A friend of mine recently took a flight. She was assigned a middle seat, which put her between two men. The man with the window seat was already stretched well into her seat when she got there. He made little attempt to lean back into his own space, and had his arm on the common armrest so that it practically rested on her lap.
The man with the aisle seat, meanwhile, crowded in and then took claim of the other armrest. Each man then had two armrests while my friend had nothing. She told me she had to shrug her shoulders a bit inward so that she could lay her arms across her lap and not hit either man’s elbow. Luckily, it was a fairly short flight, but my friend didn’t think it was fair that she got the worst seat and no armrest.
So, what’s the etiquette? According to my research, the person in the middle seat should get access to both armrests. Passengers in the window and aisle seats still have their own armrest, as well as space to lean into for extra room. Therefore it’s only right that the person in the middle have a little spare room.
I know it’s hard to give up space on a cramped flight, but imagine that next time you’ll be the one in the middle. Consider it good etiquette karma!