The picture on the left was taken by a flight attendant from American Airlines to show her management what she had to deal with on the flight. The article, which you can read here, got me thinking about a flight I took nine months ago.
The flight was from Brisbane, Australia to Dubai, UAE and when I checked in, I asked for a window seat (my favorite) but was told the flight was wholly booked from Singapore (the connection) to Dubai. All they had were middle seats.
The ticket agent got me a window seat on the first leg, but I was told I would have to move to a middle seat once in Singapore.
“Well you can't win them all and no worries,” I thought.
My flight from Brisbane to Singapore was OK, about half full.
When they boarded the connection passengers though, I changed to my middle seat and was “stuck” between two very, very large people.
On my left was a larger German man who made Hulk Hogan look small, and on my right was a lady from India that easily tripled most women in size.
Both stole the armrest on each side of me, leaving me sitting with my hands in my lap like a child.
Still thinking “No worries, only a 6-hour flight and can make it.”
I tried to jockey for some leg room but failed as both were so large that they couldn't fit their legs under the seat in front of them. This left me with four legs in my area: my two, and one each from my fellow passengers.
I'm not a larger person at all, and stand 5'8″ (178 cm) and weigh 160 lbs (73 kg), but I found myself with my head down, arms crossed and my legs crossed one-over-the-other in a strained position for the duration of the flight.
I didn't say a word to anyone and just kept to myself, but when we landed I couldn't walk!
Seriously, because of the cramping position I was in, I had strained my ankles so much that I could barely put pressure on them.
I walked off the plane looking like a disabled person, and for three days I walked as fast as an 80-year-old woman with a stroller.
I wasn't so much mad because of this. I was just in pain, and for what reason?
I paid good money for my seat but only got to use half of it. I saw the above picture in the article this week, and it got me thinking.
After doing some research, there isn't anything consistent about this subject when it comes to the policy of the airlines.
- United Airlines: policy is that if a flight attendant can't find two open seats in coach, then larger passengers must buy a second seat, upgrade to business class or even get bumped from sold-out flights.
- Air France: says that those with a “high body mass” can buy a second seat for 25 percent off and can be bumped from the flight if they refuse.
- American Airlines: doesn't have a hard and fast rule, but passengers who weigh more than 250 pounds are told there “may be limitations to the service the airline can provide.”
- Southwest and Midwest Airlines: requires their larger passengers to purchase a second seat but will refund the extra fare if there are empty seats on the flight.
- Delta Airlines: speaks vaguely about not wanting to discriminate against any of its passengers.
- JetBlue: requires obese passengers to buy a second seat, no refund given even if the plane ends up flying practically empty
I know this is a very sensitive subject, but as more and more people are flying it is one that is affecting people and should be addressed.
In Canada, a law has been passed barring Canadian airlines from discriminating against “clinically” obese customers. But who decides who is “clinically” obese. Does one have to have a doctor's note?
Is it fair to make one passenger suffer when he/she paid the same (maybe more) for a seat but is overtaken by his neighbor?
It would be like renting a hotel room for yourself only to have to share it with a family that has rented one room but doesn't have the bed space for everyone, thus taking the spare bed in your room.
Some say it's unethical; others say it's unfair for the other passengers, who is right and who is wrong?
I think the real question is why haven't the airlines gotten together on this subject and addressed it consistently.
Is Delta Airlines saving so much business by staying vague about this subject versus JetBlue who has made a firm stance on it?
There have been legal actions taken by some. In 2002, a woman from the UK won a settlement from Virgin Airlines for just over $20,000 (€13,500) because she was crushed by an obese person sitting next to her during an 11-hour flight.
A Frenchman who weighed 170 kg (375 lbs) won a court case against Air France after a crew member wrapped him in packing tape to prove that he was too large for a single seat, thus making him buy a second seat.
Who defines if someone is obese, or just large?
Would it be fair if the large person (think Great Khali from WWE Wrestling who has a body fat of five percent but weighs 420 lbs) that isn't obese but just a huge person have to pay for two seats, but someone who is “clinically” obese doesn't?
If the airlines charge an obese person for two seats, then why can't all-you-can-eat-buffets charge double for the same person? What are your thoughts on this subject?