Airline Seating: My rules of engagement.

It’s kind of funny. I always forget quickly how inconvenient the tiny size seats can be, especially in economy. You know, the sort of gladiator pit the airlines set up in order to seat more passengers on the plane. In some flights, if the person in front drops back, it can hit you in the face. On some planes, tilting their seat back will also recline your can of soda to the spill position. The tiny armrest is there for tons of gladiatorial fun as equally uncomfortable people jockey for their little chunk of arm space. Lord forbid that you’ve got three big guys three across. Even if they are the most polite, giving guys in the world, it’ll be rough.

Today, I had the misfortune to be next to a slightly older lady, but (perhaps inadvertently) quite an aggressive one. In the first couple hours of flight she really tested my patience. We were sitting two across. I was in the window seat, but the window pillar was at the shoulder, so the extra room you sometimes get along the window wasn’t really there. She tossed and turned in her blanket, frequently hitting me with the blanket, digging her shoulder into my side and putting her elbow just below my ribcage. She didn’t retract on contact like many people do, but seemed to press for more. I don’t know how awake she was at this point.

I was sitting with one shoulder firmly placed against the side of the pillar, arm pressed firmly against my side, my other arm against my side and my elbow resting on the armrest. I was forward on the armrest, giving her room to the back where she seemed to be resting, but it wasn’t enough. Over the course of the next hour or two she began these strange  bouts of applying quite a bit of pressure, trying to move my arm off the armrest. Keep in mind that she was in the aisle row, but being 3 seats in front of our two, there was plenty of room to lean or sleep towards the aisle without getting hit….and yet it continued. It was almost silly, as I really couldn’t move. I was arm to body to arm to airplane.

After close to a couple hours of this, I had reached my limit and finally nudged back. Solidly. Not a hit, just applying counter pressure to her arm that was pushing on me. She sat up sharply with an “OOOH!” and I told her (though I doubt she understood English, I think she understood the intent and the sign language”. I explained rather curtly, that I was already as compact as it was going to get and not to push on me. STOP! being the operative word. Keep in mind, I’m not a fat slob trying to excuse intruding all over her seat. I was just in my own space, plus half the armrest, trying to share the other half.

I think….perhaps…. many of you have gone through something similar before.

Hence this post.

My Rules of Engagement

I’ll keep my body in the space of my seat. Out of respect for my fellow passengers, I consider there to be an invisible line and will do my level best not to cross it.

I need the armrest… at least part of it. I’ll silently work out a sharing arrangement in the first few minutes, like most people do. One person establishing they want forward or back. If you’re nice… old or young, big or small, we can even share that inch and a half of armrest side by side.

If you don’t mind leaning on me and you’re not totally in my space, I’ll put up with that too. Although if I’m on the window side I’ll go that way as far as I can.

I do, however, have a minimum amount of space I need to occupy. Yes, it fits in my seat, but darn it, don’t ask me to o the impossible and collapse somewhere into the fourth dimension so you can occupy my space. It’s not going to happen.

If you push up on me and are aggressive, I’ll give you as long as I can, which is proportionate to the amount of force you’re using, but eventually if you keep on pushing I will tell you to stop and it’s not pretty and honey coated. Often there’s a please stop before then, but I find that doesn’t often work.

I totally get that we’re set up for this by the airlines. However, these kinds of situations bring out people’s true nature. There are those that can get along and there are those that will push and take until stopped. This is the microcosm of the airplane seat gladiatorial arena.

Oh, and the rules don’t apply when I’m flying with my wife (the best way to fly, really). Arm rest goes up and we both gain the inch and a half to two inches of space and she can put her leg over mine and we both have plenty of space. That is, until she tells me I’m generating too much heat, and I have to back out of her space 😀

How about you? What do you do?

Next post, some of the more crazy seating things that have happened to me.


Oh wow! I was wiped out when I wrote that. I forgot to mention a few things. Before we sat down, she needed help and I put her suitcase up in the bin. She thanked me at the time. She never played any games when I needed to get up to use the restroom. I’m glad she was in the aisle seat, though, as she got up to hydrate frequently (nothing wrong with that!). When we landed I automatically helped her get her bag down and she did say thank you. Really I think she’s probably an ok lady day to day, but she tried to pull something, I called her on it, she quit and we all got along after.

My second leg, I got to sit next to a really nice person. This young lady from Taiwan was the tour guide for a rather large group on the plane and in between her working hard on her tour organizing we had a chance to chit chat. She travels a lot and we had plenty to talk about. Her group was headed up to Amsterdam. I have got to get there someday… The huge difference a little social interaction makes, though. Pleasant flight and a very pleasant seat mate.