Airplane Etiquette: Who Gets the Armrests?
All the experts are in agreement on this one: the middle seat gets both armrests. Why the Middle Seat Should Get the Armrest (Conde Nast Traveler), Whose armrest is it, anyway? The unspoken etiquette of airline, bus and train travel (The Washington Post), Travel Etiquette: Who Gets the Middle Seat Armrests? (TPG).
The Middle Seat Gets Both Armrests
After all, the person in the window gets to control the window shade and has a wall to lean on, and the person seated in the aisle gets a little more legroom and the freedom to move about the cabin without having to inconvenience anyone else first.
In the case of our last United flight, the physical layout of the aircraft seats also implied that the armrest belonged to the person in the middle – it contained not only my seatback button, but my remote for my seatback TV, too. And his dumb elbows kept shutting off my movie. Ughhhh. Some people are so clueless.
Did I say anything? Yes, but only after the third time the dude shut off my movie... I said “hey, you keep turning my movie off.” But I didn’t say “and the middle seat gets both armrests!” but that’s why I’m writing a post-flight blog on flight etiquette. Because that man was rude, and I want to save you from being that guy.
Bottom line: the middle seat is just The Worst, so if you’re lucky enough or planned far in advance enough to get the window or aisle, please be kind and give up the armrests to the poor soul stuck in the middle.