Awesome Trick To Get More Space in Coach


Note from Sarah Page: Scott wrote this post back in 2014, but I am re-posting it now because it’s an invaluable trick. Every economy flight I fly I check my armrest for the secret lever under the joint of the arm and four times out of five, it’s there. 

I fly a lot of flights in economy class. While all my long-hauls are in business or first, when I fly domestically or hop around Southeast Asia, Europe, or Australia, it’s almost always in coach.

It’s just not worth using airline miles to book short flights in first class. I prefer to book cheap economy flight with Arrival miles and save my airline miles for international first class.

Last week I read an article called “30 Pilots And Flight Attendants Confess Their Best Kept Secrets,” and one of the secrets was actually an amazing tip I can’t believe I didn’t already know.

It won’t quite give you this much space in economy, but it does make flying in the back a little more comfortable.

Cathay Pacific First Class

How have I given myself more room in economy this week?

You know how the arm rests between seats can go up but not the ones on the outside of the aisle and window seats? Actually those go up too!

Arm rests – aisle and window seat: Run your hand along the underside of the armrest, just shy of the joint you’ll feel a button. Push it, and it will lift up. Adds a ton of room to the window seat and makes getting out of the aisle a helluva lot easier.

I tested it out on my window seat from Tampa to JFK this week. I was flying a regional jet with American Eagle. Sure enough when I ran my hand underneath the arm rest, there was a tiny button that when pushed allowed the arm rest to go up.

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 5.07.05 PM

I was able to get a more comfortable sleeping position leaned against the side of the plane without the arm rest in the way.

From JFK to Las Vegas yesterday, I had an aisle seat. This arm rest had a button to go up hidden inside a hole in the same location.

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 5.05.34 PM
I was actually able to move to a completely empty row on the flight, so I tried to put the window seat arm rest up to get even more room. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a button inside its hole. I’m not sure if that arm rest was defective or simply couldn’t be put up.

Had you already heard of this trick? Are any other tricks we should know to get more comfortable in economy?

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  1. I teach everyone on SW how to raise the armrest on every Flt. and get lots of Thank You . It would be most helpful if I won that contest I need to see my sick mother I think she lives in China .
    Take Care

    Cave dweller

  2. Not all have it and I find it rare that a window seat does.

    There are a couple other types of releases, including inside the edge between the armrest and the cushion or a lever on the underside.

  3. I fly mostly Delta, and on most landing announcements they say please lower your armrests to the lock position, that gave me the idea years ago. I do agree that not all armrests seem to be able to do it, however.

  4. We learned this years ago when our kids were little. We always bought them a seat so we could put them in a carseat. On some planes you have to put the armrest up for it to fit, or it just makes it way easier.

    Sometimes the button is flush, not inside a hole and not sticking out where you can feel it. You can feel the seam around the edge though. Also some take a lot of pressure to trigger, so if you think you found the button but it doesn’t work try pressing harder.

    And you can always ask the flight attendants, many, but not all, know how to put the armrest up. It never hurts to ask.

  5. As others already chimed in – some seats have the button (or other accessible mechanism) while others don’t. Unfortunately, most of the newer interiors I have flown tend to be the later.

  6. Scott-do you ask the cabin crew to take those crazy pictures of you in your first class bed? I can just imagine the conversations that happen in the galley afterwards 🙂

  7. Thanks a lot man… I had just flown to Langkawi and saw a chubby lady doing this amazing trick and googled it to the secret. Thank god that i came across this….many thanks…really appreciated.

  8. This may have been true at one time but most US airlines in their usual bid to control everything have removed these buttons at this time.

  9. I fly on AirAsia every now and then, they’ve removed the button from the window and aisle seat armrests. The ones on the middle go up without any buttons. It’s disappointing – raising the armrest made the trip so much more comfortable. I can’t think of any reason to disable this for window seat passengers

  10. Actually this is no big deal, I often sit by the windows and actually I prefer to have the armrest down so I am able to rest my arm there. That’s the reason it called armrest.

  11. Thanks for the post. Sitting here on a SW from Vegas to Orlando on the newer 737-800. Found the button. It’s on that is flush between two screws. Tricky to find, but it’s there

  12. Bro your a livesaver! I’m 6ft 5 on a United Express out of Newark. This gave me the amount of room I needed in my seat. I still have to crouch like a foot when I enter the plane, but hey I’m comftable in my seat thanks to you!

  13. Does anyone know if the arm rests go up in the front row seats of South West airlines planes? I’ve never been in one of the “front row” seats, but I’ve been told that none of them raise up.


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