Dear Trip Advisor: Too fat or too drunk for the exit row

Q: I've seen some very obese people sitting in the exit row. Is it possible to determine beforehand whether or not a person's size would make them incapable of assisting the crew? And what about people having multiple drinks in the exit row? Last night we saw several people served several beers on the plane as they celebrated their team's victory. The responsibilities of sitting in the exit row are always explained at the beginning of a flight -- couldn't they also announce a drink limit then?

A: The extra legroom in the exit row is nice but before you sit there, you have to judge yourself pretty harshly. They're not kidding in that preflight announcement -- you really might have to assist the crew.

So if you can't get out of your seat quickly (because of your weight or for any other reason), you shouldn't sit in the exit row. Ditto if you can't lift a 50-pound door or simply know you'd panic in an emergency. And you also have to stay alert. No taking sleeping pills that make you near-comatose or tossing back several drinks before or during the flight.

While we're discussing drinks, I think limiting the number an exit-row passenger can have is a fine idea. I'm not sure how long your flight was or how many beers each person had, but even without an official rule, the flight attendants should err on the side of cutting people off early. I'd even be behind a "No booze in the exit row" rule. Enjoy the legroom; have a drink when you land.

Can you definitively prove if a passenger is capable of assisting the crew, though? That would be difficult, short of administering physical and psychological fitness tests at the gate. The flight attendants just have to use their best judgment. If they see someone struggling to squeeze into a seat, or to pick up a bag, or, for that matter, acting drunk, they should reseat that passenger. If you, as a passenger, have serious concerns about a passenger in the exit row being able to fulfill his duties, have a discreet word with a flight attendant. There's no need to embarrass anybody, but if you truly feel there's a safety issue, speak up.

Q: What's an appropriate holiday gift for flight attendants? I take the same two flights each week and I'd like to thank the flight attendants I see regularly.

A: I'm not always a big fan of gift cards, but in this case, they're your best option. You don't want to give something bulky or heavy, and a few flight attendants have told me they're not allowed to accept food from passengers. But a gift card from an airport coffee shop or restaurant (enclosed in a card with a nice note) would be perfect.

(E-mail travel-etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at deartripadvisor(at)

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