Who gets the middle-seat armrests on a plane?

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

Flying economy can be a stressful and exasperating experience for many thanks to a series of irritants.

While screaming children and delays on the tarmac are two of the more common complaints, finding yourself stuck in the middle seat is often a passenger’s biggest pet peeve.

The dreaded spot between the window and aisle seats is only worsened when wedged between two strangers.

And it was the middle seat that took centre stage on social media this week after The Rich Eisen Show in the US asked if its occupant is compensated when it came to resting their arms.

“Does the person sitting in the middle seat on airplane get both armrests?” the sports show later asked on Twitter.

The question divided the internet as thousands came to cast their vote.

“Not if they're sitting next to me, that's for sure,” 6ft 4 former NFL star Ross Tucker weighed in, unsympathetic to the middle seat passengers.

“They should have picked a different seat,” another person quipped.

“Noooo (sic), the one beside the window is of precious little use as it is right beside a wall,” one person pointed out.

Yet the majority of comments appeared to be in favour of allowing the middle seat the two armrests either side of them.

Armrests are hot property on aircrafts, it seems. Source: Getty, file.

“Those saying ‘no way’. Reconsider. I hardly ever sit in the middle and I always yield my armrest to the middle seat passenger. It is a rule of travel,” one user wrote.

“No question. Window seat gets the window and one armrest. Aisle seats gets the legroom and one armrest. The poor sap in the middle gets two armrests. To quote Jim Jefferies, ‘We are living in a society’,” another declared.

“Of course, that is the least convenient seat to sit on. So that middle-seater has to have at least that convenience,” one person said.

Despite the comments appearing to lean towards two armrests, of the 108,000 votes cast in the Twitter poll, 53 per cent of people voted ‘no way’.

Flight attendant settles debate

A Qantas flight attendant, with more than 30 years experience with the company, told Yahoo News Australia armrests were in fact “shared spaces”.

“Nobody has ownership over an armrest. They are a mutual space,” she said.

“There are four armrests shared between three seats.”

The armrests are meant to be shared, a veteran flight attendant told Yahoo News Australia. Source: Getty, file.

The flight attendant said while the on-board crew were well-trained in trying to diffuse any seat disagreements, there wasn’t any official protocol revealed during training that states a passenger can be designated a set amount of armrests.

“If the plane is packed they have to just share but if there were spare seats, [flight attendants] would move passengers around to give everyone as much space as possible,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

In her seasoned career she had never seen the argument unfold.

“Most people figure it out themselves,” the flight attendant said.

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