The Hidden Lever to Raise Airplane Armrests

January 17, 2011 at 2:00 am 12 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

Airplanes are cramped places.

The leg room is short, the aisles are thin and the headroom isn’t room at all. The bathrooms provide some private space and a complimentary gymnastics lesson.

If you’re tall, fitting your knees behind the seat in front of you is a painful reality that many of us live with each trip, unless you get an exit row, a courtesy upgrade or a hole in your wallet.

Even if you’re not very tall, when you stand up in your seat, you have to duck to avoid a head-on-collision with the overhead bin, especially in smaller regional jets.

But, a few years ago, I saw a person in the row ahead of me raise the aisle armrest. That was a game changer for me. No more ducking! Simply raise the armrest, then stand up while you slide off your seat into the aisle.

There are a few planes that do not have movable aisle armrests. However, most of them have a small lever or button on the underside of the armrest, near the hinge. Pushing or sliding this lever will release the hinge lock, allowing you to raise the armrest.

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12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Pat  |  May 19, 2011 at 5:38 am

    I recently discovered this “secret” on American Airlines, do you know of some other domestic airlines with this feature?


  • 2. Ogre 1  |  May 9, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    I just took a flight from Amsterdam. I bought two seats because I’m LARGE.. the ARMRESTS only raised 1/2 way. I WISH I’d know this, because the bloody AIRCREW didn’t know about it either!

  • 3. PersonnoNegro  |  August 20, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    god damn it Ogre you so funny

  • 4. Lena  |  March 23, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    I Google’d this from the plane just before takeoff – worked like a charm! A total lifesaver.
    (Air Canada flight, Airbus 319)

  • 5. logjam2650  |  November 22, 2013 at 10:26 am

    I’ve known this for a while, but cabin crew on WestJet demend that the armrest not be moved.

  • 6. Louisthepoodle  |  November 24, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    I know how to do this on a 747, but have any of you figured out how to do it on an A380?

    • 7. logjam2650  |  November 24, 2013 at 7:25 pm

      Louis, I should think this is not necessary on an A380. There’s enough room on those to flap your elbows.

      • 8. Louisthepoodle  |  November 24, 2013 at 9:28 pm

        Logjam, that probably depends on the size of one’s derriere!!! 😊
        I have a bung ankle, and find it easier to get up if I can swing my legs into the aisle.

        Has anyone figured out how to do this on an A380?

  • […] Most airplane aisle seats have a small lever or button on the underside of the armrest, near the hinge. Pushing or sliding this lever will release the hinge lock, allowing you to raise the armrest. All that gorgeous girth can finally go exploding into the aisle where it belongs. […]

  • 10. Birdman  |  February 25, 2014 at 9:57 am

    These exist because of the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar laws in other countries. The aisle armrests must be able to be moved for seating a disabled passenger. The armrest can ONLY be up when getting in or out of the seat. The rest of the time it needs to stay down to comply with minimum aisle width requirements.

  • 11. Alice  |  January 7, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Hi guys! Did anyone find out if this trick applies to A380s too?! Thanks!

    • 12. James  |  December 28, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      Works on the A380, sitting on one and lifting the armrest as we speak. You have to push the smooth round button really hard. Also helps if you push down on the arm while pressing the button at the same time.


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