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In the emergency exit row, written rules, unwritten rules & growing controversy

As personal space on planes continues to shrink, all eyes are falling on the last place where you can still enjoy a small amount of dignity: the emergency exit row.

The rows leading to the “overwing” emergency exits usually still have the humane 36 inches of space necessary for quick egress during an evacuation. They also are often occupied by experienced air travelers who mind their own business. If you’re not in a special class or in one of the bulkhead seats — those in the first row of the cabin, which also have more legroom — the emergency exit row is the next best place to sit.

But, as many air travelers are discovering, these coveted seats come with their own rules — and not just the written ones laid out in the Code of Federal Regulations and clearly disclosed when you get the seat assignment. There are unwritten rules, too, which can trip up even experienced passengers.

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