Where to sit on planes, in case of fire.

August 18, 2008 at 11:22 pm (frightening things) ()

Since becoming Lost obsessed, I’ve started to fly differently. Once calm and comfortable with air travel, I now take special note of who is around me, and fearfully wonder who among my fellow passengers might make a good boar hunter and who’d be the first to suffer a fatal accident should we crash-land on a mysterious island somewhere in the south pacific…

I worry about comparatively more mundane accidents as well (like running out of fuel mid-flight and not being able to land safely, of getting large and destructive airborne objects caught in the engine and falling downwards through the sky). Or fires. Luckily, the Times provides tips for surviving that last dreadful scenario.

They’re few, and pretty obvious: sit in an aisle seat within five aisles of an emergency exit. But it’s nice to know numbers.

Passengers sitting towards the front of the aircraft had a 65 per cent chance of escaping a fire, while the survival rate for those at the rear was 53 per cent. The survival rate in aisle seats was 64 per cent, compared with 58 per cent for other passengers.


The study found that the passengers who died were on average sitting more than twice as far away from a usable exit as those who survived. Some of the dead, most of whom were killed by toxic fumes, were sitting 15 rows from the nearest usable exit.

Now don’t be fighting me for those seats!



  1. Iz said,

    And according to the book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach, the number one factor affecting who survives plane crashes is gender. Men are more likely to live than women, assumedly because they are more willing to fight their way to the exist.

  2. Emily said,

    Yikes! I remember the book pretty well, but not that part.

  3. Daisy said,

    I remember that part. I thought it was because of brute strength, though, not will to live, which I’m quite sure is not correlated with gender. A situation like that becomes a survival of the fittest (strongest) contest, so children, the elderly, and the physically disabled all die first, then women, then men… I’d bet money that young, able-bodied women are more likely to live than old or physically disabled men, and that gender isn’t a factor among prepubescent children.

  4. Daisy said,

    It’s a classic “correlation is not causation” thing, is what I’m trying to say.

  5. Emily said,

    Yeah, Daisy, I think that makes sense.

  6. Daran said,

    Another possible explanation is that more men travel alone or only with work colleagues, while women tend to travel with family.

    Analysis of behaviour in real emergencies showed that many passengers delayed their escape to help friends or relatives. People travelling with colleagues, however, appeared to focus on their own survival and head straight for the exit.


  7. Emily said,

    Good point, Daran.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: