WASHINGTON — The nation's airlines will be under orders beginning Friday to fill seats in exit rows only with passengers able and willing to open emergency doors and help evacuate the aircraft if an emergency should occur.
Under the new procedures, gate agents at each airport will assign the exit row seats to passengers who meet those requirements and appear able and willing to perform emergency functions.
Information cards will be provided at exit row seats describing the functions passengers sitting there may have to perform during an emergency.
Flight attendants will describe these functions before each flight.
The new rules were issued by the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure that in emergency situations, people sitting near exit doors are able to understand instructions in English and are able and willing to carry them out.
"This is an important safety initiative," said William Hoover, executive vice president of the Air Transport Assn., which represents the nation's airlines.
"Airline accidents are rare, but when they do happen it is essential that the people seated in exit rows are capable of hearing and understanding instructions, opening emergency exits and assisting their fellow passengers in an evacuation of the aircraft," Hoover said.
The FAA describes an exit row seat as one from which passengers may go directly to an exit without stepping first into an aisle.