Exit row anyone?

So generally the exit row is a pretty desirable seat. There’s more leg room for a start – and leg room is EVERYTHING these days in economy class flying. But is the exit row really the best option and how much will it cost you?

Traveller’s United sums it up pretty well in this article with 7 reason you might not want the exit row –

  1. If the plane is mostly empty. This doesn’t happen that often, but some flights do still take off with many open seats. If there’s a whole row open, then such a row can be more comfortable even than first class.
  2. You want width more than space between seats. There are several seats open in the regular or extra legroom sections and you care more about seat width than space between seats. One drawback of exit-row seats is that the armrests are fixed, so you can’t lift them up for extra space, even if the row isn’t full.
  3. If you have a tight connection. In a few cases, especially a 757-300, there are two exits, and exit-row seats can be located as far back as row 33 (on United) and 41 (on Delta). But even on smaller planes, the exit rows are located towards the middle of the planes. And from experience, I can tell you those 5-10 extra minutes it takes for everyone in front of you to deplane will feel a lot longer. It also can be the difference between barely making the connection and needing to rebook for the next flight.
  4. You are hungry. If you plan to buy food on board — whether by choice, or lack of time — remember we live in the age of few, if any, free onboard lunches. Of course, no airline can make sure they stock enough food, especially hot food, for all passengers to purchase. But again, from recent experience, and complaints from clients, I know that many food choices can run out in the first third of the plane, and on a cross-country flight, it’s not like there are options for pit-stops.
  5. If the only exit-row seats left don’t recline. On many planes, there are two exit rows back to back, and in those cases, the more forward of the two won’t recline, theoretically to keep from blocking passengers in the second row from getting to the door. In this case, it’s a trade-off, extra legroom vs recline, and I know many people who still prefer the exit row in this case. But it’s worth considering.
  6.  If you’re traveling with a pet. Pets are not allowed in exit rows. Period.
  7.  If you want a window seat mostly for the views. Yes, passengers can see out of the window at the exit row.  But the wing is generally in the way of the best views. A preferred seat in front of the exit might not have quite as much space, but it can have less obstruction.

You have to bear in mind that in this world of seat selection payment you are probably going to pay more for that exit row (as well as a bulk head seat and that’s another whole bundle of pro’s and con’s). Also bear in mind that when you do select and pay for the exit row you have to be sure that you are able physically to help in an emergency – so if you booked and paid for the exit row and the flight attendant feels that you could not physically deal with the responsibilities they can ask you to move.

Sometimes you might find an exit row at no additional cost to pre-book. Be warned – there is no such thing as a free lunch. This is an interesting story from a traveller that was posted on the website – The Points Guy.

I booked a flight from Cleveland to Singapore, the longest leg of which was about 15 hours. I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I checked in, because there was an exit row seat available and it didn’t require additional payment. I should’ve known something was up, but being a novice international traveler at the time, I thought it was just luck and good timing.

Well, the reason that seat was available had nothing to do with luck or timing. As I soon found out, it was up against the storage space for an enormous ladder that would drop down and inflate in case of an emergency. It stuck out directly in front of my seat so that my left leg (the one nearest the window) was just about locked in and unmovable. That made for a very long trip to Singapore.

It was a rookie mistake, but now I know to be leery when I see an exit row seat available. Next time I’ll make sure it’s not an exit row with a gigantic protrusion coming from the wall!

Good advice for sure. Be sure to check out seatguru.com. I always use this website for checking out the layout – BUT – remember that airlines can change the equipment which might affect your choice and also remember that some packages using group airfare, for example, will not allow for advance seat selection. In that case your fate rests with the gods!

By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.

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