Your boss is sending you to the annual company conference in San Diego; a privilege for only the most respected executives. When the day arrives, you toss your bag into the Uber, already late, and then you realize. You did it again.

You forgot to check in for your flight on time and didn’t splurge on “economy plus” so that you could afford that $12 airport sandwich. Now you’re stuck in a middle seat near the lavatory and are in a silent armrest battle with your neighbors. Four hours is starting to feel like ten. You’re beginning to wish you were back in the office. We understand. So how do you make the best of an uncomfortable situation?

Just like your office chair, everyone will fit in airline seats a little bit differently and will have their own specific battles with discomfort. We’ve thrown in a few general tips that everyone can use and some help for those that just don’t fit the “average” – and there’s no such thing!

Generally, speaking…

  • Stay hydrated!
    • The cabin environment is naturally dehydrating so each time you’re offered water, take it! This will help prevent those after flight headaches.
  • Get up and move!
    • Heading to the lavatory is one of the few times that you won’t get harassed for getting up out of your seat. In a middle or window seat? You’re doing your fellow passengers a favor and making them get up too!
  • Treat it as “me” time
    • Airplanes are still one of the few places where it’s not considered rude if you don’t answer your email for 3+ hours. Take that time to catch up on stuff that YOU want to do. It might even make you look forward to the flight!
  • Raise the armrests
    • Feeling a little cramped? Most people don’t realize that the armrests on aisle and window seats raise up. Check for a small button on the underside of the armrest closest to the seat back.

Petite People

  • Prop your feet
    • Don’t let those feet dangle! You are asking to hobble off of the plane with sore knees and a sore back. Push your carry-on fully under the seat in front of you and – boom! Your own personal footrest (also fully compliant with FAA regulations)!
  • Pick a side
    • We’re not saying that you don’t deserve a throne, but we don’t recommend treating your airplane seat like one. If you find yourself winging your arms out away from your sides to reach the armrests, alternate between sides to give your shoulders a break.

Big and Tall People

  • Go ahead and recline
    • Will the person behind you get annoyed? It’s a possibility, but it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. They might grumble at the inconvenience, but most people quickly forget about it. Comparatively, the larger angle between your thighs and torso has been shown to reduce pressure on your lower back. Seems worth it.
  • Use a seat cushion
    • When your legs are longer than the rest of your body, you may suffer from numerous issues while seating in a low airplane seat. One being, that your knees may end up higher than your hips due to the seat height. This transfers all of the pressure to your rear end, rather than distributing it more evenly through to your thighs. Consider using a travel wedge cushion to help prop your hips up more appropriately. Forgot your wedge cushion? Improvise with a folded jacket or sweater!

The plan has landed, and although your head pounds with the rhythm of the small child kicking your seat for two hours, your stress melts away. Three days in a beautiful city, all expenses paid, it’s almost a vacation. On the way back, you will be sure to check in on time, or at least try to.


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