The first strategies a young business traveler learns are the ones for avoiding that dread middle seat, at least to the extent possible. There are those of us who have flown an unnecessary several thousand miles or so at the end of the year just to ensure that we re-qualfy for the elite status that gives us the best shot at priority seat choice -- that is, avoiding the middle seat.
So here's an interesting survey today from 3M Privacy Filters, which makes among other things products to protect your laptop-screen privacy from prying eyes in the next seat. (Which of course adds up to two next seats if you're stuck in the middle).
"... according to a survey commissioned in April 2009 by 3M Privacy Filters, only 1 percent of those polled actually prefer to sit in the middle seat and 80 percent say they go out of their way to avoid it on a full flight. But, what is it about the middle seat that bothers people the most? Is it the cramped quarters? Lack of privacy? Rude seatmates? These survey findings reveal travelers' true feelings and some insights about the middle seat "experience."
---A majority of Americans would rather get stuck in traffic (56 percent), go on a blind date (56 percent) or go to the dentist (54 percent) than sit in the middle seat on a full flight.
---People dislike the middle seat so much they go to great lengths to avoid it altogether. Fifty percent of people said they would be likely to take an aisle seat being offered on the next available flight, while one in five Americans (20 percent) say they would actually stay overnight at an airport hotel for an aisle seat on the first flight the next morning!
---Nine percent of Americans report that they would refuse to sit in the middle seat on a full flight if it was more than 1-2 hours.
Top Five Middle Seat Annoyances
1. Having a nosy seatmate peering over your shoulder (84 percent)
2. Crawling over someone to get to the bathroom (83 percent)
3. Not being able to stretch out (83 percent)
4. Having an overweight seatmate on either side of you (80 percent)
5. Not having a place to rest your head (71 percent)
* Despite all the annoyances that come with sitting in the middle seat, nearly nine in 10 Americans are concerned with being a "good" middle seat occupant. After all, who wants to be rude?
Middle Seat Etiquette
---When sitting in the middle seat, you are subject to bad etiquette from neighbors on both sides. With in-flight wi-fi available on many flights, 65 percent of people are concerned about nosy neighbors snooping on personal or work emails and with good reason, since 49 percent of people admit to glancing at strangers' computer screens.
---However, there seem to be some discrepancies about proper etiquette. While 6 percent of people believe both armrests belong to the person sitting in the middle seat, the rest either had no idea of the proper etiquette (51 percent), believe one armrest belongs to the person in the middle (22 percent) or believe half of each armrest belongs to the person in the middle (21 percent).
---Nearly two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) agree that there is absolutely nothing good about sitting in the middle seat on a full airplane flight. However, some travelers do try to see the silver lining. An optimistic 17 percent say sitting in the middle seat means you do not get hit by the drink cart and 15 percent suggest that sitting in the middle gives you a chance to meet and talk to interesting people."
Myself, I'll take being whacked by the drink cart any day over being wedged in a middle seat.