Recently a friend shared a story about a woman who accused him of being an “elbow assaulter” on a flight from San Francisco to Dallas. To make a long story short, my friend is 6′ 2″ and 230 pounds. The woman who sat beside him was, in his words, not petite. During the flight he made various maneuvers in his seat to try and flatten himself against the wall to give her as much room as possible while still being able to type on his computer. Unfortunately his attempts at making himself smaller failed because the woman became upset when his right elbow accidentally made contact with her left shoulder – not once, not twice, but three (possibly four) times! God forbid.
In his blog post detailing the incident, Brian Cuban (AKA the elbow assaulter) wrote, “This was coach. Space is tight. Baby’s are going to cry. There are going to be unwelcome smells. People are going to recline their seat into your groin. Shoulders are going to occasionally touch.”
I have to agree with Brian. An airplane is public transportation. Unfortunately there is very little personal space on board and therefore anything in the armrest area is fare game for accidental contact.
Sixteen years ago when I first started flying, my roommate who was also new got called out to cover a trip as the lead flight attendant on a 767. As she got ready for the trip, we discussed all the things that could possibly go wrong in flight with her in command of the crew; oven fires, faulty hydraulics, decompressions, medical emergencies, and worse. Not once did it occur to us that an armrest could cause two passengers to come to blows! Which is what would have happened if my roommate hadn’t stepped in and assigned the armrest to one passenger for the first three hours of flight and the same armrest to the other passenger the last half of the flight. Afterwards we laughed at how ridiculous it was that two grown men couldn’t work it out amongst themselves. Little did we know just how often we’d be summoned to settle disputes over reclined seats and claimed armrests.
Photo courtesy of DavityDave
Yeah, that's me, the one standing in the aisle wearing flammable polyester...