Travel Survey Shows People Would Rather Go to the Dentist Than Sit in the Middle Seat on an Airplane

ST. PAUL, MN--(Marketwire - July 1, 2009) -  Hardly anyone enjoys getting stuck sitting in the middle seat on a full flight.  In fact, according to a survey commissioned in April 2009 by 3M Privacy Filters*, only 1 percent of those polled actually prefer to sit in the middle seat and 80 percent say they go out of their way to avoid it on a full flight.  But, what is it about the middle seat that bothers people the most?  Is it the cramped quarters?  Lack of privacy?  Rude seatmates?  These survey findings reveal travelers' true feelings and some insights about the middle seat "experience."

Get Me Outta Here...

  • A majority of Americans would rather get stuck in traffic (56 percent), go on a blind date (56 percent) or go to the dentist (54 percent) than sit in the middle seat on a full flight.
  • People dislike the middle seat so much they go to great lengths to avoid it altogether.  Fifty percent of people said they would be likely to take an aisle seat being offered on the next available flight, while one in five Americans (20 percent) say they would actually stay overnight at an airport hotel for an aisle seat on the first flight the next morning!
  • Nine percent of Americans report that they would refuse to sit in the middle seat on a full flight if it was more than 1-2 hours.

Top Five Middle Seat Annoyances

  • The top five things people find most annoying about sitting in the middle seat are:
    1. Having a nosy seatmate peering over your shoulder (84 percent)
    2. Crawling over someone to get to the bathroom (83 percent)
    3. Not being able to stretch out (83 percent)
    4. Having an overweight seatmate on either side of you (80 percent)
    5. Not having a place to rest your head (71 percent)
    • Despite all the annoyances that come with sitting in the middle seat, nearly nine in 10 Americans are concerned with being a "good" middle seat occupant.  After all, who wants to be rude?

    Middle Seat Etiquette

    • When sitting in the middle seat, you are subject to bad etiquette from neighbors on both sides.  With in-flight wi-fi available on many flights, 65 percent of people are concerned about nosy neighbors snooping on personal or work emails and with good reason, since 49 percent of people admit to glancing at strangers' computer screens.
    • However, there seem to be some discrepancies about proper etiquette.  While 6 percent of people believe both armrests belong to the person sitting in the middle seat, the rest either had no idea of the proper etiquette (51 percent), believe one armrest belongs to the person in the middle (22 percent) or believe half of each armrest belongs to the person in the middle (21 percent).

    Look On The Bright Side

    • Nearly two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) agree that there is absolutely nothing good about sitting in the middle seat on a full airplane flight.  However, some travelers do try to see the silver lining.  An optimistic 17 percent say sitting in the middle seat means you do not get hit by the drink cart and 15 percent suggest that sitting in the middle gives you a chance to meet and talk to interesting people. 

    For those looking to find an escape from the middle seat, log on to from June 30-August 31, 2009 for the chance to win a first class trip for two to anywhere in the continental United States (click the "Escape the Middle Seat" icon in the center of the page to enter). While there, you can also download the "Middle Seat Survival Guide," which includes tips on how travelers can try to make the most of their next middle seat experience.

    About 3M

    A recognized leader in research and development, 3M produces thousands of innovative products for dozens of diverse markets. 3M's core strength is applying its more than 40 distinct technology platforms -- often in combination -- to a wide array of customer needs. With $25 billion in sales, 3M employs 76,000 people worldwide and has operations in more than 60 countries. For more information, visit

    *Global Strategy Group conducted an online survey of 806 adults nationwide between April 14 and April 17, 2009.  The margin of error at the 95% confidence level is +/- 3.5. For some questions, survey respondents were allowed to select multiple answers.

    Contact Information:

    Contact Information:

    Melissa Todisco (Agency)
    Hunter Public Relations for 3M
    P: 212-679-6600 ext 244
    Twitter: M2Disco

    Katherine Hagmeier (3M)
    3M Public Relations and Corporate Communications
    p: 651-575-4368

    3M Privacy Filters Download the Middle Seat Survival Guide