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Preferred Seating - Emergency Exit Row

Part 1: The Emergency Exit Row

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When one is looking for premium seating in the often confined quarters of the economy cabin of an airplane, the exit row is usually mentioned. The emergency exit rows of an aircraft are usually more spacious, but not universally so. More space comes with more restrictions for this type of seating that should be considered before asking for a seat in the exit row.

For airlines that permit advance seat selection, securing a seat in the emergency exit row may be restricted. Many airlines do not permit booking exit row seats in advance for a number of reasons including:

  • making sure that the passenger is appropriate for the seating,
  • because errors have occurred and passengers have had to be re-seated at the airport, causing possible inconveniences for the affected passengers (especially if they are not traveling alone).
The biggest benefit of being seated in the emergency exit row is that the leg room is usually more generous, particularly on long-range aircraft. On a smaller airplane used for shorter distances (like a 37 to 50 seat Dash 8, or a 50 seat Canadair Regional Jet for example) the difference between an exit row and other rows may be indistinguishable other than the fact that in lieu of a small port hole window is a door with a small port hole window at the end of the row. However, on anything larger than both the commuter jets and turbo-prop aircraft, the difference in leg room is at the very least noticeable (even more so for aircraft used for long distance international travel). If you are not permitted to book the exit row in advance, the airlines usually treat it on a first come (and requested), first served basis so show up early if you want an exit row seat.

One important note for those seated close to an exit row - try not to book seats in the row immediately in front of an exit row as these seats are often ones that do not recline and will thus affect your comfort on a longer flight.
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