Exit row seats are those that are next to the emergency exit on a plane, which may be near exit row doors or next to the wing.

Most people thinking about booking an exit row seat first and foremost want to know if they recline or not.

Generally, most exit row seats won’t recline, but it can depend on the row, airline you are the flying with and the fleet of planes the airline operates.

So you can make the right decision on your next flight, let’s look into more detail whether exit row seats recline, and if exit row seats are the best place to sit on a plane or not.

Do Exit Row Seats Recline?

As mentioned, whether an exit row seat reclines or not will depend on the row, airline you are flying with and the fleet of planes the airline operates.


  • If a plane has a double row of exit row seats, seats in the first exit row won’t recline so not to block the exit in the event of an emergency.
  • Seats in front of the exit row won’t recline.
  • An exit row seat is less likely to recline if you are flying on a larger narrow-body and wide-body jet.

Wide body jets include:

  1. Airbus A300
  2. Airbus A310
  3. Airbus A330
  4. Airbus A340
  5. Airbus A350
  6. Airbus A380
  7. Boeing 747
  8. Boeing 767
  9. Boeing 777
  10. Boeing 787

Large narrow-body jets include:

  1. Airbus A320
  2. Airbus A321
  3. Boeing 737
  4. Boeing 757
  5. Boeing B737 Max

When booking your seat, the airline will usually tell you whether the seat you choose won’t be able to recline, so you won’t be in for any unexpected surprises when you step onboard and take your seat.

Exit Row Seats Still Have Tray Tables

Exit row seats don’t have tray tables that drop down from the back of the seat in front of it, like all the other seats on the plane.

Instead, exit row seats have a tray table that is located in and pops out of the armrest of the seat.

But No Windows

Often an exit row seat won’t have a window, or if it does, it might be strangely aligned compared to the other seats on the plane.

Exit Row Seats Have More Leg Room

Exit row seats may be narrower due to their fixed armrests, but they will usually offer more legroom than other seats on a plane, which is why they are popular with passengers.

They Will Still Have a TV

If the plane you are flying on has a TV behind each seat, exit row seats will also have a TV.

Typically, the TV on exit row seats are either mounted on the bulkhead or stored in the armrest of the seat.

Can You Put Your Bag Under Your Seat in an Exit Row?

If the exit row seat is also a bulkhead row, you will likely be asked to store your bag in the overhead bin, as there won’t be a seat in front of you.

If not, an airline may allow you to place your bag in the seat in front of you or under your seat, though this is by no means guaranteed.

Not All Passengers Can Sit in an Exit Row Seat

Any passenger who sits in an exit row seat is responsible for operating emergency exits.

So, not every passenger can sit in an exit row seat due to the responsibility that comes with sitting in such a seat.

Generally, you can sit in an exit row seat if:

  • You are an adult (at least 15 years old as defined by most airlines).
  • You can speak the primary language of the crew members.
  • You are healthy and have enough strength, mobility, and dexterity to open the emergency exit.
  • You are not visually impaired or deaf, and can communicate verbally.
  • You do not have other responsibilities on the flight, such as taking care of children seated elsewhere.
  • You do not suffer from a pre-existing condition or mental health issue that could hinder your ability to act in an emergency.
  • You are not pregnant.
  • You are not traveling with a pet in the cabin, as the carry-on crate is not allowed to be stored under an exit row seat.

Pros & Cons of Exit Row Seats

Pros of Exit Row Seats

  • More legroom
  • May get served first
  • Won’t be seated next to babies/kids

Cons of Exit Row Seats

  • Seat may not recline or not recline fully
  • May not have a window
  • TV in an awkward position
  • May be colder
  • May be seated near the airplane toilet
  • Armrest may not be able to be lifted fully
  • Need to assist in an emergency
  • May have to put your carry-on luggage in the overhead
  • Costs more

Which Exit Row Seat is the Best?

As the seats in the first exit row won’t recline so not to block the exit in the event of an emergency, the best exit row seat is one in the second row.

How to Book an Exit Row Seat

Exit rows seats aren’t necessarily available to any passenger.

It can depend on whether you meet the exit row requirements listed above, as well as airline policy.

For example, some airlines like Alaska Airlines only allow Mileage Plan elite members to book exit row seats in advance, while other airlines like Delta won’t allow any passenger flying on a Delta Basic Economy fare to pay extra for Preferred or Comfort+ seating.

Other airlines like JetBlue and American Airlines will let you book an exit row seat if you are willing to pay more.

Most airlines charge extra for exit row seats too, due to their benefits compared to other seats on a plane.

Some airlines will offer frequent fliers the chance to reserve exit row seats first, while others won’t let standard passengers book them at all.

Generally, on a domestic flight in the U.S., it can cost $20-$200 to book an exit row seat.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).