The Etiquette of Things: Sitting in the Middle When Aisle Is Available?


Last week, I previewed my next book, The Etiquette of Things: Things You Didn’t Know Were Things, by writing about Playing Your Music in Public. This week I have another entry. On my flight back to Puerto Rico, I was seated in a window on the right side of the plane (see Window or Window: Side Does Matter). We were told that the flight was full so I expected someone to sit in the middle seat. When the door closed, it seemed that my seat mate and I were going to luck out because no one was seated in the aisle. I figured that the guy would move over one seat and we would both share the extra room. He didn’t move. I thought maybe he was wanted to make sure that there was no one coming to take the seat and would move over after takeoff. He did not. Instead, the guy sat in the middle seat for the duration of the 3 hour and 25 minute flight. He watched movies, he had snacks, and he carried on with his friend who was seated across the aisle, ironically with the middle seat open between him and his seat mate. Not once did I get the impression that he thought anything was awkward about this.

Technically speaking, he was assigned to the middle seat so I don’t think I had a right to speak up and ask him to move over one seat. At the same time, he was a big guy and maybe sitting in the middle with an extra seat to the left was more comfortable than an extra seat to the right. I was too mystified to broach the subject and chose to focus on finding new moves for my Kama Sutra of Airplane Sleep. I wonder what the flight attendants must have thought when they saw little TPOL squished in the corner and this other passenger acting as if this were normal.

As far as etiquette goes, I think I did the right thing. I also can’t say he did the wrong thing. What do you think?

TPOL’s TIP: If you enjoy my writing, be sure to pick up a copy of my first book, Everyone’s Advice Is Wrong . . . Including Mine


  1. As someone who likes her own space I can’t comprehend being the person in the middle seat and not moving. I’m not a great conversationalist but I would have tried to come up with a way to say “hey, if you move over we both get more space” without making the person feel like I just didn’t want to sit next to him.

    • He was a big guy. Maybe he wanted the space to his left. I hate stretching out from the aisle because my knee gets hit. That’s why I sit in the window and hope to stretch to the middle. Maybe I’m giving him too much credit, but that was my reasoning for him sitting there.

  2. That is what is wrong with this country everyone is a sheep. You couldn’t point out that there is an empty aisle seat. He was probably someone who doesn’t fly thst much and doesn’t know the rules. I will tell you one thing if he was sitting next to me he be in the aisle seat as soon as the door closed.

  3. TPOL says, “I wonder what the flight attendants must have thought when they saw little TPOL squished in the corner and this other passenger acting as if this were normal.” LOL! I can picture this funny scene inmy head – thanks for the laugh! 😀

    But but you could have asked him politely to move over, no? Or, ask him to ask the FA if it was okay to move over!

  4. I do this from time to time because i know it annoys the window in the window. I purposely invade their space every once in a while too and if possible pass gas to may the flight even more miserable for them but quietly so enjoyable for me as I am internally laughing and having a hell of a time tormenting the other person.

  5. Had this happen on a flight from New York to Istanbul. I could not understand why he wouldn’t want some more space, so about an hour after takeoff I asked him if he would like my seat and I would take the empty aisle seat (thinking he wanted the empty space to his left). He declined. We sat there with touching shoulders for 9 more hours…

  6. Methinks you have lost perpective. With all your travel posts and occasional political rants you have lost sight of that which truly matters………COLLEGE FOOTBALL!!! Not a single Michigan Wolverine post or comment. How disappointing.

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