Over the summer American Airlines began offering complimentary (and unlimited) drinks in their Main Cabin Extra seating, coach seats with more legroom. They consider exit rows to be Main Cabin Extra, in contrast to Delta which calls their ‘Comfort+’ seats the section at the front of the economy cabin.
Back in June I wrote about flight attendant concerns with offering unlimited alcohol to Main Cabin Extra passengers.
It turns out the concern was one of customer expectations, that flight attendants would be at their beck and call to serve them drinks whenever they wished, rather than about passenger overconsumption. After all, first class passengers get unlimited complimentary alcohol too already. And coach passengers can buy as much as they want today.
Jonathan G. asks about “having a non/sober person handling the emergency window for prompt exit should it be required.”
I do not know of any airline which offers alcohol on board and that has a policy not to serve over wing passengers.
Airlines fly aircraft all the time without anyone sitting in the exit rows. It is not a safety requirement that someone be there to open exit doors.
Having done it I can say that exit doors open quite easily. I wouldn’t be worried about someone that has had a few drinks trying to open it.
The concern I’d have is someone that was so sauced they were a roadblock to exiting the aircraft. I’m concerned though with any similarly inebriated passenger who would get in the way of an orderly evacuation of the aircraft.
Flight attendants do stop serving passengers who are visibly intoxicated. I’ve also known flight attendants to cut off exit row passengers earlier, though I’m not sure that’s strictly speaking necessary.
If you were to ban passengers in the exit row from drinking on board you’d also want to ensure they don’t drink prior to flight. It’s not enough to rely on a flight attendant noticing visual cues during the preflight safety briefing of exit row passengers, because if they had just downed their last drink in the terminal prior to getting on board they might not be drunk yet when they acknowledge their exit row duties. The alcohol could affect them a little bit further into flight.
I really see the ‘alcohol in the exit row’ question as little different than ‘alcohol on a plane’. Passengers behave badly. When they do they sometimes put the aircraft at risk. And so do passengers who bring other challenges on board. Flying is incredibly small-d democratic. With hundreds of millions of people in the air a small percentage of those will always present a risk.
What do you think? Should exit row passengers be permitted to drink when they fly? And how would this be managed without relying on the judgments of thousands of individual flight attendants?