Just how much do people hate the dreaded middle seat on airplanes? So much so that 56 percent of Americans say they’d rather brave traffic jams, according to one survey. That same percentage would prefer going on a blind date over spending a couple of hours cozying between strangers — and as much as 9 percent of Americans simply refuse to get on a flight longer than two hours if they’d be stuck in the middle.
We get it. There’s limited legroom and blocked access to the aisle without the support of the window. Still, there are a few attractive perks of the middle seat that have us reconsidering:
1. You could have fewer neighbors. On flights like Southwest that don’t have seat assignments (if you don’t pay extra, anyway), sitting in the middle seat could be a good gamble so long as your flight isn’t full. Those who board after you are more likely to seek rows that are still empty or are occupied by someone in the aisle or window only, rather than immediately plunking down next to a stranger. This also help avoid getting stuck next to an endlessly chatty couple or pair of friends.
2. You get both armrests. We know this ranks relatively low on the airplane scale of comfort, but the perk needs to be noted. According to armrest etiquette — which should really be a pamphlet next to the Skymall catalogue — since both the aisle and window seats guarantee one rest each, middle seaters deserve to broaden their shoulders an extra few inches. Think about it this way. Those seated against the window can lean their heads against the wall. Those seated along the aisle can comfortably sprawl. It’s only fair that those in the middle have the armrests.
3. You’ve got dibs. Alternately, if there’s a nice seat that’s left empty after everyone’s onboard, those trapped in the middle should have dibs in accordance to airplane etiquette (seriously, where’s the pamphlet?). After the seatbelt sign goes off, ask the nearest flight attendant very nicely if there are any extra seats in the aisle or window — bonus points if you’re tall, or dressed nicely. Gunning for a jump into first class? The same principle applies: The better dressed you are, the better your odds.
4. You control the comfort. There’s nothing inherently comfortable about flying anymore, unless perhaps you’re lucky enough to be up in first with plush leather seats and some bubbly. Still, on a longer flight, you could argue that the aisle seat is less ideal than the middle seat, since you’ll be interrupted by others who need to get up to the bathroom. In the middle seat, you could always hope that your neighbor has chosen the window seat because they plan on passing out cold and won’t be crawling over you mid-flight.