Travel tips and advice: How to survive sitting in the middle seat on a plane

When you are in the middle seat on a plane you are nothing short of the filling in a human sandwich. On some carriers, you end up shoehorned so close to these strangers that you end up tickling each other's arm hairs for the length of a flight. And the time in a middle seat goes twice as long as in an aisle or a window seat, that's just physics.

Aware that customers would rather share the cargo hold with their checked-in luggage than sit in the middle seat, some people are working on the problem. Like Colorado-based Molon Labe Designs whose "side-slip seat" is designed so that the middle seat of doom is slightly lower and set back from its neighbours giving the forsaken a bit more privacy. But for now you will have to use our handy tips to surviving seating purgatory.

The key is to board early. If you arrive and find the window and aisle seats full you will forever be thought of as the person that took away their communal table space. But if you are in your spot nice and early and have to get up to let the window person in, you are already one-up psychologically (add an imperceptible sigh for extra guilt, you may need it later).

The unwritten law of plane travel is that the middle seat gets first dibs on the armrest. If you prefer the real estate closest to the seat then go for it and hold firm. You will encounter some people who are unaware of this rule, but they are also the ones most likely to stick bare feet through the seat at you and are completely irredeemable.

Be organised. The middle seat means your overhead luggage is always a drama away. I tend to favour cargo pants and make sure that all the pockets are full of things to make the trip easier; phone, phone cord, headache tablets, a book and water.

Remember the middle seat doubles the chance of landing a have-a-chat as a neighbour so I suggest an eye mask and headphone combo, which is the grown-up version of sticking your fingers in your eyes, jamming shut your eyes and going 'Lalalala, this is not happening' for the duration of the flight.

Since this is one of the only times, as an adult, you are going to have to ask permission to use the toilet, best act like a little kid and go before you sit down. Yes, even if you don't think you need to. Seriously, do as you're told. Now.

If you do need to get up, on a long-haul you need to do that before anyone starts a long movie or goes to sleep, or better still time it with the aisle person when they need a pee.

Otherwise your only option is to climb up and over which almost always ends with Mr Aisle Seat waking up to see you from an angle no stranger ever should. And that will make the rest of the hours of elbow jousting on your flight that little bit more uncomfortable.

Comments