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On 13 July 2007 my father (Hindro) and I boarded Batavia Air from Jakarta to Bali to attend a wedding. We were seated on row 14 (me on the aisle and my father in between me and the window seat) of Boeing 737 aircraft that seemed to be much older than the average age of the flight crew. One stewardess told us that everyone on aisle 14 were supposed to be aware of the "overwing emergency exit door/hatch" on the starboard (right) and port (left) and that whoever is sitting closest to it should operate it in an emergency.
Having flown in several of 737s before (mostly in Northern America), I noticed that there was a window seat on our row (on other flights, there is NO windows seat at emergency exit!). Normally, there is never a window seat on a row leading to the overwing emergency exit door/hatch so that the door can be pulled opened towards the cabin/inside of the plane. With doubts in my mind, I quickly asked the stewardess: "how are we supposed to open it in case of emergency with a window seat in the way?" Her reaction perhaps could be best described as as "blur like sotong" (Singaporeans lingo for "duh, I don't know, s don't ask me. I am ignorant!"). The "klimis" (meaning: with wet-look hairstyle) gentleman sitting next to my dad said to me: "Come on lah, the crew knows what's best and safe for us!". Then I looked at him and said: "Now, why don't you show me how you could open that with you sitting there!". While saying that I noticed that his armrest is fastened to the emergency door with a plate and a screw! I pointed the screw to him and it made no impact on this mind.
Since there was nothing I could do while the plane is on taxi, I just hoped that there would be no need to open the emergency door. By the way, I am lucky to still be alive today.
To give you an illustration of what I mean by the normal layout of a Boeing 737, please have a look at these:
You can see above that the middle of the plane has an overwing emergency door/hatch on each side and it is up to the passengers sitting adjacent to them to operate them in an emergency; they are quite heavy and cumbersome - the evacuation path is off the rear of the wing. Because of this, there are rules governing what type of passenger may be seated there. They must not be: elderly, handicapped, pregnant, obese, a child or a deportee under escort.
The photo above shows a normal Boeing 737 layout, which has no window seat at emergency door/hatch so that you could lift it in an emergency. Batavia Air, however, has a window seat exactly at this spot and its armrest is fastened with a screw and a metal plate to the door itself. Potential problem in an emergency.
The top layout is the standard way of arranging the seats in all Boeing 737 variants. However, the yellow squares in the bottom layout shows that Batavia Air has those seats blocking the emergency exit.
If you know any IATA personnel please let them know so that they could warn Batavia Air to remove the seats that are blocking the overwing emergency exits as shown above. I hope that the next time I fly Batavia Air things would have been resolved to meet safety standards.