In this day and age, where aeroplane seats are decreasing in size and armrests are becoming more like everything else on the plane… smaller, it has become an automatic instinct in us territorial humans to try to claim as much space as possible. It’s one of our traits to adopt personal ownership of things that really don’t belong to us like our chair in the office, or our seat on a plane. It brings out the warrior in us. And we’ve all been there – the never-ending battle of territory rights on the aeroplane. It’s game on as soon as you board your flight.

But back to the armests, who is entitled to them? The armrests are a part of the chair but technically part of both chairs when it comes to a three across seating situation. Should both armrests be left intact to the centre seater’s sole advantage? And what do you do when your seatmates on either side start hogging?

The battle of the armrest is an eternally hot topic. The painfully small shared armrest was most definitely invented by a twisted being who wanted to see these ongoing battles of who gets the luxury to occupy each armrest, just for fun.

Most people take it for granted that there is a ‘rule’ that the middle-seater gets the luxury of both armrests since the window-seater has the view and the window to lean up against and the aisler can lean towards the aisle and get up without any problems (and without any awkward bathroom breaks waking up your sleeping neighbour).

On the other hand, others believe that trying to claim both armrests for yourself is the height of bad manners. I don’t think you need to start an elbow war in order to claim your territory. A compromise I have taken up is occupying different parts of the same armrest. It’s best to have my elbows really far back, that way there’s still a whole lot of space on the armrest for your temporary neighbour to use. In this situation, I totally agree with splitting a difference. Etiquette is all about compromise and not being selfish after all.

So who owns the armest? I believe that it should be shared, with each person having the opportunity to use it at different times throughout the flight. Perhaps if the person next to you is larger in size, elderly, or with a child, then, as a gesture of good will, you should give it to them.



A company was so concerned about this problem that they actually created what is called Soarigami. This invention could finally bring a peaceful end to the great arms race in the sky. Soarigami is a light foldable plastic divider that allows airplane passengers to comfortably share an armrest. The makers of Soarigami say the device will encourage new relationships rather than animosity and is a great conversation starter… unless it’s an unwanted conversation.

In that case, make sure you bring enough distractions, ensure your phone has the latest tunes and quickly reach for the in-flight shopping magazine and pretend like you’re interested.

© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Claire Ciantar