Passengers Admonished To Stay Seated Until It’s Their Row’s Turn To Deplane

Southwest Airlines took to social media to congratulate passengers who stay seated until it’s their row’s turn to deplane. By implication they’re criticizing those who stand up immediately once the plane pulls into the gate and the captain turns off the seat belt sign. This strikes me as misguided.

— Jeremy Danner (@Jeremy_Danner) December 2, 2022

It may seem more ‘civilized’ to wait patiently in your seat, rather than everyone rushing into the aisles. However,

  • If everyone waits to get up, it takes longer to deplane the aircraft. That’s because when you get up in the aisle, you remove your bags from the overhead bin. Each passenger not getting their bag until the row ahead has gotten up means several extra seconds per passenger to deplane. It takes longer to turn an aircraft that way, leading to delays – bad for passengers, and especially bad for the airline which needs to schedule longer sit times and winds up with less efficient aircraft utilization and higher costs.

  • When you’re in a coach seat on a several hours-long flight (remember – Southwest flies transcons and to Hawaii!) it’s totally reasonable to stand up and get out of that seat as quickly as possible. Why be forced to sit any longer than necessary?

  • If the passenger in the aisle gets up, then the passenger in the middle has more space – something they’ve been denied throughout the flight. It’s rude to keep the middle seat passenger hemmed when they don’t have to be.

It was a common early pandemic procedure for some airlines to instruct passengers to remain seated and stand only by row, so that fewer people would be taking items out of overhead bins at once, in order to reduce congestion in the aisles. That meant more time on the plane on most airlines when the engines and APU were off, which meant (depending on aircraft) that HEPA air filtration wasn’t occurring. And in the case of many European airlines it meant waiting longer on the plane in order to crowd into buses after arriving at a hard stand.

There’s no real obligation to cram into the aisles immediately (though try to make room for the passenger in the middle seat to stretch out). But it’s not reasonable to criticize passengers for getting up to stretch, and to get their carry on bags down in order to deplane efficiently.

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