Unfortunately, not all flights are part of a first or business class award redemption and sitting in economy is sometimes a reality. So, do you know the proper etiquette for those middle seat armrests? According to Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition, the latest edition of the book first published in 1922, window or aisle seat passengers have a duty to be generous. If you’re in the aisle or window seat, be gracious to the person stuck in the middle. Move over a tad to allow for breathing room and ideally offer up the center armrests.

You may also want to brush up on your smelly seatmate survival tips…good for all classes

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Antonio February 11, 2013 - 11:41 pm

Adam, I don’t recall if you’ve given any in-flight book recommendations, but I HIGHLY recommend Glenn O’Brien’s latest book, “How to Be a Man.” You might be familiar with his name, as he pens the monthly “Style Guy” advice column in GQ magazine. Besides travel, his book covers manhood, style, behavior, culture and society, wisdom and other random tips for living. The “HOW TO FLY” chapter offers advice on security, food onboard, airborne distress, turbulence and borders.

Your comment on the armrest made me think of the following passage:

“Generally the person over 300 pounds gets the “shared” armrest. Among equals, it’s a toss-up and should be shared informally. Readers have more of a right than movie watchers. If the person in the business-class aisle seat is there because he will not fit into an economy seat, complain to the flight attendants that you will not be able to get past this hulk should it fall asleep, or in case of emergency. Inform them of your bladder condition. Insist that you be relocated or your seats be swapped. Aisle seats are preferable—unless you happen to be passing over Antarctica on a clear day.

If a neighbor can hear your headphones, you are playing them too loud. If you can hear their headphones and they will not make the necessary adjustment, ask the flight attendant for another seat. Although the plane is likely to be full, you can usually get the flight attendants to side with you in a dispute with a rude neighbor. Simply report the infraction and, if necessary, inform the flight attendant what the offensive person said about their appearance, adding “I, myself, think you look very nice.” I have had good fortune in enlisting the aid of flight attendants. Once when a woman seated behind me was removing the nail polish from her lacquer-extruded claws with an open bottle of acetone—an instant migraine—I almost succeeded in having the offender and her petlike boyfriend arrested. They made the mistake of challenging the authority of the flight attendants whom I had enlisted through courtesy and admiring looks, not to mention reason, and had to be set straight by a copilot. In such close quarters even cloying perfume can be construed as an assault.

Conversations with seatmates should be confined to: “Excuse me,” “Thank you,” and “Pardon me.” You have enough friends. There are exceptions, of course, as you may find yourself with an attractive, charming, and/or intelligent seatmate, but even then, conversation should be initiated with care. Remember, you can’t get up and move should you get into a disagreement over Bush, Obama, or Brangelina. If your neighbor can’t take a hint and persists in jabbering, smile and say nothing. Or feign narcoleptic sleep.”


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