I needed a weekend in the woods so I went up to visit the Black Hills in South Dakota where I used to live to see some old friends and experience some winter. I think everyone that lives in Las Vegas needs to get away from it from time to time to stay sane. That is especially true for people that hate the Las Vegas weather like I do.
The airport that serves the Black Hills is Rapid City Regional Airport. I was on Allegiant Air flight 429 this morning from Rapid City back home to Las Vegas.
I always sit in the exit row. On Allegiant Air it costs $15 to buy an exit row seat on this flight. I am 6’2 so it is worth it to me to have the extra leg room. While the flight attendant was going over the evacuation procedure to the exit row occupants, she gave instructions on how to open the emergency exit door. The woman in the exit row across from me, who was sitting in 24F, actually opened the emergency exit door.
She seemed to have thought that we were suppose to test the door to make sure that we could open it. It takes a complete idiot to think that you should ever open an emergency exit on an airplane unless there is an emergency, but her intent was not malicious so that must have been her thought. The flight attendant was in shock and so was anyone that noticed it had happened.
She put the door back in place once she realized that she had messed up. The pilots came back to check out the door. They fixed the latch on it and checked to make sure it was sealed. I was quite surprised that she was not thrown off of the plane. She was probably in her 60′s or older, so maybe her age got her some leniency. I was more surprised that she was still sitting in the exit row.
A few minutes went by and one of the flight attendants came back and told the woman that the pilots said that she must leave the exit row. She actually suggested that she should be able to exchange seats with her husband in the middle seat of the exit row. Thankfully, the crew denied her request. Anyone that is dense enough to think that they should open an exit row door on an airplane does not need to be in charge of an evacuation, no matter how unlikely it is.
The woman was forced to move up a few rows away from the exits to another empty seat. The crew checked the door one last time and we took off. I overheard the crew discussing how they had never heard of this happening before and there was an overall disbelief. For the first time ever, I was a bit nervous taking off. The rest of the flight went fine and we were just about on time to Las Vegas, even with this incident.
I was impressed with how the Allegiant Air crew handled it. I was really surprised that they allowed her to stay on the plane, but see in hindsight that many other problems may have been created if she was booted. If she had luggage, we would have been delayed while they found it. Her husband was also on the flight. There may even be some security procedure that may have created a major delay if she was removed from the plane. The whole thing was an honest mistake, but anyone with common sense would have never made a mistake like this.
I was looking to revive my writing with this trip. At least this incident gave me something to write about. Every time I fly on an airplane from now on I am going to picture that woman with the exit door in her arms and the exit doorway wide open. I wish I could have gotten a picture of it but the crew had already instructed everyone to turn off cell phones.