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It seems to be traveller folklore that the least desirable seats on airplanes are the middle seats (in other words, with three seats directly next to each other, stuck between someone at the window and someone with aisle access). On some widebody planes (e.g. 777s with a 2-5-2 seat layout), there are even 'super-middle' seats stuck between other middle seats (yes, I made up the phrase 'super-middle' - not sure if there's a better name!)

To me, and I think most travellers, middle seats are the worst of all options: no view from the window, and stuck between other potential strangers to make it harder to get out.

So are there any advantages at all to a middle seat? Does anyone ever pick one deliberately, and why?

  • 2
    Side note: Boeing 767s are made so that 87% of passengers are sitting in either a window or an aisle seat. Only if the plane's capacity exceeds 87% will middle seats need to start filling. – gparyani Oct 21 '14 at 17:27
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    They're popular with families, and other people travelling as groups – Gagravarr Oct 21 '14 at 18:33
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    You could see it as a good compromise: Neither too far from the window nor too far from the aisle. ;-) – feklee Oct 21 '14 at 19:35
  • One can argue that you can squeeze a naughty toddler in a middle seat, but you can do the same by putting him in the window seat, can't really seem to find an advantage, not for sleeping, not for mobility, not for viewing.. nothing. Maybe the only thing about them is a family can sit together in a row, if the number of seats matches the number of family members.. – Nean Der Thal Oct 21 '14 at 20:00
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    i don't see how this is "traveller folklore", it's more "immediately obvious to everyone". – ell Feb 5 '15 at 23:30
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  • You have the moral advantage when fighting for the armrest. The person on the aisle or window has at least one uncontested armrest already.
  • There's a slightly higher chance that the seat in front of you and/or behind you will be unoccupied. If in front, you don't have to worry about them putting their chair back. If behind, then you don't have to worry about them kicking you or about inconveniencing them by putting your chair back.

Yeah, not much advantage. I've never picked one unless it was to sit next to someone I know.

  • The moral advantage isn't much help if both of your seatmates ignore it/disagree. Then you can end up with zero armrests. – stannius Mar 23 '17 at 19:49
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You can certainly argue for some, both objective and subjective.

  • for exiting in an emergency, aside from sitting in the exit row, aisle seats > middle seats > window seats for ease to escape
  • for exiting the plane, it's faster than a window seat in the same row
  • if you want to be 'that guy', on airlines like RyanAir where it's sit where you want seating, taking a middle seat on a partially empty flight makes it more likely you'll get three seats to yourself as other travellers want to sit next to their friends/family and will sit elsewhere.
  • less noise / chance of being bumped by a cart
  • when the plane tilts a bit from side to side, you move less in the middle than the window (although again, aisle wins here)
  • Sitting closer to the middle reduces air-travel sicness although clearly on a wide-body flight the middle set of seats would be even better. Still, better than a window for this.
  • You get two armrests! Two is better than one, although this now leads to two potential arguments over the no-man's land that is the armrest. Some will argue that nobody should use them. And now you have no armrests that are ONLY yours.
  • statistically greater chance that you'll have a spare seat on one or the other side of you than when you're in the window seat and have only that one chance.
  • you have easier access to the bathroom than the window seat person.
  • small one, but on the aisle seat I hate handing other passenger's dirty plates over me to the attendant, in case something spills. Middle seat has less chance of this happening, as they only have the window seat's stuff passing them.
  • you get two armrests in aisle seats two, at least on every plane i've been on. many planes have two armrests in window seats, as well. – ell Feb 5 '15 at 23:32
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The middle seat(s) between the two aisles on a widebody plane shares one advantage of window seats: you won't have to get up to let someone else out, so if you're able to sleep, you have a better chance to do it undisturbed.

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The only advantage I can think of is the opportunity to have two neighbors to talk to. This can also be a disadvantage if you're particularly anti-social, or you end up with bad neighbors.

Which I guess goes to show why this question really is "Primarily Opinion Based."

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    Eh, then you should answer "no advantage besides preference" (ideally with evidence), not answer with an opinion. – djechlin Oct 22 '14 at 0:15
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If you are traveling alone it's hard to come up with a good justification. But many people travel in pairs. One will want the aisle or the window for whatever reasons people want those seats (I'm a hard core window person myself) and the other wants the middle because it's next to their travel companion.

Simple as that.

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    Our strategy is always to book aisle and window (when dealing with three-seat rows vs. two-seat rows) in hopes of the middle seat remaining unoccupied. If someone does show up to sit the middle seat we offer to give them the aisle (so we can sit next to each other). Never been turned down. – Andrew Medico Nov 3 '15 at 3:15
  • On cattle call seating I've seen the strategy to look for people who are obviously together sitting in the aisle/window hoping no one will sit between them and getting the whole row to yourself. If you have to pick a middle, your odds of trading for aisle/window are better. – JohnFx Nov 3 '15 at 14:24

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