Trains, planes, TSA, and exit row seating compliance

Yesterday could only be described as a comedy of errors of sorts.

I arrived at Tri-Cities Regional Airport (TN/VA), checked my Wine Check without incident, passed through security, checked e-mail, etc. Boarding was announced for the plane, which was a few minutes late arriving. Pre-boards and people needing extra time boarded first. I saw one lady board. Zone 1 was next, so I boarded and discovered the pre-board seated to me in the exit row, which I thought was probably not appropriate if she needed extra time to board. I wondered why the flight attendant didn’t notice and switch her with somone else. During the exit row spiel, she even said, “I didn’t even know I was in the exit row, but I will do whatever I need to do.” The flight attendant’s eyes lit up, but she still didn’t move the passenger. I tweeted, “‎@Delta Why is a special assist pre-board in the exit row?” and one of the @DeltaAssist team send me a private message asking for the flight information, so they could follow up.

We departed and it was the longest 45 minutes of my life, as this 65-year-old woman (yes, she told me her age) with some sort of nerve battery implant (why she was a pre-board) told me about her entire life, family, and how she ended up on the flight. She had missed her delayed US Airways flight because despite having medical documentation of the implant, was subjected to not just a secondary search, but one behind the curtain, a full-on, comprehensive body search. She appeared frazzled and shaken from it all, and told me she hadn’t flown in years. I felt sorry for her and at the same time thought, “This passenger should not be sitting here.” Once we landed, I told her to see a gate agent and to check the monitors in Atlanta to obtain to her connecting flight gate. Incidentally, she had shown me her other boarding pass and she was also seated in the exit row on that flight.

I wished her safe travels and visited the Delta Sky Club before heading to my departure gate. Unfortunately, when I boarded the train to my next concourse, it was declared inoperable, so we had to disembark and walk to our concourses.

Once at the gate, we boarded and were ready to depart at 5:40 p.m. when two mechanics boarded. The pilot announced that the forward lavatory was broken, but would be repaired quickly. The mechanics exited and the gate agent tried to shut the door, but it appeared jammed.  It took about three people to finally get it shut and we backed away from the gate. This was a 757-200 with individual in-flight entertainment at all seats, so one of the flight attendants turned on the safety video. It froze, so the flight attendants scrambled to find seatbelts and face masks and gave the fastest pre-departure safety presentation I’ve ever seen. We departed about 25 minutes past the originally scheduled departure time.

After all of this, my trip settled down. I used coupons to purchase a snack box and beer and enjoyed Gogo Inflight Internet on my iPad until we landed 31 minutes early at LaGuardia. My Wine Check, priority tagged and marked fragile, was the third bag to arrive on the carousel.

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2 thoughts on “Trains, planes, TSA, and exit row seating compliance

  1. Wow! You always have the most “entertaining” flights!

    That this passenger was not reseated is a real safety concern. It would not have been that hard for the FA to find a fit volunteer looking for a better seat. We probably won’t know what Delta does, but I hope they use this as an opportunity to improve.

    I don’t know what to say about your seatmate’s TSA experience. If we’re going to do the feel-up thing (which I don’t think we should be doing), then it’s important that all anomalies are checked. It would be a very good way for a bad guy to bring something stupid onto an aircraft.

  2. Interestingly, before we departed, a passenger in row one had to be re-seated due to weight and balance issues. When the flight attendant announced that the passenger would need to move to exit row seat 8F, a big guy jumped at the chance to move, so I think it would have been easy for her to ask someone to switch with this lady. In fact, the flight attendant should have noticed that she was seated in the exit row and re-seated her before the rest of us boarded. I feel confident that Delta will follow up. As to TSA, the lady told me she was not subjected to a search at DTW (her originating airport), so she didn’t understand why they subjected her to it at TRI. I think that common sense should be exercised in cases like this. A basic patdown and/or wanding would have sufficed.

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