How To Get an Emergency Exit Row Seat

For economy travellers, getting a seat in one of the emergency exit rows is a prized asset offering significantly more legroom comfort. In this article we look at ways of securing the exit row and give an overview of (paid) options offered by various international airlines.

As we saw in our previous post getting the best airline seat, the exit row has a number of advantages:

  • increased legroom – from a few inches more seat pitch to a few feet of space. On a long-haul flight this extra legroom could make a big difference.
  • no seat recline in front of you.
  • in an emergency situation you are closer to the exit door and may escape faster if the route is clear.

Some possible drawbacks of exit row seats:

  • hand baggage must be stowed in the overhead lockers for take-off and landing.
  • on larger planes the emergency slide box can protrude into the exit row window seat impeding legroom.
  • exit row seats can be narrower due to tray tables being stowed inside the armrest.
  • some emergency doors have very small windows.
  • the view to the ground will be impaired by the wing.
  • at seats with significant legroom, other passengers can congregate in the area, feeling that it is “public space”.

If you sit in an exit row seat, you should always study the safety card carefully as you may be required to assist the cabin crew in an emergency. Airlines and aviation authorities have strict occupancy rules for exit seats – you must be able to understand the crew and open the door unaided.

Getting an Exit Row Seat

In the old days you could often turn up early at the airport and ask to sit in the exit row – this request was often granted. While this can still be the case for some airlines, the situation has become a little more complicated.

Nowadays, exit row seekers have to contend with a number of factors: elite status frequent flyers, online check-in (OLCI), transfer passengers and paid-for seat assignments.

Many airlines will allow their top tier frequent flyers the chance to pre-assign exit row seats at time of booking. In addition, the exit rows may be taken by passengers who are first to use online check-in. Transfer passengers are often at an advantage because when checking-in for their first flight, they can already choose seats for their connecting flight.

However paid-for seat assignments where exit row seating can be purchased is becoming more common in the airline industry. Airlines are forever finding ways to maximise revenue.

This does mean that non-status passengers can have a chance to secure a seat in the exit row, albeit for a price…

Let’s review the exit row possibilities for a number of major international airlines:

>Seat Plus seats are exit rows and other extra legroom seats in the economy cabin.
>On long-haul flights pay €50/€70 per seat for flights under/over 9 hours.
>On medium-haul flights pay €10/€15/€20 per seat for flights under 1hour 30mins/1hour 35mins to 2hours 30mins/over 2hours 30mins.
>Buy during booking, “Review/Modify Your Reservation” or at OLCI/airport kiosk/counter.
>Also sells economy seats at front of cabin (€20) and Duo Seats (€30-€40).
>Free for Flying Blue Platinum/Club 2000/Skipper. Gold/Silver members receive 50%/25% discount.

>Pay from £50/€60/$75 per exit row seat in World Traveller (economy) or World Traveller Plus (premium economy) – book 4-14 days before departure.
>Pay from £7/€8/$11 for any seat (including exit row) on short-haul Euro Traveller (economy). Hand baggage only fares get automatic seat assignment so you must pay if you want to choose a seat.
>Pay £55/€66/$83 for any seat (including exit row) on Club World (business class)
>Free seat assignment at OLCI, T-24 hours – small chance exit row may still be available.
>Free seat assignment for BA Premier/Gold/Silver members at time of booking – note Silver members cannot choose exit row for free. Bronze members get free seat (excluding exit row) at T-7 days.
>BA also offers advance seat selection (non-exit row) from £20/€24/$30 (WT) and from £18/€22/$27 (WTP).

>Sells Extra Legroom seats (front row and over-wing exit rows) and Up Front seats (rows 2-5) – both come with Speedy Boarding.
>Front row seats can be purchased for €11-€19 per flight depending on route. Over-wing exit rows and Up Front seats are priced at €6-€13.
>Standard seats can also be pre-assigned at €2-€6.
>Purchase during booking or using My Easyjet facility. Also possible to purchase at the airport or on-board.
>EasyJet Plus card holders (£170/€199 per year) get free seat assignment. Flexi fares get free Up Front assignment.

>Extra Legroom (exit row) seats in economy class offering up to 50″ legroom (short-haul) and 55″ (long-haul) cost €12-€65 depending on route.
>Economy Comfort seating (dedicated front 5 rows in economy) costs €45-€75. This includes priority boarding, noise-cancelling headphones and amenity kit.
>Front row seats in each cabin section can be purchased for €12-€40.
>Pre-assigned seats can be purchased up to 36 hours before departure. Exit rows may be available for free during OLCI at T-36 hours.
>Finnair Plus Platinum/Gold and equivalent Oneworld members get free seat assignment.

>Economy XL seats are located on exit rows and can be purchased. The price varies depending whether you pre-book, use OLCI or buy at the airport.
>When pre-booking until 36 hours before departure, pay €10 (domestic), €15 (Canaries/Europe/Middle East) and €65 (Intercontinental).
>During OLCI (opens T-24) pay €5 (domestic), €20 (Canaries/Europe/Middle East) and €65-€70 (Intercontinental).
>At the airport pay €20 (domestic), €30 (Canaries/Europe/Middle East) and €80 (Intercontinental).
>Iberia Singular/Platinum/Gold and equivalent Oneworld members get free seat assignment.

