Young Woman and Her Father Cross Their Fingers for an Empty Middle Seat on a Plane

A young woman waits for a middle seat to stay empty on a plane with her dad and everyone is genuinely invested in the outcome — do they keep the seat?

Jamie Lerner - Author

Aug. 24 2023, Published 11:33 a.m. ET

Sometimes, the best TikTok video is one that gets us emotionally invested. While a long dramatic story can sometimes achieve that effect, pure facial expressions and tension can be even more powerful. TikToker Denise Alexis (@denisealexis) shared a selfie video of herself and her dad innocently waiting for the middle seat between them on a plane to remain empty and the video is titillating.

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We never realized something so simple could elicit such a strong reaction, but here we are! All it takes is an empty middle seat, an adorable father and daughter pair, and a 30-second video to bring our heart rates up and a sigh of relief. As Denise waits for the empty middle seat, we can’t help but relate to her circumstances.

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A TikToker makes a relatable video about waiting for the middle seat on a plane to remain empty.

Denise and her father certainly aren’t the first people to book themselves in the window and aisle seats in the same row on a plane, and they are definitely not the last. One of the most inconvenient things about air travel is the rows of three that don’t often suit pairs of passengers. In this case, Denise and her father were actually traveling with Denise’s mother, who was enjoying her flight in business class.

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So, as Denise and her father are about to ride out the flight in coach class, they’re really hoping for a miracle. One of the best reasons to book seats on the window and aisle is in the hopes that no one will take up the middle seat — only solo passengers with the last choice of seat reservation would likely end up there. So, it’s not a far-off gamble.

In fact, my travel buddy is an aisle girl and I’m a window girl, so we’ve definitely done the same thing. But we weren’t as lucky as Denise and her dad. Denise takes us through the stages of waiting for the empty middle seat in just 30 seconds. She begins the video with the subtitle, “POV: There’s an empty seat between you and your dad so you’re just praying nobody claims it.”

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She crosses her fingers, and once the pilot says they’re closing the doors, Denise gives a slight fist bump. But wait! There are still people finding their seats. Uh oh. “My dad is taking this very seriously,” Denise wrote, as we see him anxiously staring ahead. She continued, “At this point, there were still people waiting to be seated.”

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Then, Denise silently cheers, “When the last batch of people finally sat down,” and moments later, she and her dad both silently cheer to the camera. “Confirmation that the middle seat is empty by my dad,” she wrote. We have all been on that journey, and we know the true disappointment that comes when someone sits in that middle seat at the very last minute.

Many commenters share their airplane success stories — a rare genre for TikTok! Some mention their full empty-row experiences while others share how they got the last empty seat next to them on a flight. It’s little moments like this that really bring joy to life. We love some extra space on planes and the ability to sit near our loved ones!

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What’s the proper etiquette if someone sits in the middle seat?

Many people have commented that if someone were to claim the middle seat, either Denise or her dad could offer to switch with them to sit next to one another. Almost anyone would prefer the aisle or window to a middle seat. On the other hand, Denise and her dad might not want to sit in the middle.

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That’s what happened with me and my friend when we once booked an aisle and window. Someone sat between us, and seeing us chatting, they offered to switch with one of us. (In all fairness, we only chatted before and after the flight to discuss logistics — we weren’t gossiping across the random person in the middle.)

Regardless, it begs the question of what’s the proper etiquette. It might be more polite to offer to switch with someone who is stuck in the middle between a pair of travelers, but at the same time, the pair likely paid to reserve their preferred seats. As long as the pair isn’t chatting over the middle seat throughout the flight, our opinion is that they have every right to stay put, as controversial as that may be.

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