Passengers who are regular economy class flyers, usually collect a lot of tips and tricks to make their journey more bearable. For some, membership of a frequent flyer program can give a better chance of an elusive upgrade to business class, meaning very comfortable seats, better food, and a more personalized service from cabin crew.
However, on those days when business class is full, passengers have to do without the Napa leather and instead hope for a consolation prize of an exit row seat in economy. These rows, there are usually only one or two in an airliner, are like gold-dust on a busy flight, but while they virtually guarantee you more stretching room, there are consequences and responsibilities associated with sitting in them.
First of all, it is assumed that you are able-bodied and capable of opening and removing the aircraft door if instructed to do so. In this case, being able-bodied also means being able to fend off the arms and legs of other passengers who are trying to get through the exit before you open the door. A panicky passenger has to be seen to be believed. The mob-mentality within a line of panicky passengers does not even bear thinking about, and the middle of an evacuation is not the time for you to decide you are not up to the task at hand, particularly when your face is being crushed against a door that you did not learn how to open.
When you are sitting in the exit row, a member of cabin crew will always ask you if you are prepared to assist them in the evacuation of the aircraft and ask if you have familiarized yourself with how the emergency door operates.
The truth behind this rather cagey request is also to clarify something else: your ability to speak English. If you cannot converse in the international aviation language then you are not permitted to sit in an exit row.
As a courtesy to your fellow passengers, please take the time to balance out the pleasure of extra leg-room with the good practice of running through an evacuation scenario in your head. Have a good look at the door and work out how it operates rather than just paying lip-service to the cabin crew when asked if you understand what you need to do.
They are trusting you to assist in a life-saving chain of events and if you stuff-up then people could die....and die horribly, I might add.
If the worst does happen, and you hear a call to evacuate the aircraft, do not panic. The exit has been designed to operate easily and effectively providing to do exactly what it says in instruction panel. Get out of your seat and put your back to your fellow passengers, as it is much more difficult for them to impede your opening of the door in this way.
Your first task is to observe. It is critical that you do not open the door if there is fire outside. If this is the case then leave via the opposite side of the aircraft. Burning to death is not a good idea.
If there is no fire, open the exit and throw the door towards the rear of the aircraft, this will help to prevent the door getting sucked into a spinning engine, and possibly causing an explosion. Climb out of the aircraft and slide off the wing towards the back of the aircraft. Going to the front can cause you to get sucked into an engine if it is running. Very messy, and your relatives probably won't take kindly to receiving your remains in a barrel of minced flesh and brain-matter.
As soon as your feet touch the ground, run away from the aircraft in a direction that is 45 degrees diagonally from the back. This will keep you in the safest zone. Keep running until you are at least 75 meters from the aircraft or do as directed by any emergency personnel on the ground.
The most important thing is to keep your head when all of those around you are losing theirs!
In the meantime, sit back, relax and enjoy your flight.