As my writing mojo seems to be in hibernation, I figured, environmentalist that I am, that I would recycle an old column. This story, written by my alter-ago Jane Air, originally appeared on www.womenontheirway.com.
Jane Gets to the Bottom of Airplane Seat Etiquette
Now that planes are more crowded than ever, the likelihood is the middle seat in nearly every row will be occupied. Hopefully, dear reader, it will not be your delightful derriere that will be dwelling in said seat. Still, regardless of whose behind is there, the bottom line is that there are accepted rules of behavior when it comes to middle seat manners. In fact, as Jane will discuss, other seats have their specific rules as well. But middle seat suavities are of greatest consequence.
Herewith are hints from Jane’s Book of Travel Etiquette.
1. To the middle seat belongs the armrests. Window Woodrow gets the armrest next to the wall. Aisle Annie gets the armrest at the other end of the row. Unfortunate Middle Seat Mickey gets both of the middle armrests. Period. However, Middle Seat Mickey does not have the right to lift either armrest up without the expressed permission of fellow seatmates. After all, it is every passenger’s right not to be rubbed up by a nearby thigh.
2. Those occupying both the middle and window seats should limit their fluid intake. Yes, it is important to stay hydrated on a plane. But if you have a weak bladder, or like to imbibe gallons of fluids, reserve an aisle seat.
3. That said, if you are in the aisle seat, do realize it is your duty to get up when your fellow aisle mates have to go. Don’t build a fortress of magazines, beverages and laptops around you that has to be dismantled every time someone needs to get out. The fortress-building privilege is solely reserved for those in the window seat.
4. Now, what happens when it appears that the middle seat will be unoccupied? First, wait until the cabin doors actually close before getting excited. How many times has Jane’s pulse quickened and her heart rate increased in anticipation of additional amplitude, only to experience the heartbreak of that last-minute arrival sprinting down the aisle directly toward Jane’s extra elbow room? However, if said passenger doesn’t show up, congratulations. The middle seat is fair game….but only by half.
If the middle seat stays empty, immediately lay claim to your share of the seat by discreetly placing a jacket or a book on it. This prevents the passenger on the other side of the middle seat from hogging the entire space for himself. Likewise, feel free to use half the storage room under the middle seat. Once you are airborne, if it appears that your fellow aisle mate has not laid claim to the other half, feel free to use it all. Jane also says it is perfectly kosher to use the middle tray table for beverages. But don’t use it for the meal service. For one, if you do so, you will likely be using more than your fair share of the table, which is not seemly for a lady of your stature. For two, in the event of turbulence, your meal could end up in your aisle mate’s lap.
Speaking of which, do not use the middle seat as a place to stretch out, unless you have the other passenger’s expressed consent. If said person is kind enough to grant you full-body access to the middle seat, make sure your feet are pointing in the direction opposite his olfactory organ. Also, make sure that the armrest between the two seats is down. Otherwise, you might end up in your fellow passenger’s lap….and that, dear reader, is not acceptable airline etiquette.
Jane is always happy to add new rules to her book. Please post your thoughts.