TWO lawyers became viral sensations today, when footage emerged of them embroiled in a heated argument over an armrest during a Monarch flight.
The pair, who allegedly resorted to spitting and hitting during the row on a flight to Malaga in Spain, certainly aren’t the first to fight over control of the middle ground, so what are the official rules for plane armrest etiquette and why does it make passengers so mad?
Etiquette expert William Hanson and body language expert Judi James have spoken to The Sun about the big battle of the skies, explaining why people care so much and who can really claim it as their own.
According to the former flight attendant Jacqueline Whitmore, there is an unspoken rule that the person in the middle seat gets both arm rests because the person in the aisle can get up without any problems and the window seat has the view.
But William Hanson says etiquette dictates that both people should share the armrest.
He believes that trying to claim the entire post for yourself is the height of bad manners.
William told The Sun: “The armrest is actually more of a seat divider than an armrest.
“Armrest is misleading as a term, because only one person can rest an arm, but two people can rest their elbows on it.
“One person’s elbow can go on the front and the other person can go on the back.
“Etiquette is all about compromise and not being selfish, so taking up the entire armrest is bad manners.”
While that might seem clear cut, Judi James believes that the no man’s land of the armrest is a battle that will never end, because the battle for space is inbuilt into us as human beings.
She told The Sun: “Space is something that humans and animals fight wars over – it’s the most inflammatory thing.
“It’s why people whose garden wall if half a centimetre to the right can fight with their neighbours for years. We can’t avoid being territorial.
“We even adopt personal ownership of things that really don’t belong to us, like our chair in the office, or our seat on a plane. It brings out the warrior in us.”
While some passengers manage to smile and suppress the urge to fight over the armrest, Judi believes that it is a spontaneous reaction in all of us to try to claim it.
She said: “Armrests are always going to be a problem because it’s shared space with a stranger that you can’t halve equally – the airline is asking you to share something that you can’t share.
“Most people aren’t even thinking about their share though, they’re going for total domination and submission of everyone else around them.”
According to Judi, the reason that we care so much about this spot in particular is because of it has a direct effect on our body confidence.
She said: “Confidence is directly linked to the space under your armpit.
“The upturned V gap that we have under our armpit when our elbows are pointed away from the body gives us body confidence.
“If you are forced into not using your arm and have to bring your elbows in towards your body, you feel physically smaller.
“This in turn makes you feel as though you’ve been lowered and submissive, and no one likes to be locked into a place of submission by a stranger.
“But if you have elbows on both arms of the chair, away from your body, you feel in control.”