Is it first-come, first-served? Or does the middle man have the right to both armrests?

It remains one of the biggest in-flight debating points. When three people are forced to share four armrests, which passengers are entitled to elbow room?

“There are no specific rights when it comes to armrests,” says Heinz Klewe, managing director of the German Conciliation Body for Public Transport in Berlin.

But even if there’s no armrest rights for passenges, Klewe acknowledged an unwritten rule: The person in the middle of a three-passenger row has priority, if they want the armrests.

The thinking behind this is that, without the benefit of easy access to the aisle or an immediate window view, the person stuck in the middle should be entitled to compensation in the form of two full armrests.

But there’s also a more fair solution to the battle over middle armrests, put forth by German-based manners group AUI. One passenger supports his or her elbow on the front part of the armrest, while the other person gets the back part.

“That would be fine if everybody were to stick to it,” AUI chairman Inge Wolff says.

If your neighbour gives you a stern look, Wolff recommends just try talking about it.

“But it’s important to send an ‘I’ message,” says Wolff, who thinks the person sitting next to you will respond better to a more friendly, “I would also like to use part of the armrest,” rather than “You are taking up too much space.” – dpa