Should the Middle Seat Really Get Both Armrests?
As airplane seats get smaller, the debate over who gets the armrest gets hotter.
According to a survey conducted by British Airways, 67 percent of fliers believe “proper etiquette” is to take just one armrest, leaving the other for your neighbor. There's just one problem with that, which will be obvious to anyone who has ever sat in a plane seat: There are different people on the other side of each of those armrests.
What this is really about, then, is if the passenger in the middle seat is entitled to both armrests. The answer, it turns out, varies by nationality.
British Airways polled fliers from the U.K., U.S., France, Germany, and Italy. Respondents from the U.S. and U.K were more likely — at 42 and 47 percent, respectively — “to try and claim both armrests for themselves,” according to the survey. People from the other countries included in the survey, however, were a bit more polite, saying those coveted shared armrests “should go to whomever asks for them.” (French respondents were the mostly likely to avoid the armrest completely.)
Making the middle seater speak up to get an armrest, however, sounds like adding insult to injury. Empathy and proper etiquette demand giving them this small measure of comfort, and one of the foremost etiquette experts agrees.
“Allow the people in the middle to have first go at those armrests,” Lizzie Post previously said. “They don’t have the window to lean up against; they don’t have the aisle.”
If you're stuck in the middle seat, and the heathens surrounding you aren't familiar with etiquette, you could try asking — or beat them to the punch with a portable armrest divider.