The one thing in any mode of transportation that passengers will always crave for is seating preference. Although airline carriers offer reclining seats for better comfort in their premium class of cabins, some passengers, however, prefer taking seats that are near the exit doors of a plane. These rows of seats are called exit-row seats and are not easily available. Want to know why? Let’s find out here.
In this blog, we will provide you an overview of exit row seats on airlines, their significance and who are eligible to purchase these seats.
What are Exit Row Seats on an Aircraft?
Exit row seats are those seats which are typically placed near the exit doors of an aircraft. These exit doors comprise the main front exit door and the over-wing exit door.
Thus, as the name is self-explanatory, these rows of seats have a specific purpose and are only offered to a few eligible passengers. In addition, such seats are quite expensive, but these also offer more legroom.
What is the Significance of Exit Row Seats?
Airlines usually include a couple rows of seats near their plane’s exit doors, which is useful during an emergency exit situation, for instance.
Therefore, passengers that sit on these seats are briefed on emergency evacuation procedure by the flight attendants right after boarding. This procedure has been mandated by law. So, it also becomes the responsibility of the passengers to provide assistance to the crew in operating the emergency exit procedure, if an unprecedented event occurs.
Again, in order to be able to take such a responsibility, only a few passengers are deemed eligible by the airliners. For example, a passenger with physical or mental impairment cannot be offered an exit-row seat because that person will have challenges during operating an emergency evacuation procedure and in less time.
Why Airlines Offer Exit Row Seats Only to Eligible Passengers?
Airliner carriers do not usually offer exit-row seats to any passenger that wishes to purchase the seat as per their preference.
These seats are instead, offered to passengers that qualify the airliner’s eligibility criteria. Also, bear in mind that certain qualifying requirements may vary from one airline carrier to another and/or from one country to another. This is mandated both by the airliner’s travel policies and the governing law of the airliner’s base country.
The requirements needed for a passenger to qualify in order to avail an exit-row seat on a plane are given as follows:
(a) You must be an adult. However, some airlines may allow children of minimum age 12 or 15 and above, but this varies with different airline carriers and the country’s law.
(b) You must not be travelling with an infant, a service pet or a companion that requires special assistance.
(c) You should not be suffering from any physical or mental impairment, since this can make things difficult for you when assisting the crew with emergency evacuation procedure.
(d) You should be able to lift at least 27 kg (60 lbs) weight, since an aircraft’s emergency exit doors are quite heavy to manually operate.
(e) Pregnant women are advised not to sit in exit-row seats for their convenience and safety.
(f) You should be able to at read, speak and understand the language of the airliner’s base country, as this can help in communication. This will help you follow the instructions and also, read or provide instructions to other passengers during an emergency exit from the aircraft.
(g) You should not require a seatbelt extension. Seatbelt extensions are usually required by passengers that are of size larger than normal (considering body weight). Such passengers can also experience problems during mobility, and especially, at times of an emergency.
(h) If you are an elite frequent flyer member, the airline may allow you to reserve an exit row seat, provided you fulfil the requirements that are given above.
What are the Benefits and Downsides of Exit Row Seats?
So far, we have already learned from the above that exit-row seats are useful in allowing passengers to carry out evacuation procedure during an unpredicted emergency.
Now, the most important benefit of exit-row seats is that these seats offer more legroom space which are not commonly available in other class of cabins. However, bear in mind that the legroom in exit-row seats can vary by the design of aircraft.
Aside from the benefit, there are a few downsides of exit-row seats on a plane as well. If the front exit row is a bulkhead row, you may not have enough space to store your carry-on bag under the seat. You will thus, have to use the overhead bin for storing your carry-on.
A bulkhead is a section, usually at the front of a plane or in the front of a section which is separated by a diving wall or section, such as cabins, galley, and lavatory.
In addition, exit seats in the front row do not have reclining function, i.e., you cannot recline the seat inches back in order to relax during your trip. This could also be a bit inconvenient, if you are travelling on a long-haul flight.
The other downside is the higher price that airline carriers charge for exit row seats. Although airline carriers usually allow frequent flyers to reserve exit row seats, other passengers can book a seat in the exit row by paying an additional fee.
For example, Virgin America brands exit row seats on their A320 aircraft as premium economy, and bulkhead seats as ‘Main Cabin Sebluelect’ (between coach and first class). In addition to charging higher fees for booking these seats, the airliner also includes higher baggage allowance, pay-per-view movies, meals and alcohol.
Another example is the US-based low-cost carrier JetBlue Airways, which brands exit row seats on their aircraft as the premium ‘Even More Space’ cabin or section.
How to Purchase or Request an Exit Row Seat with Your Airline Carrier
You can book an exit row seat in advance with your airline carrier, however, given that you are either an elite frequent flyer or you fulfil the eligibility criteria as mentioned above. These seats are usually offered with a different name that are branded by the airliner. For instance, Delta Airlines brands their exit row seats as Preferred Seating and costs $39 for booking in advance.
You can also request an exit row seat directly at the airport check-in counter or at the departure gate. Since, this is considered as a last moment option before your plane departs, if there is an exit row seat available, you will be immediately offered one.
Exit row seats and its usefulness primarily lies in the carrying out of emergency procedure by passengers and the crew.