For many frequent flyers, the middle seat is a no man’s land, reserved for those who are bumped, victim of a last minute airplane swap, or who haven’t availed themselves of seat trackers such as seat guru (or the airline’s own aircraft layout maps). Beset from all sides, the middle seat passenger must fight for arm and leg space, with no place to rest their weary head.
Although first and business class passengers rarely have to deal with these issues due to the configuration of the premium cabins, economy travelers are not so fortunate. As fuel costs become higher, airlines are conscious of factors such as weight, leading to ludicrous space saving ideas such as standing seats, 27 inch pitches and an increasingly cramped economy section. “Economy class passengers have lost up to eight inches of legroom since the so-called golden age of flying,” wrote Oliver Smith in an article examining seat width through the ages in The Telegraph. “But manufacturers will regularly suggest that it is seat width, not pitch, that really matters when it comes to comfort.”
Now, a new design for the middle seat has passed FAA approval and may be coming to an aircraft near you.
By staggering both the height and the row placement of the middle seat, Molon Labe Seating’s design widens the middle seat by a luxurious three to five inches (which sounds minimal, but can make a world of difference in flight experience) and also offsets the two-level armrests from the aisle and window seats to offer armspace to all. “Flying sucks,” Hank Scott, Molon Labe founder and CEO told Wired. “We’re trying to make it suck less.”
The idea of the shifted middle seat placement in the company’s S1 design is coming to two major airlines in 2020, according to an interview with Scott by CNN. “That little bit of stagger means that every single person gets to spread out a little more,” Scott said.
In some cases, airlines are looking to eliminate the middle seat completely. The Embraer 190-E2 turned heads last year (and not just for its shark themed paint job), with a cabin that featured larger windows and no middle seats at all, using a 2-2 configuration in a passenger jet. “Preserving passenger personal space is the goal,” Rodrigo Silva e Souza, vice-president of marketing for Embraer Commercial Aviation, told CNN Travel.
Until then, if you are unfortunate enough to end up with the middle seat on an upcoming flight, there are a couple of ways to make the experience a little more tolerable:
Claim your armrest space immediately. This point is often hotly debated, but current wisdom says that the middle seat sufferer should be allowed to claim both armrests. ““I one hundred percent believe the middle seat has the right to both armrests,” says Jacqueline Marie, a flight attendant for a major US carrier, told The Points Guy. “I view the armrests as boundary lines but, shockingly, as a flight attendant I have never been asked to fix a dispute regarding seat space.”
Whether this goal is accomplished through physical extenders such as Paperclip or Soarigami or politely asking your neighbor (don’t just spread out stubbornly), a little courtesy can make your flight more pleasant for all.
Clear your pitch: Put anything in the seatback in front of you in the overhead bin and don’t cram your space full of bottles or other detritus that could better be used for legroom (you may want to rethink how much you put in that seat pocket anyway after reading the results of this cleanliness study). Bring a small carryon that closes completely (no open totes), so that it can be stuffed well under the seat or used as a footrest.
It turns out that some travelers actually prefer the middle seat. An article in NerdWallet cites people who have networked themselves into new jobs or talked about “just life”. It’s worth noting, however, that these are also the same people who like to strike up conversations and make new friends on long flights, so your mileage may definitely vary.
This article was originally sourced from here.