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Large airline passengers

overweight passenger

You may have experienced it - a large passenger plunges into the seat next to you, leaving you zero chance of using the armrest you share, and perhaps spilling over the armrest onto your seat. Or maybe you are that large passenger - and no doubt it's just as uncomfortable for you as for the the person next to you.

 

 

 

Springbok crushes All Black

The following anecdote from James Blackburn inspired this article: "A large woman from South Africa sat on the aisle seat on our flight from Auckland to Singapore. Not only did she encroach on my wife's seating space but the arm rest between them had no chance of being lowered. The lady was unable to lower her table to eat from, so she had to support her tray with one hand after getting either my wife or airline staff to cut up her food for her, and needed a member of staff to assist her out of her seat every time she wanted to stretch or use the toilet. Worst of all, her location meant a journey completely devoid of any opportunity to exercise or use the facilities ourselves as the aggravation wasn't worth it. Ironic that we relatively active people were exposing ourselves to an increased DVT risk as a result of this person."

 

Virgin Atlantic pays compensation

In 2002, Virgin Atlantic paid a Mrs Hewson US$20,289 compensation, after she was crushed by a heavily overweight person who sat next to her. The overweight passenger could not fit into her seat unless the arm rest was raised, which meant her her body parts rested Mrs Hewson. Hewson suffered a blood clot in her chest, torn leg muscles and acute sciatica.

Should airlines charge more for large passengers?

In 2002, the Canadian Transportation Agency said that female passenger who registered a complaint about Air Canada making her pay extra because she was overweight had no case. With South Africa's constitution heavily weighted against discrimination, would airlines in South Africa get away with charging overweight passengers more? There's no doubt a case for it, as the lack of seating space means if airlines don't provide extra seating space to overweight passengers then they will infringe on the rights of other passengers - and extra seating space costs more money. Precedents for discrimination on the basis of cost have been set in other industries - for instance, higher life insurance premiums may be charged for the obese.

Seat space

I like ending articles with a bit of good news, but alas in this case with the ever-diminishing size of airline seats on low cost carriers, more and more people are falling into this large-passenger-category. The problem is compounded when you're in a seat which doesn't fold back but the one in front of you does (surprisingly, South African Airways planes are designed like this). Small airline seats are good for passengers in the sense that they help drive prices down, but bad news if you're placed next to a large person who requires more space than the seat allows - however, if you've got the gumption to take the airline to court like Mrs Hewson, you might just win!

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