Are airlines no longer allowed to discriminate on exit-row passengers?

I had a discussion on this topic at work today, someone stated that airlines used to choose who they would let take the seat beside the emergency exit on the premise that they needed someone who would be both (a) willing and (b) capable of operating the emergency exit in the event of a crash. This person further stated that due to anti-discrimination laws they are no longer allowed to do so.

My questions are, was this ever policy officially or unofficially and if so can airlines no longer select who they want to sit in this position?

I am not a frequent flyer but on several occassions the airline check in staff have actively asked me if I want to take the emergency exit seat but it hasn’t happened recently. I guess my chisselled manly jawline, piercing blue eyes and attitude of quiet competence was exactly the man they needed for the job.

In all seriousness, I’m a six-foot tall male of average build and fitness and I don’t think I look any less competent than I did a few years ago, but you never know… :wink:

Kind of annoying because I did like the extra leg room at that row.

The times that I have been in that row, the attendants have stopped by and asked if I would be willing to help in case of a crash. They didn’t say what would happen if I said “no, I’m gonna be the first person out that door.”

They only discriminated against physically disabled people, the elderly and children for obvious reasons. I don’t think you can reserve an exit row seat online since they can’t tell if you would be appropriate or not.

Since exit rows seats have leg more room it used to be a perk they would offer me when I was flying regularly. When I check in at the airport I usually ask for a seat in the exit row for that reason (and because I am one of the first passengers out of the burning plane).

Right; that’s a standard question which they have to ask people seated in the exit row. They note that, if you’re unable (or unwilling) to assist, that they will reseat you (on a full flight, that’d mean that they’d find someone for you to swap with).

In all the times I’ve flown, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone who actually changed seats after that discussion with the flight attendant, but I imagine that it does happen.

The gate agents usually screen out anyone too young or obviously unable to open the door.

I have seen some people get moved on Southwest where they don’t pre-assign seats. Usually people traveling with kids, as there is a minimum age requirement. Once it was someone who didn’t speak english, so would not have been able to follow instructions.

I think “willing to assist” simply means, “willing to open the exit,” and not that you would have to stick around to help others get out.

Exit row restrictions are based on FAA (and AESA, etc.) regulations, not airline policy. A British couple unsuccessfully sued a travel agency last year because they paid extra for exit row seats but were reseated because they were too old an infirm to operate the doors.

No, the latter is exactly what they expected.

I flew on Southwest last month and got an exit row seat. The flight attendant was required to ask and to receive a verbal answer (not just a nod) that I would be physically able to open the door and willing to assist other passengers by standing on the wing and directing them after they got out.

Really? All the exit briefs I’ve had, the exit window passengers open the window then get out and guide passengers from the ground, they’re not expected to stay in the plane, if they did they’d create a blockage around the exit, exactly what you don’t want.

The relevent FAA regs.

They asked if I’d be willing to open the door, then stick around and help people out who might need it, as the attendants might well be busy attending to other things, such as helping injured passengers or helping people out the other exits. This was on several different airlines.

That last sentence is nonsense, and typical anti-government ranting.

Those are bona-fide(sp) qualifications, and not subject to anti-discrimination laws. Just like governments can refuse to issue a drivers license to blind people. ot unlawful discrimination; just realistic understanding of the requirements.

You sure they don’t mean stick around outside to help out? On the wing for instance?

This is from the cabin crew manual for the airline I work for (my bolding):

Also, in direct response to the OP, this is who may not be seated in an exit row:

RP Two things, the FAA manual from above stated that the exit row passengers, should help out by stabilizing the exit slide( seemed from the bottom) is this your experience?

In the safety card, it always shows the exit door laid on the seat row. I was told(not by active airline personnel) to chunk it through the doorway and outside. The person who told me this should know and said that the airlines wanted to minimize damage to the Airframe, I think that just about anytime the emergency exit doors open that Plane is not flying again. Your thoughts?



US Airways requires that you be able to read, speak, and understand English. And yes, I have seen them move someone out of the exit row that struggled to speak English.

The type I’m familiar with is the BAe146. They’re not very common anymore but the exit configuration is much the same as other narrow body, single aisle, passenger jets. The mid fuselage exits don’t have slides so the only requirement is for someone to open the exit, get out, then help other passengers. The four main doors do have slides but they are operated by the cabin crew and the passenger seats closest to these doors aren’t considered “exit row seats”, so anyone can sit there and they don’t receive a special brief. In the event of an evacuation the cabin crew will choose the nearest willing able bodied people and give them instructions to exit first then assist from the bottom of the slide.

The mid fuselage exits should be turned and thrown out of the aircraft so that they don’t impede the evacuation. Note that some aircraft have mid fuselage exits that open outward and don’t need to be discarded by the passengers.

The emergency cards you’ve seen were perhaps misleading in their attempt at having simple to follow pictorial instructions. All of the emergency exit row briefs I’ve experienced as a passenger have included the instruction to throw the exit out. And yes you’re right, nobody cares about the condition of the aircraft. If the aircraft is likely to fly again then it would probably be an orderly “precautionary disembarkation” out the normal exits.

This one here shows the door being thrown out the window.

Fixing a few wing dents is probably peanuts compared to replacing the slides, the cost of the repair recovery and inspection that happens when the plane is certified to fly again; plus there’s a good chance that the dent on the wing is the least of their worries if the evacuaiotn is die to significant damage.

IIRC from what I’ve heard stewardii ask, the big question is can you pull the handle and actually heft that door that may weigh a few pounds, turn it sideways and toss it or put it on the exit row? And do you understand that you as the nearest persons are expected to do that? And (duh) don’t open the door if it will let in flames.

They also ask, I think, “…or would you prefer to relocate to a diferent seat?”

I agree. This sounds like the typical “anti-discrimination has gone too far” rant turned urban legend.

My parents were asked this on an international flight. Mother-deaf, Dad - late stage ALZ. I doubt she heard or understood the question, but answered in the affirmative, and after a jab in ribs, so did my Dad.

Hmm what? :stuck_out_tongue: