Alaska Airline. Travel.

The world of travel has changed.
We started talking as we waited to board our Alaska Airline flight from Palm Springs to San Francisco.  His cane drew my attention.  It had an ivory handle in the shape of a cat.  I love cats. He was elderly, I’d say about 93, and not in great health.  But he seemed quite lovely and had a kind demeanor.  As we continued to talk, he spoke sweetly of his “bride” of 62 years, who had recently died. There was a poignancy and a sadness about him; you could tell he loved her very much.  As we boarded the plane, I helped him lift his bag into the overhead. Then, much to my surprise, he was seated in the same row as me—the exit row.

Alaska Airline. Exit Row.

I asked curiously, is this your right seat-row 16? He fumbled looking for the folded Alaska Airline boarding pass he had stuffed into his jacket pocket.  “Yes, see I’m in 16B. the exit row”.
For a quick moment my life flashed before me. I thought, what if we had an accident. Would I feel safe with him trying to open the exit row door? Sadly, my answer was no.  Yes, he was a sweet kindly old gentleman, and yes, I enjoyed our conversation, but I would not feel safe if my life depended on him.
It made me think how money and greed have become so much a part of our lives that daily, our safety is at risk because someone wants to make money.  We fear terrorists, yet right here at home every day, money trumps life.
There was a time when the airlines placed restrictions on who could sit in the exit row, e.g., you had to be 14 and arguably be able to open the heavy door and assist others in the event we needed to evacuate the plane.  Yet this man, who could hardly see, stand or find his way, was actually allowed to sit in row 16B on flight 306 from PSP to SFO.  And, it was not the first time I had witnessed something like this.  I love old people, but not sitting in the exit row.  Now it appears that anyone willing to pay for the extra leg room gets to sit there.
According to the official FAA website (www.faa.gov), the regulations concerning exit row seats are as follows:

  • You must be physically capable and willing to perform emergency actions when seated in emergency or exit rows. If you are not, ask for another seat.
  • Thoroughly familiarize yourself with the emergency evacuation techniques outlined on the written safety instructions. Ask questions if instructions are unclear.

So what is going on here?
Looking a little bit deeper, you’ll find that the airline industry doesn’t really take the FAA exit row seating guidelines very seriously. An article posted way back in 2008 on airfarewatchdog.com titled “Everything you wanted to know about exit row seats: who charges, how to snag them,” makes a mockery out of the exit row rules. The article tells you which airlines charge for them, which don’t, and explains how relatively simple they are to get. Often, all you have to do is be the first to request them. Nowhere in the article does it mention the supposed rules and physical requirements for these seats.
Is this simply another case of airlines bending, or simply ignoring, the rules for the sake of booking as many seats as possible? There is nothing wrong with making a profit (I’m all for that), but one would think that when it comes to air travel safety the rules would be the rules. What do you think?
Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles.

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