Subscribe to Win!

How to win in the Battle of the Armrest

And when to just give up

It was an inanimate bit of steel and plastic, it was even a little festy, but dammit, it was mine.


I’d thought of marking my territory by fashioning a flag out of the napkins that came with my inflight meal or else stabbing my seatmate’s infringing arm with a plastic fork, but I’m not a fan of confrontation in a confined space at 30,000 feet above sea level so I settled for a lot of middle seat sighing.


Middle seats are as inevitable as middle children. And in the quest to get even more seats on planes in the future, it looks like there will be more of them. So what can we do to make the most of the space we’re given and avoid morphing into warring soldiers hell bent on defending disputed territory?


Middle seats win

Yes, those of us stuck in the middle seat probably booked late or checked in late or else fail in pretty much every aspect of our lives, but don’t punish us for our lack of foresight. Instead, give us the one break we will have for years to come and offer us the armrests.


You Window Folk have a glorious view as we come into land and the benefit of resting your head and you Aisle People have the luxury of going to the bathroom without climbing over complete strangers. We of the Middle have nothing!


Ask and ye shall receive (unless you’re sitting next to a gobs#!te)

A friend of mine who travelled a lot with her young child said that she used to hand out ear plugs to the people sitting around her. The act apparently broke the ice. If you’re in the need for armrests, simply ask for them.


If you’re not a fan of the upfront nature of this, then perhaps mention that you read an article about inflight etiquette that said those in the middle seats are probably in most need of armrests. People should get the hint.


Get on early

So you didn’t choose your seat in enough time. The least you can do is get onto the plane early and stake your claim. Just be mindful that whenever you move, that armrest is up for grabs.


Practice your twitch

People don’t want to mess with people with twitches and will likely give you all the room you desire. Depending on flight time though, pulling this off is a commitment. 


Feign fear

Holding onto those armrests until your knuckles turn white tends to indicate that you’re not the most confident of flyers. Most people will pity you and let you have your armrests. However, like the twitch, anything that involves a bit of acting, will have to be sustained for the duration of the flight. Also, you might be an unhappy recipient of a well meaning (or cruel) recounting of episodes of Plane Crash Investigation.


Sneak on in

If none of the above works, then quietly sneak the tips of your elbows onto the back of the armrest. At this point, you can gently push the other forward or, if you’ve got the chutzpah, off the armrest altogether. Otherwise, just wait it out. Surely they’ve got to pee sometime.


Get designing

There are people out there who hear your prayers. They are called designers. One designer saw the inevitable future of high-density seating and took to the armrest anew. And so the award-winning Paperclip Armrest was born:


Images courtesy of Rocket Jump and Paperclip Designs.



Click here to read the latest issue of traveltalk Click here to read the latest issue of traveltalk
Written by: Gaya Avery
Published: 28 April 2014

comments powered by Disqus