The Woes of the Middle Seat – How the Seat You Choose Affects Your Travel

middle seat


There’s been a lot of talk lately about airline seating. In the news, airline manufacturers are patenting increasingly more ridiculous seating arrangements to fit as many people as possible into airplanes.  (Read about these new patents at CNN and the Washington Post and see image below.) Why? People are not cattle. We should not be packed onto planes for airlines to profit as much as possible (and neither should cattle, but that’s an entirely other subject matter.)

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one of the crazy new patents for airline seating, photo from


I understand it’s expensive to run an airline, but there has to be a certain level of comfort that all people should be able to expect when flying coach on any airline. Narrow width seats, seat pitch (also known as leg room), and the amount of recline should be standard. However, they are not. provides information on their site regarding each airline’s airplane seat information and other plane amenities.

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photo from

Why have a middle seat?

No one likes the middle seat.  NO ONE.  Middle seats only work for families or couples flying together.  No one likes to be cramped next to someone they don’t know.  You just end up invading each other’s personal space and bumping elbows or knees every time you move.  Plus, they are always the last to sell, sometimes requiring airlines to reduce the price just to sell that dreaded middle seat.  So why have them? Why not just make rows of two seats? Buses do it and trains do it and yet they manage to make profits.  Give fliers more aisles to get up, stretch their legs, and not run into the damn beverage cart, getting stuck behind the flight attendant.

Everyone loves the aisle seat, especially men.  Something about being able to get up whenever they choose, being able to stretch their legs, and have a little more breathing room.  I personally prefer the window seat.  I’m actually still like a kid when it comes to flying – I want that window seat! I am a geology junkie and I love to see the topography of the Earth.  I hate having to bother people when I have to get up out of my window seat, but I enjoy being able to have something new and interesting to look at during the trip.

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photo from

Reclining airplane seats

Because of the minimal amount of leg room on airlines nowadays, reclining one’s seat can be problematic.  Personally, I never recline my seat.  I worry too much about the person behind me being bothered to even think about it.  Others, however, don’t care. The incredible loss of personal space and comfort you face while trying to get to your destination, definitely makes for angrier passengers.

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Flying like this was a dream! United’s business class. Photo from Matt Blaze on

Flying business class

I had the extreme privilege to fly business class once from Brussels to Chicago. It was actually my husband’s ticket (as we had met in Brussels and he was there for business). He took my coach ticket and allowed me to experience the way he travels for work.  I was stunned!

I sat next to someone who had obviously flown business before.  Unlike me, she seemed to know how things worked.  I slyly explored my little area, studying everything, figuring out how things worked, and looking like a total rookie in business class.

First came the (unlimited) champagne, the hot towel, and the warm nuts. Then came the fresh salad, unlimited wine and drinks, warm rolls, my choice of meal, and a personalized ice cream sundae made seat-side.  Attendants didn’t bother those that were sleeping; when they awoke, they were served the exact same items, in the exact same manner.  There was unlimited television and movies, more flight attendants attending to our few, and our own private restroom.  A blanket, a toiletry kit, and amenities in the restroom were also nice perks.

When morning arrived, we were served another wonderful meal with excellent service. It was incredible. I felt like I was being treated like royalty, but it was more like being treated as a person. When I got off the flight, I told my husband, every person should travel that way, as opposed to the traditional “packed sardines” fashion.  It’s amazing how being comfortable on an airplane can change the way a person views travel.

My worst seat ever

No talkative person, crying baby, or rude passenger can top my worst hour in the air, all because of the seat.

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Best representation of my worst seat, from @hen_ease on twitter

I once took a small island hopper flight in Hawaii and got stuck in the worst possible seat.  I don’t remember how I got stuck with this seat, but my kids and I were in the very last row of the airplane.  Being that I usually take the window seat, the kids let me sit down first.  After we were settled, I soon noticed that I had no window to look out of, and no recline of my seat.  So, here I was in the back of the aircraft, with a fuselage wall to my right, a lavatory wall behind me, and overhead bin above me.  This was the first time I can genuinely say I felt claustrophobic.  I don’t ever really get these feelings either – maybe in a crowded elevator or in a big crowd of people, but being in a plane is a small enough place itself, let alone where I was seated. Thank goodness I was at least next to my kids.  They knew I was going a bit nuts, and fortunately it was a short flight.  I tried to just close my eyes and forget about where I actually was at that moment, and thought about the rest of my vacation.

My Take

I think it’s time for airlines to give us travelers the proper amount of leg room and seat width, considering how much we are paying for a ticket. Eliminate the middle seat, assign seats (to prevent further issues when boarding), return to the “two bags fly free” rule, and provide us with a little more than a soft drink or a cup of coffee.  All in all, this will result in less stress when boarding, a comfortable flight, and most importantly, happier passengers that will fly more often.

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photo Chan Lowe –


Happy Travels!



  1. thatslondonbaby | 31st Oct 15

    Wishful thinking…. But You are 100% right!

    • Julie | 31st Oct 15

      I can dream! 🙂

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