Interesting facts
about exit row seat

  • The increased legroom in exit rows is not just a luxury – it’s a safety regulation. It ensures that the exit rows remain accessible and passengers can evacuate quickly in an emergency.
  • On most single-aisle aircraft like the Airbus A320 or Boeing 737, there are two over-wing exits on each side of the plane. On wide-body aircraft like the Boeing 777, there could be up to five pairs of exits, not all of which are over the wings.
  • Passengers seated in exit-row seats must be able to operate the emergency exit doors, which can weigh up to 60 pounds or more.
  • Exit-row seats are sometimes referred to as “hot seats” because they are in high demand due to their extra legroom.
  • However, exit row seats can be, in fact, cooler than other seats, as they’re located next to the exit doors, which are not as insulated as the rest of the airplane cabin.
  • Airlines generate an extra $100 million annually by charging for “preferred seating,” which includes exit row seats.
  • The FAA requires that all aircraft capable of carrying more than 44 passengers must be able to be fully evacuated within 90 seconds with half the available exits.
  • In a test evacuation, it took just 77 seconds to evacuate 873 passengers from a Boeing 747 through half the available exits, including over-wing exits.

Learn more

Who can sit in exit-row seats?

Not everyone is allowed to sit in an exit-row seat.

Passengers occupying these seats may be called upon to assist in opening the emergency exits during a critical situation. Due to these responsibilities, airlines typically have additional requirements for passengers seeking to sit in an exit row seat, such as minimum age (at least 15 years old) and the ability to understand and follow safety instructions provided by the crew. Passenger must be also fit enough to lift a heavy hatch, or pull a high-resistance handle.

Some airlines may have additional requirements, such as being able to speak and understand the language used on board the aircraft.

Responsibilities of a passenger in an exit-row seat

Passengers seated in an exit-row seat have additional responsibilities in case of an emergency:

  • Opening and closing the emergency exit door. In the unlikely event of an emergency evacuation, you might be tasked with operating a door that can weigh up to 60 pounds.
  • Assisting other passengers in evacuating the aircraft.
  • Directing passengers to a safe location away from the aircraft.

Additionally, all carry-on items must be stored in the overhead bins for takeoff and landing. This rule ensures the exit remains clear in case of an evacuation.

Passengers in exit rows get a personalized safety briefing and need to verbally confirm their willingness and ability to assist in an evacuation.

Exit row seat dimensions (pitch)

Exit-row seats are known for providing extra legroom, but the amount of legroom can vary depending on the airline and aircraft model.

In general, the seat pitch (the distance between one seat and the seat in front of it) and legroom is greater than in other seats on the plane. The average pitch of an exit row seat is 36 inches (92cm), which is about 10 inches more than the average pitch of a standard economy seat. Some airlines may offer even more legroom in exit row seats, up to 40 inches or more.

This extra space isn't simply a gesture of comfort, it's actually a regulatory requirement. The rationale behind this regulation is to ensure that there's sufficient space for passengers to easily access the emergency exits in the event of an evacuation scenario. Extra legroom in these rows helps prevent congestion and allows passengers to exit the aircraft swiftly and safely.

Do emergency exit row seats recline?

No, most exit-row seats do not recline. This is because the emergency exit door must be able to open freely in the event of an emergency. If the seats in front of the emergency exit door reclined, they could block the door and prevent passengers from evacuating the aircraft quickly and safely.

However, some airlines may offer exit row seats that recline, but these seats are typically located in the middle of the row, where they do not block the emergency exit door.

Do exit row seats have screens?

It largely depends on the specific aircraft and airline.

On some planes, the design of exit rows may necessitate placing the entertainment screens in a different location compared to standard seats. They may be tucked into the armrests of the seats instead of being mounted on the seat back in front.

In certain aircraft configurations, exit row seats might not have in-flight entertainment screens at all. This is typically because the tray tables and screens, usually built into the seat-back, can't be safely or efficiently installed due to the extra legroom and the need to maintain clear access to the exit doors.

Can I sleep in the exit row?

There is no rule against sleeping in the exit row.

While it's possible to sleep in an exit-row seat, it's important to remember that you have additional responsibilities in case of an emergency. If you plan on sleeping during the flight, it's a good idea to let the flight crew know so that they can ensure that you're awake and alert in case of an emergency.

Are over-wing exit seats on a plane safe?

Yes, they are generally considered to be safe, as they are located over the wings which is the most structurally reinforced part of an aircraft. Additionally, they are designed to meet stringent safety standards, and to provide easy access to the emergency exits in case of an emergency.

Do the hot seats in exit rows cost more?

Yes, hot seats in exit rows typically cost more than standard seats. They offer more legroom and space and are typically in high demand.

