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I'm currently seated in the emergency exit row, and had an interesting thought. If I was unable or unwilling to assist the crew in an emergency and operate the emergency exit, then I am supposed to contact a flight attendant to be reseated.

But the emergency exit row sucks. The seats don't recline, there's no under-seat storage, there's not even tray tables. What if nobody volunteers to switch seats with me? Will I be rebooked onto a different flight? Or maybe will someone be forced to switch seats with me?

(Let's assume for the purposes of this question that I am physically unable to operate the emergency exit, say because of a broken arm. Let's also assume that the flight is fully booked and there's no empty seat that I could be moved to.)

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    $\begingroup$ If everyone refuses to sit in the emergency row, then they start throwing passengers out the plane one by one until they have enough "volunteers". $\endgroup$ – Tyler Durden Jun 21 '16 at 0:14
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    $\begingroup$ Note that most exit rows aren't nearly as bad as what you've described. Most of them (in the U.S. at least) do recline, do have under-seat storage, do have tray tables, and have a lot of extra legroom. They're frequently the highest-demand seats in the economy cabin. Being a tall person, when I'm flying in economy, I book exit rows whenever possible. $\endgroup$ – reirab Feb 5 '17 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ It's the row in front of the exit row that doesn't recline (because reclining into the exit row would obstruct the exit). The only reason an exit row seat wouldn't recline would be if the row behind is also an exit row. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Aug 7 '17 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ @TylerDurden actually if you are United, dragging is the preferred method to throwing... $\endgroup$ – dalearn Aug 7 '17 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ Actually on the flight in question, the exit row didn't recline either. $\endgroup$ – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Aug 8 '17 at 1:02
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The government requires any passengers seated in an exit row to be 15 years of age or older, be willing to assist in an evacuation and have no limitations that would prohibit their assistance.

Source: United

I.e. you won't be given that seat if you can't assist or unwilling.

Personally I always request an aisle emergency [exit] seat near the window. This way the bulky slide is out of my way and I get plenty of legroom. I'm very tall, legroom matters. You'll always find someone willing to switch if they're tall. What I'm saying is, this seat that you hate, others love.

But in your very specific hypothetical scenario of a full flight and wrong seat and unwilling passengers, the government says someone must switch. If the issue causes too much trouble, then someone (who is causing the trouble) will be escorted off the plane more likely, freeing up a space...

... to be immediately filled by someone from the standby list who doesn't mind sitting in the exit row. voretaq7

Have a nice flight.

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    $\begingroup$ If the issue causes too much trouble, then someone (who is causing the trouble) will be escorted off the plane more likely, freeing up a space -- to be immediately filled by someone from the standby list who doesn't mind sitting in the exit row. :) $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Jun 21 '16 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ I'm curious... What prevents someone to say they will assist and then just rush out of the plane when the need to assist is here? Tons of people are ready to promise anything to get what they want, and then just say they didn't understand what they were asked for (or more likely swear that they were not asked anything... show me the evidence...) $\endgroup$ – mins Jun 21 '16 at 5:54
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    $\begingroup$ @mins Well, if there is an emergency where you need to evacuate and are lucky enough to be in the emergency exit row, it would make sense to exit from there. Once you did, well... You already fulfilled your duty. On some aircraft you are supposed to be holding the slide from below, but since you had to use the slide to get down anyway, i guess it's not as important and a more civic person can do it in your stead. $\endgroup$ – Antzi Jun 21 '16 at 6:47
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    $\begingroup$ @mins, well, that's precisely the assistance they need. The point is that while the row is wider than the others, there still isn't much room for the FA to get past you and open the exit. So they need you to open the exit, and get out of the way, which is at that point easiest out. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Jun 21 '16 at 6:58
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, wait, nevermind, I initially missed the part of the original question that said to assume there were no other empty seats. In that case, you're right; someone would have to switch. When I first read your answer I thought you were saying that the exit rows must be occupied, which didn't seem right. $\endgroup$ – reirab Feb 5 '17 at 22:33

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