Thursday, December 16, 2010


There's been a lot written recently in the consumer travel press about inflight armrest etiquette, and it's a regularly re-cycled topic. Gets people very worked up.

So, who has the overriding armrest rights on a flight?

Is it a first-in-best-dressed scecnario? And does that give you rights for the whole flight? Is that fair when you've just boarded that 16-hour sector from JFK to Hong Kong?

Now, if you happen to turn left on boarding, this isn't usually an issue. But, down the back, it's an altogether different playing field where tensions/apprehension/anxiety can be high. It's a perfect pressurised petri-dish of passive aggressive cultures awaiting a willing host.

But surely, you don't need to be Ghandi to come up with a peaceful solution.

Seriously people, the armrest is a fluid bit of real estate.

If it's available, it's yours. No, you don't get to place a covenant on it. If you get up to do your DVT stretches, or to remonstrate with the person in front who has reclined their seat (another inflight chestnut) and the armrest has a new tenant, simply smile and acquiesce.

Conversely, if the armrest custodian next to you lifts his/her arm for a second to scratch an itch or brace the headrest that's descending from in front, it's not reasonable to make a lightning-quick land grab.

A while back I saw a potential solution - the Paperclip Armrest:

Great in principle, but does it just open another can of worms?

Bags the top bunk!


  1. I always think if there's a middle seat, you should let the poor sucker in the middle seat have the armrest. Being stuck in the middle sucks.

    1. Oh, absolutely, Rebekka. Well said.

      Middle seat has rights to both armrests.

      Case closed.

      Happy travels!