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Couples, DO NOT try to score the golden inflight loveseat. It’s not right.

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I normally wouldn’t be in the middle seat, but my flight from Fort Lauderdale to Boston was delayed repeatedly as thunderstorms marched across the South. Finally, it was flat-out canceled. The only seat I could grab on the next flight was a dreaded middle seat.

This is where things got stickier than a bowl of toffee pudding during an English heat wave. The couple in my row had done the thing, the thing that has polarized the Internet in a way that hasn’t been seen since people debated whether a dress was blue or gold.

The latest discourse is whether couples should divide and conquer a row when they book their seats. They roll the dice as one member of the party books the aisle seat, and the other books the window seat. The action is intended to scare off fellow travelers from booking the remaining middle seat. If all goes according to plan, couples have obtained the golden inflight loveseat. Three seats, two people. Heaven on earth, as Belinda Carlisle once sang.

But there are problems with this scheme. In the case of my Fort Lauderdale middle seat, the spouses (friends? Illicit lovers?) on either side of me were more than happy to leave me as a buffer. But they acted as if I simply wasn’t there. I was the man who ruined their plan, so they seemed intent on talking over me, passing an iPad between them to share vacation pictures, taking my armrests, and violating every basic tenant of airplane etiquette. The only thing missing was the person in front of me reclining their seat. Oh, wait, they did.

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The couple were entitled to keep their seats and were under no obligation to switch with me. I was the interloper. However, I find the practice of split-row booking increasingly reprehensible, especially as flights are consistently crammed. Every departure now begins with the announcement, “This is a completely full flight. We need you to place smaller items under the seat in front of you and ask that you refrain from punching the crew and fellow passengers.”

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Inevitably the couple that tries to pull off the inflight loveseat scheme is thwarted by a third party as travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, but the number of flights has been cut. If they don’t pretend the person between them is invisible, then they ask the person to move so they can sit together. Are you noticing a trend here? No matter what the configuration, most travel companions either want to communicate during a flight or sit next to each other. They expect the third party in their row to bend to their wishes, no matter what they may be.

I have a few practical solutions! Solution one: If you want to sit next to your travel companion, book a seat next to them. Crazy concept, I know. But it’s a flight, not a game of musical chairs. If that third seat remains empty, it’s a bonus. If another passenger does show up, there’s no need to swap seats and no rudeness in talking over them. Everyone is happy. Or as happy as one can be in economy class in 2023.

Here’s another solution: If you need that row to yourselves, you require the inflight loveseat, you crave Carlisle’s heaven on earth, then buy the third seat. You are allowed to purchase two seats on a plane. That way you and your companion have a guaranteed middle seat, no fuss, no muss. Don’t play the role of Blanche DuBois and depend on the kindness of strangers.

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Please join me next time as I grouse about couples who buy aisle seats across from each other.


Christopher Muther can be reached at christopher.muther@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther and Instagram @chris_muther.