Dear the Editor,
I was on a recent flight on Vietnam Airlines on September 04, 2011 (Flight No. VN1166) and noticed this unusual seating arrangement aboard the aircraft where part of the emergency exit was blocked by rows of seats on both sides. It seems highly unlikely that any safety board would approve this. Could you find an explanation for such an arrangement?
Dear Mr/Ms Sai Truong,
We have contacted the Section of Safety, Quality and Security of Vietnam Airlines about your inquiries. Here are the explanations:
The photo provided by reader Sai Truong shows part of the emergency exit on a Vietnam Airlines aircraft that is blocked by seats on both sides.
Vietnam Airlines' planes meet all of the authorities' safety requirements and have been granted both the Type Certificate and the Export Airworthiness Certificate. The aeroplanes are also regularly inspected by the Civil Aviation Authority of Viet Nam.
According to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a safe aeroplane must be designed to ensure that passengers can escape through the exit doors on one side of the aeroplane within 90 seconds (that means only half of the total exit doors, in a worst case scenario). The aeroplane in the photo provided by Mr/Ms Sai Truong looks like the Airbus A321 with a maximum capacity to carry 182-184 passengers.
On Airbus A321, there are four exit doors on each side of the aeroplane. Three of them are Type C, which allows 55 persons to escape within 90 seconds, while the one left (the exit that you took photo of) is of Type III, which allows 35 to escape within 90 seconds, as the alley leading to it is narrowed because of seat arrangement. With some calculation, we can see that the four exit doors on one side allow the escapes of 3x55 + 35 = 200 persons, which is higher than the number of passengers onboard.