Should Budget Carriers Charge More for Exit Row Seats?

      May 12, 2015 12:53

      Korean low-cost carriers have stirred up controversy for charging customers more for emergency exit row seats. The seats are next to the emergency doors and offer more legroom than ordinary seats in return for a short statement of willingness to man the doors in an emergency.

      Jeju Air was the first Korean carrier to start the practice in April last year, charging W15,000 to W30,000 more on international flights and W5,000 more on domestic flights (US$1=W1,093).

      Other budget carriers followed suit. Now T'way charges W4,000 to W20,000 extra and Jin Air W7,000 more on domestic flights.

      The budget carriers plead narrow margins and claim the practice is already standard among overseas carriers.

      Foreign no-frills airlines like Air Asia, easyJet, Ryanair and Peach Aviation do charge extra for exit row seats -- in the case of Air Asia a whopping W59,000 more on flights from Incheon to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

      Cathay Pacific and Air France whack a staggering US$100-200 on exit row seats on long-haul flights.

      But detractors say the seats should be reserved for passengers who are able and willing to help other people escape in case of an emergency. International aviation regulations require carriers to allocate exit row seats only to passengers who are deemed physically capable of opening the emergency doors and who understand the instructions of cabin crew.

      Korean Air and Asiana Airlines do not sell designated exit row seats, and only airline staff at ticketing counters are allowed to allocate seats.

      One executive at a flag carrier said, "Some airlines charge extra for exit row seats, but they're ignoring safety by doing that and are only interested in making money. Passengers in exit row seats are required to assist cabin crew and be among the last to leave the aircraft in emergencies. How can you expect such responsibility from people who pay more for the seats?"

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