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Brooke Greenberg / BuzzFeed

How to Survive the Middle Seat on Your Next Flight

Take both armrests and prepare for eye contact

Ah, the middle seat.

The rudest of all airplane seats. The flying equivalent of being locked in an escape room with strangers who have no concept of personal space. Simply put: It’s the opposite of comfort.

Who likes flying the middle seat? Yep, no one. While the aisle seat gets all the freedom and the window seat scores privacy and casual #wanderlust shots from the airplane porthole, the middle seat provides nothing but regret.

That is unless you accept your fate and prepare accordingly.

Look, maybe you booked last-minute or had to change flights and simply couldn’t afford more. And that’s okay! We’re here to guide you through one of life’s most ugh-worthy experiences. Doors to arrival, crosscheck, and all-call: It’s time we take back the middle seat.

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How to Survive the Middle Seat on Your Next Flight
Brooke Greenberg / BuzzFeed

Step 1: Prepare Wisely

It’s 20 or so minutes until boarding, and time to make sure you’re ready for the smush. Have you used the bathroom? Do you have a water bottle? Some snacks? Arrive at the gate prepped with anything that will make the journey tolerable, especially so you won’t need to purchase anything on board. You’ve already spent enough on this flight; you’re not paying $18 for “mixed nuts with cheese.”

How to Survive the Middle Seat on Your Next Flight
Brooke Greenberg / BuzzFeed

Step 2: Claim Your Rightful Space

Three seats, six arms, five armrests — the math just doesn’t add up. So it’s crucial to board as early as you can to lay claim to your seat. After hoisting your carry-on overhead, make sure to have your important items (phone, laptop, book) within arm’s reach. Take up as much leg space without invading the next seat. Now, we’re not saying that you should hog both armrests, but … OK, we’re saying you should hog both armrests because basic travel etiquette! Be sure to make eye contact with your row mates just long enough to show them who’s boss. If all else fails, proceed straight to step five.

How to Survive the Middle Seat on Your Next Flight
Brooke Greenberg / BuzzFeed

 Step 3: Wait for the Drinks Cart and Find Your Safe Space

Everyone has their own safe space: Whether it’s via a cocktail or two to calm the nerves, some Netflix bingeing, or a deep dive into your current read (bonus points if you’re that unappreciated brand of human who prefers the paper version). Being blissfully unconscious will pass the time more quickly, but try to at least stay awake long enough to order some liquid courage — if imbibing is your thing — to bear the journey ahead. Kudos if you can keep your cool when the flight attendant bursts your personal space bubble to pass a drink to your lucky window-seat neighbor.

How to Survive the Middle Seat on Your Next Flight
Brooke Greenberg / BuzzFeed

Step 4: Break Out Travel Pillow and Commence Relaxation

Neck pain throughout your flight thanks to sitting at 90 degrees? Guaranteed to make your experience worse. You’ve got no window to lean against and no extra aisle legroom to make up for the knot forming in your right shoulder. That’s why we recommend the BCozzy Chin-Supporting Pillow. It’s one of our favorite travel pillows and it’ll help keep your head and neck in a natural position, all while maintaining your spine’s natural curve. (The shape of an airplane seat is usually trash, causing your spine to curve like a C, while it should be curved similar to a soft S.)

How to Survive the Middle Seat on Your Next Flight
Brooke Greenberg / BuzzFeed

Step 5: Apply Headphones and Proceed to Ignore All Signs of Life

Escapism in the middle seat is essential as there is physically nowhere to go. (It’s a trap!) You’ll be connecting to the in-flight entertainment because sure, Moana for the third time sounds good. Or you may be pairing with your own personal device for some Spotify-shuffle sanity. Either way, Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II headphones (our splurgeworthy pick for the best noise-cancelling cans) are your best bet for drowning out the tiny, wailing human a row ahead of you. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and choose your mental destination – Tahiti, maybe?

We wish you a safe flight.

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Every product covered here is independently selected by opinionated humans. But so you know, buying stuff through our links may earn us a small share of the sale or other compensation.

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