Southwest Airlines took to social media to congratulate passengers who stay seated until it’s their row’s turn to deplane. By implication they’re criticizing those who stand up immediately once the plane pulls into the gate and the captain turns off the seat belt sign. This strikes me as misguided.

— Jeremy Danner (@Jeremy_Danner) December 2, 2022

It may seem more civil to wait in your seat than to rush into the aisles. However, it's possible.

  • If everyone waits to get up, it takes longer to deplane the aircraft. That’s because when you get up in the aisle, you remove your bags from the overhead bin. Each passenger not getting their bag until the row ahead has gotten up means several extra seconds per passenger to deplane. It takes longer to turn an aircraft that way, leading to delays – bad for passengers, and especially bad for the airline which needs to schedule longer sit times and winds up with less efficient aircraft utilization and higher costs.
  • When you’re in a coach seat on a several hours-long flight (remember – Southwest flies transcons and to Hawaii!) it’s totally reasonable to stand up and get out of that seat as quickly as possible. Why be forced to sit any longer than necessary?
  • If the passenger in the aisle gets up, then the passenger in the middle has more space – something they’ve been denied throughout the flight. It’s rude to keep the middle seat passenger hemmed when they don’t have to be.

It was a common practice for airlines to tell passengers to remain seated and stand only by row in order to reduce the number of people taking items out of overhead bins at the same time. It meant more time on the plane for most airlines when the engines were off, which meant that the air purification system wasn't working. Many European airlines had to wait longer on the plane in order to crowd into buses after arriving at a hard stand.

Try to make room for the passenger in the middle seat to stretch out, but there's no need to cram into the aisles immediately. It is not reasonable to criticize passengers for getting up to stretch and for getting their carry on bags down.

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