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Should Exit Row Passengers Be Held to Higher Standards?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Some responses to a post last week — as well a conversation with a colleague — made me ponder if exit row passengers should receive training or meet more stringent criteria.

How It All Started

I wrote a piece last week about a Delta Air Lines flight attendant who allegedly got snippy with a couple of passengers seated in an exit row.

Several readers — including some flight attendants — weighed in the situation and exit rows in general.

Volunteer Safety Marshal

A colleague of mine (who’s also an Air Force veteran) thinks exit row seats shouldn’t be charged a premium.

“I think it’s complete [nonsense],” he told me as we flew from Las Vegas to LAX. “If there’s an emergency, you become a de facto safety officer. But airlines think you should pay extra money to willingly put yourself in a potentially dangerous situation?”

What About Passenger Training?

Reader Mike commented on last week’s post:

I am a believer in the importance of the responsibilities while sitting in the emergency aisle. In today’s world there are many job duties that requires special certifications. I think it would be a good idea if airlines offered training sessions to passengers on how to properly open the doors of the airplane in an emergency. Perhaps a 15 minute course on a simulator that would be in [an] area of the airport. After successfully passing the course and receiving the certification a passenger would be permitted to sit in the emergency aisle of the airplane.

It’s certainly an interesting idea. Indeed, an ABC News commentary pointed out, “[An emergency] — as utterly rare as it is these days — is not the time for realizing your shoulder won’t handle 40 to 50 pounds of unhinged door.” The same post gives credence to Mike’s suggestion.

I’ve sat in exit rows countless times — and like to think I could open the exit door. Thankfully, the opportunity has never presented itself.

Seat 12A, row 12, exit row on a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 aircraft.
Gotta love seat 12A on the Southwest 737-700s!

I doubt airlines would spring for anything like passenger training, though. Logistics (which airports would have the training and where, etc) plus costs (simulators, labor, insurance) may seemingly not be worth it to air carriers. (Thanks, Mike, for your thoughtful comment!)

Alcoholic Beverages Served to Exit Row Passengers: Cheers?

I admit it: I occasionally enjoy a Woodford Reserve or glass of wine while sitting in the exit row. But unless the flight is a long haul, I rarely enjoy more than one serving. Sitting in the exit row does command a certain level of coherence.

People hopefully know their limits. And flight attendants can pretty easily spot someone who’s had too much to drink. But I still find it interesting that passengers seated in a potentially critical part of the aircraft are allowed to consume alcohol.

Bottom Line

Passengers called to action during an emergency is pretty much a worst-case situation.

Heck, we probably hear more about passengers helping subdue troublemakers (would-be cockpit stormers, belligerent jerks, etc) more often than we do folks assisting with evacuations. So exit row support really does seem very, very unlikely. But there’s always that chance…

What Do You Think?

Should passengers require training to sit in exit rows? Should alcohol not be served to those seated in exit rows?

Please tell us your thoughts in the below Comments section!

— Chris


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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. I think this is a great topic. Some form of compromise seems acceptable: no fee for exit row seating, but no alcohol consumption. Would you really want your designated driver to have any alcohol in them?

    With that said, both generate revenue for the airline so I don’t forsee change anytime soon.

  2. Man, what a can of worms that would open. Would I have to take the training prior to every flight? Would it be good for a number of years? Would I have to pass some type of physical? Would I have to maintain a certain weight? Would I be banned from consuming any alcohol during the flight? What is Delta going to give me in return for being a qualified exit row response person? Free Sky Club access for as long as I maintain my qualifications? Would I then be automatically seated in an exit row for every flight I took? What if I want to sit in first? What if I volunteer for the training, book a seat in an exit row, get to the training, and can’t complete it? What? Are they going to replace me with someone who can and stick me in the back in a middle seat? How much personal liability am I opening myself up to in the event of an emergency and victims felt I didn’t perform my duties to the level that a qualified person should?

    Nope. Don’t see the training ever happening.

  3. Timely topic Chris. I have the solution 🙂

    Look at almost ANY flight (ok there are exception but few). There are crews that are “non-rev” or dead heading from airport to airport.

    Make the exit row for airline crews ONLY!

    They can not drink (when not traveling for fun). Even then, if they are put in exit row even when traveling for fun, no drinks allowed.

    You then have trained folks with no drinking.

  4. A passenger who fails to respond immediately when a flight attendant asks if he/she is aware they are in an exit row and verbally acknowledges he/she accepts the responsibilities of siting in an exit row, should be reseated. There should be no exit row seats for passengers who are preoccupied with electronic devices, are intoxicated, are limited physically, or cannot understand English.
    I have practiced emergency evacuations from aircraft. Safety would be enhanced if all exit row passengers had such training.
    Exit row seats should be about safety, not extra leg room.

  5. I would take the training if offered. I also think it would be informative, and expensive, to have ‘dummy’ exit doors that one could practice opening and following through on whatever is needed, toss it out, unlatch and open etc. One oculd then get a sense of the difficulty/strength involved.

  6. I actually have been in a situation where the landing gear collapsed on hitting the runway, causing the wing to hit the runway and causing a fire, and the command, “exit plane left”. The two young, strong fellows, pulled the door inside (blocking the aisle) and hopped out. My teenage daughter and I who were seated on the other side, managed to lift the door out of the way. As an “older woman”, I do sit in exit rows and I always check to see what the directions indicate what to do with the door. In emergency situations, there is nobody giving directions…they have already exited the plane!

  7. HuntingtonGuy Reply

    Agreed that charging a premium for these seats is nonsense, I agree completely that by virtue of the seating you assume a certain risk and responsibility.
    Training is an interesting thought. Personally, I think I would opt to take it but cost, location and availability of the training could influence that. I also doubt that it would ever be established.
    I do like the suggestion of assigning non-revs to those seats, checks a few boxes and everyone (mostly) gets what they want, safety, cost and peace of mind are all covered.
    Face it, the friendly skies are less so these days and revenue is the prime driver. Some great suggestions here today but if airlines can capture a few extra Shekels from us they will.

  8. I agree Rene good idea!! And some training would be a plus for all travelers

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