There are certain rows of the aircraft designated as exit rows. You can tell if you are in an exit row if there is an emergency exit around the window. People seating in exit rows should be prepared to assist the flight attendants and other passengers should the aircraft need to be evacuated in an emergency. An exit row passenger should be physically capable of opening the heavy, bulky exit row door, should be able to assist passengers, should be able to see and hear instructions shouted by the flight attendants. The passenger must be over the age of 15.
If you feel qualified to help in the case of an emergency, and you find yourself seated in an exit row, then just stay put. However, if you are disabled, easily flustered, elderly or for any reason at all unwilling to sit in the exit row, just let the flight attendants know and they will change your seat with someone else. You don't have to give any reason. Just say you don't want to do it and would like a change. After all, switching seats and letting a more experienced traveler sit in the exit row might end up being beneficial to all passengers should an emergency arise.
As the airplane is moving out to the runway, the flight attendants will give you a brief safety demonstration. The high point is the operation of the oxygen mask.
I have been on hundreds of flights. ***NEVER, EVER***, repeat, never, ever have I seen the oxygen masks in use. There are people on this board who could tell you the same thing. However, there is always the first time.
If the plane loses oxygen pressure for any reason, the oxygen masks will drop down out of the small overhead compartment. (Look up in your seat and you will see a small panel, which covers the compartment.) If that happens, put the mask over your nose and mouth. You might have to tug slightly on the gas line to start the flow of gas. (This way, gas does not flow to empty seats.) There is an elastic band on the mask, which should go behind your head. Relax, and breathe normally.
If you are seated next to someone who might need some assistance, such as a child, an individual with limited physical or mental capabilities or just a sleepy, groggy spouse, you should put your own mask on first, then breathe normally as you assist the other person. That way, if the other struggles, you will have a steady flow of oxygen as you fight the person to get their mask on.
Remember, this is an extremely infrequent occurrence. Many, many frequent flyers can say they have never seen the oxygen masks drop. Our airplane seat is equipped with a seat belt. You should buckle the seat belt when you sit down, and it should remain buckled during take off, landing, or when there is turbulence.
If you are unsure, there are lighted "seat belt" signs through the aircraft. If the sign is lit up, then buckle up. If it is not lit up, you can unbuckle it. However, many experienced flyers leave it buckled whenever they are in their seat. I do, too. Why not? One tip about seat belts:
If you decided to sleep, put your blanket over your body, then buckle the seat belt over the blanket. If, later during the flight, the seat belt light comes on, the flight attendants will be able to see you are buckled up without having to remove the blanket and wake you up.
When you sit in your seat, do a quick check to see where your nearest emergency exit is. Figure that the aircraft might be full of smoke, or it might be dark with no interior lights. Therefore, mentally count the seats so you could find your way in smoke or the dark. ("Hmmmm...one, two, three, four rows then turn right.") Then relax, and pull out your book or magazine.
There is one final, very important point to make. On most US domestic flights, smoking is prohibited. On some international flights, smoking is allowed only in certain designated smoking rows. On those flights you may smoke only while seated in your seat, but not in the aisles. If you are standing with a lit cigarette, and there is a bump of unexpected turbulence, you might lose your balance and the cigarette might burn someone. You may only smoke cigarettes, but not pipes or cigars.
In addition to smoking being prohibited from the aircraft, many air terminals are now banning smoking from all but a few places. The end result is that a passenger must go many hours without a puff. This drives people crazy. Some try to sneak a smoke in the airplane bathroom. Folks, this is one of the MOST DANGEROUS things you can do. The airplane bathroom is full of paper. The waste bin is full of used paper towels. The airplane is pressurized with oxygen. Throwing a smoldering cigarette into the waste paper bin turns the airplane into a flying bomb. The airlines have installed smoke detectors in the airplane bathrooms, and the flight attendants are authorized to break down the door with a fire extinguisher in their hands if the lavatory smoke detector goes off.
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