Do you know what to do in a 3-seat, 4-armrest situation?

Please can someone explain to me what is wrong with people? Save for the occasional rant on this blog, I’m a very easy-going sort, but a recent flight to New York stuck in-between two people with atrocious armrest etiquette really made my blood boil. I know there are no stated rules about sharing an armrest, but isn’t that because it is so obvious?

Every day on trains, planes and most noticeably for me on the London Underground, there are a surprisingly large number of selfish morons who believe armrests belong solely to them and are not to be shared equally 50:50 with the passenger adjacent. I really do not understand why people find it so hard to be considerate? It is a simple acknowledgement to another human being that they have a right to the same amount of space and comfort as you.


If no one is sitting in the seat next to you, then you are perfectly welcome to use all of the armrest. However, if someone sits down, then it is your duty to share it equally. So many times you end up having to ‘mark your territory’ (not literally of course, although I think it would guarantee you getting all the space you wanted) and gently knock the person’s arm to remind them. We don’t want to speak to someone to remind them, we shouldn’t have to. Having to mark your territory once can be forgiven, but having to repeatedly is tantamount to a silent war.

My recent New York flight was made doubly worse as the inconsiderate armrest users were actually a married couple(!) who didn’t want to sit next to each other as each wanted an aisle seat. This isn’t terrible I guess, except they spent most of the journey talking across me and passing food and rubbish to each other. At one point, they were both asleep, each faced towards me, hogging the armrests and with their legs encroaching into my foot-well area. It was at this moment of anger and frustration, I realised that the 50:50 share rule does not strictly apply.

In a 3-seat, 4-armrest situation, the actual fair thing is to let the person in the middle seat have two-thirds of both armrests available to them. The people on the left and right each have a whole armrest to themselves and so by only taking a third of the other, all three people get an equal one and a third armrest access.

Above all, we should all just be considerate and give each other our fair space … make it happen folks.

Jake McMillan

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