If you’ve ever flown with the whole row to yourself, you know that it’s one of life’s great pleasures. No worrying about sharing the armrest or battling over whether the window shade should be up or down—everything’s your call. This typically happens by chance, but frequent flyers, namely couples, have a secret hack to score a row for just the two of them. According to The Washington Post, they’ll try their luck by booking the window and aisle seat, hoping it won’t be a full flight and a solo traveler won’t want a middle seat. But this booking approach has since sparked debate across the internet, and many passengers say they can’t stand people who do this. Read on to find out how this ploy works, and why it’s sparked such intense backlash.
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This seating hack seems win-win.
Crafty couples book the aisle and window, as it results in one of two favorable outcomes: Either the fates smile down and no one ends up sitting between them, or someone does book the seat and the couple offers to switch for one of their preferable non-middle seats. It seems like a win-win scenario.
Now the practice is being hotly debated, thanks to a viral tweet posted by writer and director Zack Bornstein on Dec. 7. “Losing my mind,” Bornstein wrote. “Just offered the aisle seat to the guy sitting between me and my gf on a flight, and he said he’d rather stay in the middle seat between us.”
A slew of responses followed, and many sided with Bornstein. “Weird. I had no idea there were people who PREFER the middle seat!” @DethVeggie tweeted. In defense of the hack, others said they believe it works out better for the solo traveler.
“I’ve done this a bunch of times with my fiancée to try and keep a middle seat empty, and always felt worst case all I’m ever doing is giving someone else a better seat for free if they happen to choose the middle between us,” freelance journalist and broadcaster Chris Medland tweeted. “Struggling to see who loses here?”
Others sided with the middle-seater, saying he was well within his rights to keep his spot.
Many shared their experiences using this booking method—and some had experiences similar to Bornstein. Others defended the man in the middle, who paid for that specific seat.
Some actually scolded Bornstein for using this tactic. “So, you are saying he wanted to stay in the seat he paid for?” a Dec. 8 tweet reads. “He does not owe you an explanation or reason why. Seems you took a chance booking aisle and window, hoping middle would remain empty, it didn’t work. If you want to be assured of seats together, book them that way.”
@IncognitoMeems said that Bornstein got what he deserved. “That’s what you get for booking an aisle and a window, hoping no one will book the center seat and you’ll have the whole row to yourself,” the Dec. 8 tweet reads.
For his part, Bornstein stuck to his guns, calling the Twitter replies “psychotic.” He cleared the air on questions from fellow Twitter users and alleged that the traveler didn’t have the best flying etiquette. “We also offered the window, no he didn’t seem nervous at all, and yes he pounded 3 full bags of salmon jerky on a 5.5 hour flight.”
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Some travelers stay in the middle to prove a point.
In response to Bornstein’s tweet and the resultant debate, Twitter user @Tangotiger conducted a survey to find out where everyone stood on the issue. The prompt asked, “If you had a middle seat on an airplane, and there was a couple sitting in the aisle seat and window seat on either side of you, would you accept an offer to switch to one of the two seats? If so, which one?”
The final results included preferences from 27,803 respondents, with 44.6 percent saying that they would say yes and switch to the aisle. This was followed by the 41.8 percent of respondents who said they’d also agree to switch, but to the window instead. Just 3.2 percent said they prefer the middle, but 10.4 percent said they wouldn’t switch out of spite, hoping to “spoil fun.”
In response to Bornstein’s tweet, some commended the man in the middle seat for not obliging Bornstein. “This level of pettiness warms my heart,” @allam_hamdi wrote.
There are couples who prefer to sit apart, but others have a different strategy.
Interestingly, however, some couples prefer to have someone between them, per several tweets and a statement from flight attendant Rich Henderson. While on a flight with his mom, they were both in middle seats, and he was seated between a husband and wife, Henderson told The Washington Post.
“The wife looks at me immediately, just dead in the face, and said, ‘We’re not moving, so don’t ask,'” he recalled, adding that the couple wore noise-canceling headphones, gestured over him, and even spilled wine on him at one point.
If you’re not willing to take a gamble and end up with a stubborn middle-seater, Brian Sumers, editor of the Airline Observer business newsletter, has a different solution. Flights are normally fully booked these days, he said, which is why he prefers to book aisle seats across from each other.