Fabio gets my armrest any day of the week

March 29, 2011 at 9:04 am 4 comments

by Tony

The Wall Street Journal recently had an interesting article titled, “So Who Gets the Armrest.”  As someone who spends an excessive amount of  time in the air, I would like to chime in on this one.

When you are stuck in a row of three, the etiquette is pretty simple.  Three people and four armrests – Tony D. awards BOTH middle armrests to the poor guy in the middle seat. How can that be fair you say? Well it’s pretty simple.  Those fortunate enough to be seated in the prime aisle and window positions benefit from the Lean Factor – formally defined as the availability of extra real estate that affords one the freedom to lean outside the defined confines of his/her seat without forcing bodily contact against another human being. In the absence of the Lean Factor, the middles seat occupant deserves a break.

I know your heart sinks when that last passenger comes to take your cherished, vacant middle seat. Trust me, they are always more deflated than you. Once in a blue moon (about as frequently as the Mets make it to the World Series), there are times when you actually welcome a middle seatmate. Consider if you will, the sight of a fetching 22 year old coed (or a handsome young hunk for our lady readers), who sits down in 22E and says “do you mind if I hold on to you? I’m deathly afraid of flying.” This old man can dream, and by the way, what good is a fantasy if I don’t have a full head of luxurious flowing hair like Fabio?

Snap out of it! Let’s get back to reality. Perhaps your seat mate is a little gamey after a desperate OJ sprint through the airport in  order to catch said flight. In this case, screw Emily Post – all etiquette goes out the door.  When you know you’ll be cooped up in a flying  tube for 6 hours with a bunch of strangers, it’s your obligation to double up on the Right Guard and steer clear of the raw onions on the burger you had for lunch, pal.  Fair is fair –  once you stink up the joint, eminent domain kicks in and you immediately loses access to those middle armrests.  It’s for the good of everyone – we can‘t have you spreading your arms, allowing your lethal pit juices to waft into our already stale, recycled airstream.

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Entry filed under: Business Travel, TAP, Tony's thoughts. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Theo Szymanski  |  March 29, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Thanks Tony! You brought back vivid memories of one of my worst travel experiences. I was stuck in the last row, middle seat of a DC-10 from HNL to ORD… remember when the middle section was configured with five seats abreast? And yes, you guessed it… my two neighboring passengers had their elbows super-glued to their armrests. The really interesting part was that this was a smoking flight (I’m showing my age now) and the bathrooms immediately behind me were backed up.

    Please keep the entertaining stories flowing…

    • 2. Tony D  |  March 29, 2011 at 12:21 pm


      I figured this one would bring back a lot of memories, most of them bad :-).

      And yes, I don’t know what gave away your years of industry experience, the reference to smoking onbaord or that you were on a DC-10.

      Hope all is well and may you never fly in a middle seat again!


  • 3. Sanne  |  March 29, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    This brings back a very funny memory of mine! I have been flying since I was 6 years old, back and forth to Europe where my extended family lives. Well as a kid, flying isn’t a big deal, you’re small enough for the chairs and, if you’re cute, adults don’t seem to mind giving you the arm rest (because as a kid, it’s inevitable that you get stuck in the middle seat). Well, this particular time, the arm rest was up and before I knew it, I was out like a light… didn’t even wake up for take off… I guess my mom had fallen asleep too because I doubt she would have let this happen otherwise, but about 2 hours later.. I wake up…with my head and shoulder on an older, larger, man’s side/belly area. I was MORTIFIED!!! but he just kind of laughed and asked if i slept well. My mom woke up and immediately laughed also, I guess looking back it was nice of him but at that moment I would have done anything for that armrest to be down!

    • 4. Tony D  |  March 30, 2011 at 2:53 am

      Great story and thanks for sharing.

      There is a next level of armchair etiquette associated with the up and down position, particularly on those two seater coach sections on the regional jets.

      When they put them up for boarding, and you arrive at your seat and your seatmate has not pulled the armrest down, what next? I’ve had times when I’ve moved to quickly to pull it down only to receive an icy glare from an obviously annoyed seatmate that is surely thinking “what, I’m that vile that you can’t bear the thought of perhaps making contact?”

      I’ve found that uttering the words “tennis elbow” can help, but otherwise, you wait for them to look out the window, and then quickly make your move.



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