How to Love the Middle Seat

Tips & Tricks

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The middle seat on an airplane has gotten a bad rap. It may not be as alluring as the window seat, which offers a bird’s eye view of the world below, nor does it provide the freedom of the aisle seat, where frequent trips to the lavatory are permitted. But with the right kind of attitude and a certain amount of preparedness, the middle seat can still provide a pleasant flying experience. Don't believe us? Here's how you too can fall in love with the middle seat.

Know the Rules

Row of seats in an airplane
Credit: SPmemory/ iStock

From refraining to recline your seat inflight to deplaning in an orderly fashion, air travel has an inordinate amount of etiquette rules. Regardless of whether you agree with these unspoken mandates, there is one stipulation about middle seats that could work in your favor. Each airplane seat is permitted one distinguished perk — the aisle has the most breathing space, the window seat has a built-in headrest, and the middle seat is allowed both armrests. So, next time you find yourself stuck in the middle, take full advantage of those armrests — you deserve it.

Chat Up Your Neighbor

When you’re stuck in a middle seat, there’s a chance that the person sitting next to you is interesting. So why not chat with them? You might meet someone fascinating or learn something new. If the exchange goes well, you could even make a new travel buddy along the way. Even better, the middle seat is the perfect place for professional networking — you never know where a new connection might be. Either way, a little friendly conversation can go a long way and the middle seat is the perfect place to start.

Bring Entertainment

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Bringing your own entertainment is crucial for any flight, but especially when you're in the middle seat. If the middle seat makes you feel cramped or awkward, distraction is key. Download Netflix shows on your phone, dive into a new podcast, or bring a good book. Most important of all, make sure you come prepared. Charge your phone or pack an extra battery pack. If you’re a speedy reader, bring more than one book. With a little diversion, time will fly by — even in the middle seat.

Invest in Comfort

Most people avoid the middle seat because the lack of personal space makes it uncomfortable. However, once you invest in your travel comfort, the middle seat will become more appealing. Many of us already travel with the requisite neck pillow and eye mask, but you shouldn’t stop there. A travel blanket will keep you warm and cozy, even if you’re sandwiched between two people. A hammock footrest allows you to extend and elevate your legs in any seat and a frontal travel pillow allows you to sleep comfortably on your tray table during the flight.

Stop Stressing

Interior of an empty plane
Credit: rezauliandrian/ Unsplash

In general, the middle seat seems to provoke stress in travelers. Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed by the tight quarters or worried about bothering your neighbors, cut yourself some slack. It’s okay to get up to use the lavatory more than once — especially on a long flight. If you need to access something in the overhead compartment, you are certainly allowed to do so. Of course, the Golden Rule should always be in effect. Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. Respect your neighbor’s personal space and it’s likely they will respect yours. After all, you’re in this together.

Focus on the Future

If you fly economy, you need to accept that the middle seat is a fact of life. Whether you’re booking basic economy, traveling with a partner or friend, or using an airline without assigned seating, a middle seat could be in your near future. So why not embrace it? Any plane ride — no matter how long — is only for a finite amount of time and anything that is temporary is manageable. Instead of focusing on the middle seat, focus on where you’re headed. Hopefully, it’s somewhere exciting, adventurous, or beautiful — and that should make your undesirable seat location totally worth it.

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