3 Ways to Make the Middle Seat Much Better

Middle seats are the worst. You’ve got someone on either side of you, so you can’t just lean over into the window or the aisle, and you’ve got two armrests to fight over not just one.

Often the passenger in the middle seat was disserviced on a previous flight. Or they paid the most for their ticket in the whole cabin, buying when there weren’t any aisle or window seats left. In either case the person who may be the most deserving of a better (or at least not deserving of a wose) experience gets exactly that. Over time there have been several ideas floated to address this.

Airlines could offer exclusive perks funded by brand advertising to middle seat passengers.

“It makes the middle seat less sucky,” Liddell says. “I’m not in the aisle or the window, but maybe I’m in the Xbox middle seat, so I get to play prerelease games.”

It’s easy to imagine a company like Nike selling a custom Air Force 1 to sneakerheads, but only if they booked a middle seat on American during the holiday season–or for the company to offer 20% off a custom Nike ID order, but only if they placed their order in the air.

Or adopt a wider middle seat ‘slider’ design.

Or — in Spirit Airlines’ new plan — award bonus frequent flyer miles to passengers in the middle seat. But because they’re an ultra low cost carrier and must control costs, they’re going to draw a winner from each flight from amongst passengers in the middle who will receive the bonus.

Spirit is giving away 5,000 Free Spirit miles to one middle seat passenger on EVERY Spirit flight starting in March. That adds up to over 2 million Free Spirit Miles being awarded per month. It’s like being a leprechaun born with a rabbit’s foot finding a heads-up penny underneath a horseshoe in a field of four-leaf clovers.

Spirit calls this a new way to strike gold for the passenger who occupies the ‘lucky’ middle seat so I think this somehow has to do with St. Patrick’s Day.

Spirit used to give away 8000 miles just for complaining about an airline, and you didn’t even have to fly Spirit (let alone in a middle seat) so I’m not sure how lucky this makes you.

Especially since Spirit miles expire after 90 days of inactivity, close-in redemption fees start within 180 days of travel, and without redemption partners besides magazines your reward for traveling on Spirit is… more travel on Spirit.

Ultimately no one has a really good idea to make the middle seats as good as other seats on a plane, other than direct aisle access for everyone of course but that comes at an unacceptable cost…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “you’ve got two armrests to fight over not just one.”

    my experience has been that the middle seat pax usually thinks they’re entitled to hoard both armrests to compensate for their reduced seat comfort, and frequently with little situational awareness that beyond the armrests, they intrude onto the space of the other seats.

    but that’s probably expected given that seasoned travelers are least likely to be the ones stuck in the middle.

  2. I never fly middle myself, but I feel strongly that middle seaters *should* be entitled to both arm rests, and I always try to give them whatever arm rest in sharing with them.

    Window gets something to lean on, aisle can get out whenever they want and maybe even let their leg drift into the aisle a little. Middle should at least get both arm rests. Jim Jeffries did a really funny bit on this: “we’re not animals; we live in a society.”

  3. What about a free food item, or hand over the full soda can while refusing to everyone else? Doesn’t seem like that expensive a proposition to hand over 40 cans of soda…

    I like the bonus miles idea or the wider seat too.

  4. I think the middle seat person is ENTITLED to both of the armrests – that is the least that the person in the aisle and window can do for the person stuck in that sea

  5. Definitely like the incentive ideas – hope more airlines follow suit st some point. But saying middle seaters are “the worst” is completely self-serving. Now, if you’re referring to the seats themselves and not the people in them, that’s understandable.

    I’ve flown in the middle seat on various domestic flights, but usually only when no other options were available.

    But the last time I was flying out of Newark I actually gave a guy my window seat and sat in the middle. I was pretty exhausted and slept through most of the flight anyway.

  6. I always feel the armrest I am “entitled” to is the one with the recline button. I do hate when another passenger feels that more than one armrest is right. We can share. I do , however, hate when a passenger, middle or otherwise, insists on raising the armrest because they cannot fit into seat without doing this. If it impacts me, I ask that it remain down , politely.

  7. Way #4: Get hammered beforehand at the airport Chili’s.

    Way #5: Remove your shoes and socks. Enjoy your newly found personal space.

    Way #6: Take a train instead.

    Way #7: Quit, and take a job with an employer who values your time.

    Way #8: Run for President. It can’t be that hard.

  8. “We’ll let you in on a little secret. If you’re flying Vietnam Airlines (www.vietnamairlines.com) ask for the middle seat. That’s right. The middle seat. On several aircraft, for some reason, this is the roomiest. The middle seats are actually a couple of inches wider than the aisle and window seats.”


  9. They should make The middle seat 2 inches wider and give a free drink to the person sitting there

  10. @Der Fliegende Amerikaner Thanks for sharing, I’d never seen that before!

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