busy’ message to any seatmate who might try and use you as a sounding board.

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Written by Liv Gardiner

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