The exact cost of a hot seat in an exit row varies depending on the airline and the flight, but you should be prepared to pay from $10 to $100 more for the extra comfort.

How can I book an emergency exit row seat?

These days many airlines allow you to select an exit-row seat during the booking process.

While making a flight reservation on an airline's website, look for the seat selection option. You may be able to choose an exit row seat at this stage, although an extra fee may be charged (due to the additional legroom these seats provide).

Some airlines reserve exit row seats until the check-in stage (usually 24 hours before departure). During online check-in, these seats may become available for selection. So if you couldn't select an exit row seat during booking, you can usually change your seat just before the departure. Log into your booking on the airline's website, look for 'Manage Booking' page, and there should be an option to change or upgrade your seat.

You can also inquire about the availability of exit row seats when you arrive at the airport, either at the check-in desk or at the gate before boarding.

You last chance will be after the cabin doors are closed - the cabin crew will usually offer exit row seats to passengers who meet the criteria (and potentially at an additional cost).

How to get a free exit row seat? What are tips for getting those seats?

Getting a free exit-row seat can be challenging, as these seats are often in high demand. However, there are a few tips you can follow to increase your chances of getting one:

  1. Early check-in. As some airlines release additional seats during the check-in period (typically 24 hours before the flight), try to check-in as early as possible and you might just be able to snag an exit row seat.
  2. Loyalty programs and frequent flyer status. Airlines often offer perks to their loyal customers. If you're a member of the airline's frequent flyer program, you may be eligible for complimentary seat upgrades, which can include exit row seats.
  3. Gate request. If you couldn't secure an exit row seat during booking or check-in, try asking at the gate. If any exit row seats are still available, the gate agents might be able to assign one to you.
  4. Flexibility: Being flexible with your travel plans might increase your chances. Flights during off-peak times may have more available exit row seats.

Can I move from my seat to an exit row seat after takeoff?

It's generally not permitted to move from your assigned seat to an exit row seat after takeoff. The additional responsibilities associated with exit row seating — such as the potential need to assist with emergency evacuations — mean airlines must ensure passengers in these seats meet specific safety requirements.

Moreover, airlines often charge an additional fee for exit row seats due to the extra legroom provided, so simply moving to an unoccupied one post-takeoff could be considered unfair to passengers who paid for the privilege.

Is an exit row seat worth upgrading?

It all depends on your personal preferences and travel needs. Exit-row seats are known for providing extra legroom, but they also come with additional responsibilities.

Here are a few factors to take into account:

  1. Legroom. If you value extra space to stretch your legs, especially on long-haul flights, then an exit row seat may be worth the extra cost.
  2. Kids-free area. Airlines typically do not seat children, infants in exit rows, making it a relatively quieter place on the plane.
  3. Responsibility. An exit row seat comes with additional responsibilities. In the event of an emergency, you might be called upon to assist in opening the emergency exit. Ensure you're comfortable with this possibility before upgrading.
  4. Amenities. Some aircraft designs mean that exit row seats may lack certain amenities, such as movable armrests, seat-back entertainment screens, or storage space under the seat in front of you. Check these details before deciding to upgrade.
  5. No panoramic views. On single-aisle aircraft exit row seats are usually over the wings, so be prepared for wing-and-engine views.
  6. Cost. Airlines usually charge an additional fee for exit row seats. Weigh up the cost of the upgrade against the benefits to decide if it's worth it for you.

Is hot seat a good alternative to premium economy?

Exit row seats and premium economy offer distinct benefits to air travelers, so it boils down to your specific comfort and budget needs.

An exit row seat offers a prime benefit - extra legroom, making it an attractive choice for taller passengers or those seeking a little more space on their journey. However, beyond this space advantage, amenities parallel those of a standard economy seat.

On the other hand, premium economy provides an overall enhanced travel experience. Along with additional legroom and wider seats, it often includes benefits like improved dining options, larger entertainment screens, better in-flight service, and sometimes even an increased baggage allowance.

However, the cost factor can't be overlooked. Premium economy seats typically come with a substantially higher price tag compared to paid exit row seats.

To sum up, if legroom is your primary concern and you're budget-conscious, an exit row seat could be an excellent alternative.

Which airlines offer free exit row seats?

Unfortunately, these days most airlines do charge an additional fee for exit row seats.

However, some airlines offer free exit row seating to certain passengers. For instance, elite members of an airline's frequent flyer program may receive this perk at no extra cost.

Airlines may also offer free exit-row seats to passengers with disabilities or who require additional legroom due to a medical condition.

Specific policies can change, and the details often depend on factors such as the individual ticket fare class, the passenger's frequent flyer status, and the specific flight route.