Is the Space Under the Middle Seat Up For Grabs?

“A 320 seats 3a/b”, is what FlyerTalk member guller posted when a fellow passenger in the same row decided to simply place belongings under the middle seat of the row in front aboard an airplane. “Guy just assumed that he could have the whole middle section of the underseat area.”

Is the Space Under the Middle Seat Up For Grabs?

Although the scenario is not as frequent these days primarily due to full passengers loads aboard commercial airplanes, a row of three seats with the middle seat empty is still not uncommon — and when a passenger who brings aboard his or her belongings finds out that no one will be sitting in the middle seat for the flight, he or she may perceive it as an invitation to store his or her belongings under the middle seat in front of him or her.

Several reasons may explain this phenomenon, as the passenger:

  • Somehow brought too many items and is compelled to store one of them under that middle seat
  • Does not want to store anything in the overhead storage bin in order to have readily easy access to his or her belongings
  • Wants more leg room and would rather store his or her belongings under the middle seat in front of him or her rather than the seat directly in front of him or her
  • Might actually have a combination of at least two of the aforementioned reasons to use the space under the middle seat

What If Both Passengers Want That Space Under the Middle Seat?

The aforementioned reasons and scenarios might be benign if only one passenger wants to use the space under the middle seat in front of him or her; but what if both passengers want use of that space — even though neither of them are entitled to it?

Even worse is what if the supports of the row in front are uneven to the point where part of the space under the middle seat actually should be used by a passenger seated in an aisle or window seat?

“To be fair, isn’t this kind of a first come, first served scenario?” asked FlyerTalk member CHOPCHOP767.

What if the stored items encroaches upon the leg room of that passenger — thereby rendering discomfort?

In general, is using the space under the middle seat of the row in front of you considered rude?


“In fairness, the legs of those seats make underseat storage a bit tricky if you’re in the aisle seat. There have been several occasions where I’ve had to ask my seat mate if they minded that I did the exact same thing”, FlyerTalk member gooselee responded. “Perhaps the difference is I always make it a point to ask before I just stuff my bag in that spot.”

That does sound fair enough — although FlyerTalk member matthew64832 has another solution: “I’d say you get half and half. In some planes when I am in an FC aisle I can’t fit my bag under the aisle space, but I can fit it on my half of the middle space (i.e. the bag doesn’t extend past the power outlets, which are generally in the exact middle of the seating area). I think this may be the case on the new 739s. On others, it won’t fit on my half of the middle space so I usually ask if it’s okay that it will take up some of the window seat’s area.”

FlyerTalk member flyerCO agrees: “Half that middle space is the A passenger’s and half the B passenger’s.”

Because I travel light, I usually have no need for the space under the middle seat to store my belongings. If a passenger encroaches my leg room with his or her belongings, I will not hesitate to politely let that passenger know — and if that passenger refuses, I may escalate the situation to a member of the flight crew.

Politeness and respect go a long way in tho situation — or in virtually any situation, for that matter — in my opinion.

The question remains for you to answer: is the space under the middle seat up for grabs?

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

5 thoughts on “Is the Space Under the Middle Seat Up For Grabs?”

  1. Andrew Wilson says:

    It’s cutting edge, comprehensive, indepth journalism like this that really makes The Boarding Area shine.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      …and yet, Andrew Wilson, here you are, having read the article.

      All I can say is…thank you.

  2. Ryan says:

    Sometimes I just can’t help but reading this blog even though I know how obnoxiously pedantic the posts are. Sort of like not being able to look away from a highway accident. Btw, the answer is yes.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Do you believe I should post shorter articles with fewer words, Ryan?…

      …and if I did, would you read articles posted at The Gate more often?

      That sure would save me a lot of time…

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