(TNS)—Q: You’re seated on a plane next to a person who is taking up your space. Should you say something to the person or to the flight attendant?
A good technique in instances like these is what I like to call the “lowest level of reaction first” or addressing the problem yourself. This helps keep things civil for the remainder of the flight. Asking a flight attendant for help is a higher-level response.
The “friendly conversation” approach: Strike up a friendly conversation. It’s much easier to ask for your space once you know his or her name and are on friendly terms.
The “kind and direct” approach: With a smile on your face, say something like, “Excuse me, would you mind moving your elbow? It’s such a tight space on planes these days.”
If his or her stuff is crowding your space, try, “Here I am, stepping on your coat. Shall I put it in the overhead bin for you?”
If these approaches don’t work, avoid upping the ante with tit for tat. Instead, speak privately to a flight attendant to get help.
— Tammy Lenski, interpersonal conflict resolution specialist, author and speaker
The first thing to do is assess the situation. If there’s an empty seat in your section of the plane, discreetly ask the flight attendant if you can move.
If there’s no other seat available, ask yourself whether your seatmate can reasonably do anything about the situation. Is he encroaching on your space because he’s larger than the seat?
There’s probably not a whole lot you can do. In that case it’s going to be a long flight, so just try to revel in the miracle of modern aviation.
On the other hand, if your seatmate could easily take up less space, try to start a polite conversation and mention that you’d appreciate some of the armrest.
The only time to enlist the help of the flight attendant is as a last resort. A flight attendant isn’t going to stay by your seat through the flight to monitor your seatmate’s behavior. But if the person is clearly abusive, getting it on record with the crew can be a prophylactic measure.
— Gary Leff, travel expert and author of “View from the Wing” blog
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