Article in Culture, Travel categories.

The Case for the Airplane Middle Seat

From enjoying dual armrests to potential upgrades and greater privacy, think again why the middle seat option could enhance your next flight experience.

You've likely already cringed at the title. You’re probably imagining being sandwiched between two strangers like a sad slice of deli meat in a poorly assembled sandwich. "Oh, the horror!" you exclaim, recoiling at the very thought. While many of you aisle seat lovers out there are smugly nodding, let me pause you right there. You've been living a lie, my friends, buying into the middle seat hysteria without giving it a fair trial. 

But hold onto your armrests, folks, because it's time to flip the script on the most maligned seat in all of aviation.

Contrary to popular belief, the middle seat is not a miserable, elbow-jostling nightmare. Instead, it could quite possibly be more desirable than your precious aisle seats, a fact you aisle-seat aficionados are conveniently ignoring. 

Let's bring clarity to the airplane seat debate. The aisle seat, the supposed throne of freedom, isn't as glamorous as it's made out to be. And the window seat? It's not all panoramic views and peaceful isolation.

For those aisle seat enthusiasts who like to assert their freedom by making multiple trips to the lavatory or stretching their legs, remember this: nothing interrupts a good snooze more than being a human speed bump for the beverage cart. And let's not forget about the passersby. Your aisle seat is not just a seat; it's also a gauntlet through which all aisle traffic must pass. People, in general, are not as nimble or considerate as we'd like them to be. Those trips to the bathroom you enjoy? They are also enjoyed by everyone else, and your legs or arm are on the direct path of that foot traffic.

Let's not overlook the constant interruptions. Each time your middle or window seatmate needs to use the restroom or stretch their legs, you're obliged to stand or, at best, twist awkwardly to allow them to pass. These interruptions can come at the most inconvenient times, too, like when you're engrossed in a movie, about to take a bite of your meal, or drifting off to sleep.

Now, onto the window seat defenders, basking in the glory of their 'room with a view.' While the sight of clouds might be enthralling, the charm wears off when nature calls or your legs cramp up. Not to mention, the temperature tends to be chillier by the window, and the wall doesn't provide as comfortable a headrest as one might hope. And those dreamy clouds? They can quickly turn into an overwhelmingly bright light source, making it impossible to view your in-flight movie.

And speaking of discomfort, have you ever noticed that the window seat tends to be chillier? The closer proximity to the plane's exterior means you'll often bear the brunt of those high-altitude temperatures. And unless you've packed your polar fleece blanket, the chill can turn your cozy corner into a miniature icebox.

So, why the middle seat?

First off, in the middle seat, you're strategically positioned for a dual armrest claim. A coup of comfort, if you will. Granted, armrests are shared territories. Yet, something about being in the middle seat seems to give one a psychological edge to the claim. The mutual understanding of 'middle seat tribulations' often leads to aisle and window passengers ceding the middle armrests. It's the least they can do for the 'sandwiched' one. So, even as you are physically surrounded by passengers on either side, these armrests become your little islands, offering a slight expansion of your personal space.

Of course, this is not a universal rule, it varies based on the individuals involved and the unspoken social contract of air travel. But one thing is for sure, while you might have to surrender an armrest to aisle walkers or window gazers in their respective seats, you're in a prime position to negotiate for both of yours. 

For those sociable folks, it's a conversational paradise. With two potential chat buddies, you're spoiled for choice. And if one neighbor's tales of glory don't tantalize, just pivot to the other. 

And the middle seat isn't all about spreading your metaphorical wings. For those who seek the opposite of a social commute, the middle seat is also a haven for privacy, keeping you away from the prying eyes of those people-watchers sitting aisle-side. Traveling with a child? The middle seat can offer more room for their activities. Not a fan of people-watching? The middle seat offers more privacy compared to being in the public eye in the aisle seat. Or perhaps, you're on a long flight with some pending work? The middle seat provides a distraction-free environment, perfect for productivity. (Though, different people may believe the other two seats are could just be as comfortable for working with a laptop...)

Sure, the middle seat might feel like being caught in a traveller sandwich. But in the grand scheme of travel, maybe it's a spot worth reconsidering. So, next time, instead of smirking at the 'unfortunate' soul in the middle seat, remember they may just have the best seat in the house. After all, they're sitting pretty, right in the middle of everything.

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