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Airplane Etiquette: Armrest Up or Down?

Plus what about reading newspapers on a plane?

ByABC News
December 20, 2010, 5:09 PM

Dec. 22, 2010— -- Question: On a flight I took a few months ago, I boarded relatively early. The armrest between my window seat and the middle seat was up, so I put it down. A very large man had the middle seat, and after he sat down, he pulled the armrest back up.

"Actually, could we please put this down?" I asked. He said he would not be comfortable with it down. Well, he was spilling over into my seat, so I said I was sorry, but I would not be comfortable with it up. Before we got into a serious argument, a flight attendant intervened and reseated him. I don't want to be a jerk (I am not a size 0 myself), but having a stranger pressed up against the side of my body for four hours is not something I signed up for when I bought my ticket.

Was I overreacting? I haven't even told my friends about this lest they think I was being insensitive to someone who was larger than me.

Answer: No, I don't think you were overreacting. Airplane seats are, quite simply, ridiculous. They were designed ages ago, when people were shorter and thinner, and they are simply not suitable for the way many people are built today. This needs to be addressed. (And people need to stop coming up with hare-brained seat designs like the Italian manufacturer Aviointeriors' newest, with 23 inches of legroom, that make the problem even worse.)

But, still, despite the underlying issues with the seats, when you buy a ticket, you're buying a particular amount of space on the plane. It's not fair for someone else to usurp some of it. If you live in an apartment and buy a Christmas tree that turns out to be too tall, you can't just cut a hole in your ceiling and let some of it poke into your upstairs neighbor's place, right? That's exactly what the passenger leaning into your space was doing, and that's not cool.