With the exception of the front row, airlines give everyone a tray table for their enjoyment during the flight. Why do they not put a tray table on the wall in front of the front row?

  • 7
    Because it's built in to the seat armrest instead. Mar 29, 2017 at 2:07
  • 1
    @GregHewgill And they can't make one for the front row built into the wall?
    – DonielF
    Mar 29, 2017 at 2:18
  • 1
    @DonielF the wall is too far away, and would weaken the structure.
    – user29788
    Mar 29, 2017 at 14:45
  • While catching up on some catering changes, I have been reminded that a few old British Airways planes do have fold down tables installed on the front bulkhead: 1, 2. These planes are all pretty old though.
    – Calchas
    Mar 31, 2017 at 15:15

4 Answers 4


Although this occasionally happens, the front wall is usually too far away from the seat for this to be feasible. You would have to have a long telescopic mount for this to work, and it would have to be carefully aligned in height and in horizontal position to match the seat. It is easier to place the tray in the arm rest; then you only have to order the right type of seat and you get a tray table for free.

Also, the front row is not the only place where there is no seat immediately in front; often around exits on larger jets you have the same problem; the seat in front is too far away.

Sometimes there is a fold-down shelf at the front row, a bassinet (a place where you can rest your baby during the flight). It is too far away from the seat to comfortably dine on, but it is often convenient place to put your laptop while you're watching a film.

  • "carefully aligned in height and horizontal position": or adjustable. Exit row seats have the trays in the armrest not because of the distance to the next row, but because the armrest tray doesn't block passage from the main aisle to the emergency exit. I've been in many planes where the row in front of the exit row has "normal" seats with tray tables, but the tray tables have been fastened in place so they cannot be lowered.
    – phoog
    Mar 29, 2017 at 14:34
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    Even if the mount were adjustable, making sure it stays stationary relative to the seat it is meant for will be a harder task the longer the mounting arm needs to be. Mar 29, 2017 at 14:42
  • @phoog Isn't the question about the front row at a bulkhead, not necessarily an exit row? You do get bassinets at bulkhead seats and if deployed they would impede the exit of anyone in the front row.
    – Calchas
    Mar 29, 2017 at 15:07
  • @Calchas I agree that the question is about the front row at the bulkhead; you brought up exit rows in your second paragraph.
    – phoog
    Mar 29, 2017 at 15:25
  • @phoog .... touché. :)
    – Calchas
    Mar 29, 2017 at 15:57

Front row seats have tables actually. They fold out from the armrest. On planes with entertainment modules, there is often one also in the arm-rest. Both fold out so you have something to eat on and watch in-flight entertainment.

The reason it is not built into the wall is probably for security, plus on many planes that would be too far to be useful as a table at least.

  • 1
    Also many of the walls are not permanent; they're modular and can be reconfigured. They probably therefore have a maximum weight, which might be another reason.
    – phoog
    Mar 29, 2017 at 14:34

Just a few key points:

  • The tray table is folded in the armrest for bulkhead and Exit Row seats.
  • The bulkhead is usually too far forward to be practical for a tray table. The spacing issue is also present in many premium cabins, particularly domestic.
  • The bulkhead also usually too far forward to be practical for touchscreen IFE controls, hence the screen is also screen also mounted to the seat.

Exit Row trays are in the armrest because seat mounted trays are very easy to knock loose, thus blocking the exit. This is also the case for Bulkhead+Exit Rows.


If they put a tray table on the wall in front of the front row, then it will be uncomfortable for the passengers as there are number of different people traveling in the flight..every people need some things within every interval..and if they go from their seats to the front row and then came back..this will create a mess in the flight like a fair..and also the air hostesses face problem to serve the passengers..

  • 3
    I'm not sure I follow.
    – DonielF
    Mar 29, 2017 at 4:04
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    @DonielF I think arya_amit is assuming that there will only be tables in the front row, which all passengers will take turns in using...
    – Berwyn
    Mar 29, 2017 at 4:12
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    I think @DonielF is contemplating that just the front row's tray tables are located in the bulkhead (instead of the armrests), not that the entire plane shares a communal table at the front of the plane. While I agree that would indeed be impractical, that's not what is being asked here, so this doesn't really answer the question Mar 29, 2017 at 6:17

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