Apparently, getting the unfortunate honor of occupying the middle seat on an airplane is not just an inconvenience for some people, but a full-on traumatic experience. The company 3M wanted to know just how many people hated the middle seat, so it commissioned a survey. According to 3M, 56% of Americans would rather get stuck in traffic or go on a blind date than sit in the middle seat. One out of every two people said they would rather take an aisle seat on a later flight, and 20% actually said that they would stay overnight in the airport rather than sit between two people. (For more, read 5 Changes To Airline Rules You Need To Know.)

TUTORIAL: Credit Cards

And what are some things that people dislike most about the middle-seat experience? Topping the list were nosy neighbors, overweight people on both sides, the window seat person needing to get up and use the bathroom, and not being able to stretch out.

It's clear that some people have strong feelings about the middle seat, but is there anything that you can do to avoid a flight of traumatic discomfort?

Save Up
If you have never been the kind to stay loyal to an airline, now you might have a reason. As you build up your frequent flyer miles, certain perks come with it. Some airlines allow you to choose your seat before others, while others will offer free business class upgrades as you amass more miles. Membership has its privileges, especially when you want a comfortable seat.

Take a Gamble
Airlines still overbook their flights and that can work to your advantage. Get to the gate early so you can be first in line when they start offering the discounted first class upgrade. Sometimes you can get lucky and pay a very reasonable amount for more room up front. Would you pay an extra $25 for comfort? (For related reading, see 7 Air Travel Perks That Used To Be Free.)

Talk to the Gate Keeper
You have to know the pecking order. If available, check in online the night before and pick your seat. If that doesn't work, talk to the attendant at the check-in counter and if that doesn't work, talk to the person at the gate. Get there early because others will try the same thing. You will probably have the most luck at the gate. You can also tell the attendant that you want to be placed on the list for a better seat, in case somebody misses their flight.

Score the Exit Row
Exit row seats are normally assigned at the last minute, but sometimes you can pay a small fee to land a spot. It won't help with the people on each side but you'll have more leg room. Once again, frequent flyer miles may carry some weight with these exit row seats.

The Bottom Line
Plug in your headphones, grab a magazine, put on a fake smile and deal with it. In the end, somebody has to sit in those seats and if it's you, just remember that it's going to be over soon.

Also, don't forget that loyal customers have more pull when it comes to making changes, so spend your flying money with the same airline. It might just give you some extra elbow room. (To help you score a cost effective vacation, read Best Frequent Flyer Credit Cards For (Almost) Free Travel.)

Related Articles
  1. Savings

    How Volatile Exchange Rates Affect Your Vacation

    Those ever-changing fluctuations can make a difference in anything from your hotel room to an ATM transaction.
  2. Investing

    Luxury Youth Hostels the Future for Hotel Chains?

    Youth hostels are a section of the hospitality industry that has largely been ignored by the big hotel companies, but which could help them win future customers.
  3. Credit & Loans

    Can Corporate Credit Cards Affect Your Credit?

    Corporate cards have a hidden downside. If the company fails to pay its bills, you could be liable for the amount and end up with a damaged credit rating.
  4. Investing News

    What Is The New Credit Card Chip Good For?

    Under current U.S. credit card requirements, credit card issuers are required to issue chip cards as of October 1, 2015. Instead of swiping your card as you do now, you will slide the card into ...
  5. Credit & Loans

    5 Ways to Maximize Your Credit Card Points

    How to get the most bang for your rewards buck.
  6. Investing

    How to Effectively Compare Credit Card Rewards

    There are so many different reward credit cards that are available. Understanding how each type work will help you pick the best card for your needs.
  7. Credit & Loans

    Joint Credit Cards: The Pros and Cons

    A joint credit card may sound like an easy way to split the bills, but make sure you know what you’re getting into first.
  8. Personal Finance

    Finding Cheap Airline Tickets: An Insider’s Guide

    If understanding airline pricing feels like decoding riddles, arm yourself with these six simple strategies to land the best value ticket available online.
  9. Credit & Loans

    Travel Tips: Avoid Exchange Rate Headaches

    How to avoid the most common issues and hassles raised by exchange rates while traveling abroad.
  10. Investing

    Why U.S. Credit Cards Are Getting a Chip and Pin

    With the introduction of EMV technology into U.S. credit cards, consumers should worry less about fraud and counterfeiting.
  1. Transferable Points Programs

    With transferable points programs, customers earn points by using ...
  2. Luhn Algorithm

    An algorithm used to validate a credit card number.
  3. Roll Rate

    The percentage of credit card users who become increasingly delinquent ...
  4. Truncation

    The requirement mandated by the FTC for merchants to shorten ...
  5. Purchase Money Security Interest ...

    A security interest or claim on property that enables a lender ...
  6. Linked Transfer Account

    Accounts held by an individual at a financial institution that ...
  1. What is the difference between "closed end credit" and a "line of credit?"

    Depending on the need, an individual or business may take out a form of credit that is either open- or closed-ended. While ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the best way to start to rebuild your credit after a bankruptcy?

    Bankruptcies can be devastating to your credit score. Even worse, a bankruptcy will be listed on your credit report for between ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What were the primary financial crimes involved in the ZZZZ Best case?

    ZZZZ Best was a company started by Barry Jay Minkow that claimed to be a carpet cleaning business. In fact, it was a Ponzi ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Can a creditor sue me for a delinquent account?

    If a credit card account becomes delinquent, the creditor can sue the debtor for the balance as soon as the delinquency occurs. ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How do I transfer my credit card history from one country to another?

    It is currently not possible to transfer your credit history to another country if you relocate. The credit metrics used ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What are some examples of simple interest loans?

    Two good examples of simple interest loans are simple interest car loans and the interest owed on lines of credit such as ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!