>Sells Extra Legroom seats (including exit rows) with up to 38″ pitch (short-haul) and 55″ (long-haul). Costs €20-€70 per one-way KLM flight.
>KLM also sells Economy Comfort seat rows which have 4″ more legroom. Costs €10-€160 per one-way KLM flight.
>Preferred Seats such as aisles, windows and 2 seaters can be assigned for €30 on intercontinental flights.
>Buy during booking, “My Trip” or at OLCI/airport kiosk.
>Free for Flying Blue Platinum/Club 2000/Skipper. Gold/Silver members receive 50%/25% discount.

>Exit row seats in economy class can be pre-assigned up to 48 hours before departure.
>Pay €50-€90 for intercontinental flights depending on route.
>Pay €20 for flights within Germany/Europe.
>Standard economy seats can also be reserved for €25 (intercontinental) and €10 (Germany/Europe). Free for passengers on higher fare classes.
>Exit rows may be available for free during OLCI at T-23 hours.
>HON Circle and Senator members get free seat assignment.

>Sells Premium Seats (rows 1-7 plus overwing exit rows, include priority boarding) and Regular Seats (any other seats).
>Pay from €/£10.99 per flight for Premium Seats and from €/£5.99 for Regular Seats.

>Pre-assigned seats can be purchased up to 48 hours before departure.
>Extra legroom (exit row) seats in economy class cost CHF35 (Europe) or CHF99 (Intercontinental).
>Preferred Zone seating (front 4 rows in economy) costs CHF19 (Europe) or CHF49 (Intercontinental).
>Buy during booking, or manage using “Personal overview”.
>Exit rows may be available for free during OLCI at T-23 hours.
>HON Circle and Senator members get free seat assignment.

>Exit Row Seats and are available for pre-purchase from £35/$60 one way.
>Extra Legroom Seats offering 3″ more legroom are also available from £35/$60 one way.
>Seat Plus guarantees the seat next to you remains empty. Subject to availability, from £65/$100 one way.

>Exit Row Seats can be pre-purchased using the SeatSelect facility.
>Prices vary according to length of flight: NZ$5-NZ$10 (domestic), NZ$20-NZ$30 (Tasman/Pacific), NZ$39-NZ$49 (Bali/Honolulu/Perth) and NZ$95 (long-haul).

>Extra Legroom Seats which include exit rows are available for pre-purchase.
>Pay AU$60 for domestic east-west, AU$90 for international medium-haul and AU$180 for international long-haul.
>Standard seats on international flights can be assigned for AU$25 – this is free for Silver/Gold/Platinum Frequent Flyers.

>Extra Legroom seating (exit rows) are available for purchase at booking or using “Manage Booking”.
>Pay AU$20-AU$70 (domestic/international short-haul) and AU$150 (international long-haul).
>Standard seats can be assigned for free.

>Sells Preferred Seats – exit/bulkhead rows in economy class on A380/A330/B777 aircraft.
>4 pricing bands: $20/$40/$60/$100 per flight depending on destination.
>Purchase during booking or using ‘Manage Booking’ up to 48 hours before departure.

>Sells Premium Seats (exit rows + selected first few rows)
>Pay MYR20 for domestic/ASEAN flights, MYR40 for Asia (India, Japan, Korea, Taiwan)/Middle East flights, MYR150 for Europe/China/Australasia flights.
>Purchase at booking or via ‘Manage My Booking’ up to 48 hours before departure.
>Free OLCI from T-48 hours. Exit rows could be available if unsold.

>Sells Extra Legroom seats (exit rows) in economy class.
>Pay US$35 for short-haul flights or US$130 for long-haul flights.
>Book by calling local call centre up to 24 hours before departure or at airport check-in desks.
>Free for Marco Polo/oneworld elite members.

>Standard seats can be pre-assigned for free.
>Exit rows only given at airport check-in, at the discretion of staff and subject to availability.

>Extra Legroom Seats which include exit rows are available for purchase at or after booking.
>Prices $25-$150 per flight sector.

>Sells Preferred Seats including exit rows, bulkheads and front rows.
>Pay $19-$99 (North America) or $69-$199 (international) per one-way flight segment. Free for those on Latitude fares and Altitude elite on certain fares.
>Purchase at booking, ‘Manage My Booking’ or at check-in.

>Main Cabin Extra Seats (include exit rows) generally pre-assigned to AA/oneworld elite and full fare customers only.
>Sells Preferred Seats (nearer front, with standard legroom) from $4 per flight (free for elite/full fare).
>Small possibility of exit row availability at OLCI/check-in.

>Preferred Seats (include exit row seats) freely pre-assigned only to Medallion elite and full fare customers only.
>At OLCI (T-24), any non-assigned Preferred Seat can be purchased for $9-$59 depending on route.
>Delta Comfort+ seats (with up to 4″ more legroom and priority boarding – but not at exit rows) on sale per segment for $9-$99 (US domestic) and $40-$180 (international), free for Diamond/Platinum/full fare, 50%/25% off for Gold/Silver and Skyteam equivalent.

>Sells Even More Space seating (seats with increased legroom up to 38″ pitch which include exit rows)
>Pay $10-$80 per flight depending on route.

>Sells Economy Plus seating (seats with increased legroom which include exit rows) from $9-$119 per flight.
>Economy Plus is free for elite members (1K or Premier Executive) who are more likely to be assigned exit rows.
>Economy Plus annual membership $499.

>Main Cabin Select is located at the front row and exit row. It offers 38″ seat pitch, free food and drinks, entertainment and priority boarding.
>Prices for Main Cabin Select can be hundreds of dollars more than for the standard Main Cabin.
>Elevate elite members can get complimentary upgrades to Main Cabin Select.

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