Flying is hard enough, but it gets worse when you are in that dreaded middle seat.
Today, on a typical commercial flight within the United States, about 50 or so will be relegated to the cramped middle seat. I fly a lot and not that often in Business Class, but thankfully in the last two years, I've only been in the middle seat one time.
What to do if you find yourself in 18B, which is probably a middle seat? Let's take a look.
Sleep and that Neck Pillow
Sleeping upright can be a possibility—even in the middle seat. Make sure you have the right neck or travel pillow for your body, whether that's a standard neck pillow, a shoulder-wrapping Travelrest Pillow, or even a jacket that converts into a pillow. Though they may not be as cuddly as their foam-filled counterparts, consider blow-up travel pillows for their space-saving qualities.
Ask any road warrior what to look for in a pair of headphones, and they will say noise-canceling. For just a few hours, a pair of good headphones can be a middle-seat passenger's best friend. The right set tuned to a good movie or music can take your mind off the otherwise muscle-contorting rigors of the middle seat.
Use the Armrests
If you are middle seat bound, board quickly at your first opportunity so as to make it to your seat before your seatmates, and then mark the armrests as your own. Don't feel too guilty as it's widely accepted that the middle passenger gets both armrests. But it's important to claim them early, lest you find yourself next to a passenger who doesn't buy into common courtesy.
Give your airline seat, especially a middle seat a comfort upgrade. The Airhook is a legroom-saving airline travel accessory that holds your beverage and electronic device. Available here for $22.45.
Ever notice how time seems to fly by when you're busy? Watch a movie, read, or play a game. Whatever your time-kill, just keep yourself entertained and before you know it the "fasten seatbelt" sign will go off and the pilot will announce you are landing.
Ask for Another Seat
So you were assigned a middle seat. Big deal, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to be stuck with it. Inquire with the gate staff about any remaining, available window or aisle seats. They may seat you in a more preferable location if one is open. Sometimes a seat will open at the last minute.
The "In Air" Move
If the gate agent didn't come through for you, try asking the flight attendant. Once everyone is boarded and the plane is cruising at a high altitude (but before the drink drink cart comes out), look around or politely ask the flight attendant if a window or aisle seat is open. Chances are, the empty seat will move you to the rear of the plane, but at least you won't be the jelly in a PB&J sandwich..
Do Your Legwork
Next time, if possible, book early and, if you can, select your seat during the booking process. For airlines that don't allow advanced seat selection (like Southwest), check in for your flight as soon as you can (in Southwest's case, right at the 24 hours in advance mark). Southwest assigns boarding groups based on when you check in for the flight, the earlier you check in, the more likely you are to score your favorite seat.