Seems hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear about some airline incident but this one has some serious implications. The passenger, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, was seated in the exit row of an Alaska Airlines flight. Everything was okay until he decided it would be a nice idea to try to open the exit door before the plane landed. Fortunately he was subdued – not that the exit could have been opened at that altitude anyway – but only after the flight (and his arrest) do we learn that he admitted that he hasn’t taken his medication for treatment in over a year.
To be seated in an exit row requires very little – generally at least 15 years old, speak English (flying in the U.S.), be in sufficient health to be able to operate the exit row door/window, and be willing to assist in the event of an emergency. Many passengers prefer the exit row because of the great legroom but is it time for the FAA to consider more specific instructions?
On one flight last year, an elderly couple was boarding and the husband was assisted down the aisle by the flight attendant. The FA escorted them to their seats – exit row next to me – and then put his cane in the overhead compartment. On another flight, the attendant asked each exit row passenger if they understood the instructions. One of the passengers responded in Spanish. Good enough to satisfy the flight attendant, I guess.
Fortunately the odds of needing assistance from exit row passengers for any given flight is quite negligible. This is good because in the event of an emergency, most would not have a clue how to disarm the door or window and remove it properly. Seriously, how many actually read the safety card?
Nevertheless, we persist with this false sense of security. Is it time for the FAA to get more specific about exit row seating requirements?