Being in the middle means you can miss out on some sweet views.

Being in the middle means you can miss out on some sweet views.

It is hard for me to remember the last time I flew in the middle seat alone. Sure, I have sat in a middle seat when flying with someone else and being the nice guy, I let my travel partner have the prime seat. It has to be five, maybe even ten years since I actually sat in the middle seat between two total strangers. Well, that is until two days ago when I got stuck in the middle seat on my four hour Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle, WA to Austin, TX.

Normally I am quite vigilant on getting my window seat. If I don’t get one when I buy the ticket, I keep on trying. First, I will keep checking my reservation every few days to see if an aisle or window opens up. If that doesn’t work, I will arrive to the airport early and check for a better seat. In this case neither of those things worked.

I was even willing to pony up another $100 bucks for a gate upgrade to First Class, but that wasn’t an option either. What kind of Airline Reporter am I stuck in the middle seat? I know a third of passengers on a full flight will be in the middle and thousands of people fly in the middle seat everyday, but man it just sucks. Oh well, I figured it would give me a unique perspective and if I had a bad enough experience, maybe even a blog.

First off, Alaska Airlines had nothing to do with non-fun experience. Actually everyone with the airline were very nice and the service was great — it actually made the flight endurable. It is nice that Alaska seats having an adjustable headrest which allowed me to get a little shut eye without head bobbing into the person next to me.

Okay, maybe being in the middle seat is a bit worse for some than others. I am 6’1″ and about 250lbs, not a small guy. I can manage to stay in my seat comfortably with others sitting next to me the same size or smaller. Of course in this instance, the person sitting to my left wasn’t smaller than I was — quite the opposite. To my right was a younger woman who felt she owned half of my room. Argh, here we go.

The flight had Wi-Fi, but no way was I getting my laptop out (even though it is a small one) to try to do any work. I had a hard enough time just sitting up against two other people. I felt a lot like T-Rex, having to make little arm movements to do anything like read my book or eat my snacks.

The worse part was the woman at the window closed the shades before we left the gate and didn’t open them until just before landing. That is so annoying. I can spend a whole flight just staring out the window, but oh no all that natural light and beauty just gets in the way of watching some lame movie on your laptop (breath David, not everyone cares about the view).

Just because I love airlines, flying and traveling doesn’t mean I love every flight. Although a bad experience, things could be much worse. When I was getting ready to get off the plane a gentleman behind me started talking to his seatmates about Afghanistan. I turned around and he was in Army uniform and saying how happy he was to be home. He was sitting in the middle seat and didn’t seem to care at the least. So, although the middle seat does suck, things could always be worse.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

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Alaska Airlines Starts Flights from Bellingham, WA to Honolulu
13 Comments

Since we are similar in size, I can really relate to your T-Rex comment (hilarious). Being the big guy and feeling guilty about that I usually acquiesce and let my smaller neighbors have both my armrest. Middle seats suck. Sometimes I even but my arms under my seat belt to keep my T-Rex arms from invading the lucky aisle or window passengers space.

I can totally empathize with your comments regarding the middle seat. I’m not a big fan either. On a recent business trip, I was travelling with one of the VPs here at my company, so with his Medallion status on Delta, we managed to get the upgrade to first class on the flight out. This was the first time I had ever sat at the front of the bus and my first business trip ever, so I was totally spoiled. On the trip home, we were hoping to get first again, but it was all booked up. My coleague was assigned a middle seat, as was I, but he managed to change it at the gate. He mentioned that if he was to sit in the middle seat, he would probably be stuck beside a big guy. I didn’t really care that I was stuck in the middle seat…until I got on the airplane. I looked towards the back and spotted a big guy sitting in an isle seat and I knew right away that that was my seat. It was the most uncomfortable flight I have ever been on. I had absolutely no shoulder room. The only way I managed to stretch out a little bit was to put the tray table down and lean on it.

In the future, I’m going to try to avoid the middle seat at all costs!

I concur!

If I were king of the universe, one of the changes I would institute would be a rule that requires all airline employees (except those working the flight) to be seated in a middle seat with the seats on other sides occupied — even if there were empty seats on the plane. Let them suffer through the agony, and perhaps they will understand what the paying passengers put up with.

I have two segments on AA on Sunday, both on Mad Dog 80’s, and I have a middle seat on a 2:20 segment on an absolutely packed flight. It will be misery personified, and I’m sure I won’t even be able to get to my rollon with the laptop (which I absolutely won’t check).

Of course, if TSA touches my stuff, I won’t be flying (I’ll be in jail), so the problem is self-resolving! 🙂

Oh man, this story brought back memories. I have the same issue with the middle seat, I will go to almost any length to not have to sit in one. I also check the web site every day (multiple times per day) to see if I can get lucky.

Good story, here’s to getting lucky and not having to go solo in the middle seat anymore!

I’m tiny – I admit, so when traveling along I try to get either the aisle or window… but when I go with my husband, I end up in the middle….while the middle isn’t ideal, I understand that it can be a hassle to be there. Have you ever noticed that the person with the middle seat assignment never shows up to the row first?

“The worse part was the woman at the window closed the shades before we left the gate and didn’t open them until just before landing. That is so annoying. I can spend a whole flight just staring out the window, but oh no all that natural light and beauty just gets in the way of watching some lame movie on your laptop (breath David, not everyone cares about the view).”

Reminds me of when I flew up to ANC, we were coming up the coast, I was in the aisle seat (failing to somehow negotiate it away for a window), and the captain makes an announcement what is outside our window (some mountain), the window seat guy is reading his book with the reading light and the window shade closed. My window shade is open unless the FA asks me to close it (which happens a lot on long haul international flights) which then I’ll leave a sliver open for my enjoyment.

This is why the Boeing 787 windows will be so much better. Even at the darkest setting, you can still see outside :).

David

Be thankful it was only a 4 hour flight. Imagine being in a middle seat on something like SEA-LHR (done that) or KEF-SEA (done that, too)

Luckily I have not done a longhaul in the middle seat. I think about five hours is the longest and I really don’t feel like experiencing any longer 🙂

David

Give me a window anytime! Just don’t give me one in a CRJ. My belly button has a great view in those aircraft!

Very true — my neck will be sore on the CRJ’s, but still a sore neck with a window seat is better than a non-sore neck in the aisle (at least for me).

David

My seat ranks are:

1. Window
2. Middle
3. Aisle

The middle seat is far more preferable to the aisle. I’m 6′ 3″ so when I sit on an aisle seat I generally end up whacked on the head several times and have way too many asses in my face (as people pass by each other) if I am leaning forward. I am more than happy with a middle seat on a 10 hour flight if a window is unavailable. About 20% of the time I end up with a window on a long flight if I am assigned the middle seat. A lot of traveling pairs request the aisle and window in hope no one takes the middle. In those situations I generally decline the offer of the aisle seat and explain my reason and I am always offered the window seat. I never met anyone who was bent out of shape although once a couple needed a few minutes to consider the situation (I think it was a choice between the window or an unhappy mate).

I have a question, if a couple (man and woman) are traveling together, and they have been given a window and a middle seat, typically who would sit where?

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