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Airline Passenger Wide Bodies Pay More

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, April 16, 2009 10:33 AM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical
Tags: Obesity, Airlines, Mass Transit, Public Health, Heart Attack,

Obese passengers will have to pay more for a second seat, wait for an open seat or not fly on United.

Airlines - Wide Bodies May Pay More



IMAGE SOURCE:  The Age.com.au illustration from Web site 


United Airlines is not offering a friendly flying experience for anyone tipping the scales and having trouble fitting into a coach seat.  

The airline is cracking down on plus-size passengers and plans to charge them for a second ticket or an upgrade, regardless of whether there is an empty seat next to them.  The new policy applies to United and United Express flight, reports USA Today.

The airline reports it had 700 complaints about oversize passengers last year.

With the cost of fuel, fewer planes are flying and those that are usually full.

Airline industry consultant Robert Mann tells Marketplace that United is following Southwest in charging heavy passengers more.

“Certainly you aren't going to make friends with an individual that is confronted with that sort of policy. The question will be is if that individual is confronted with that sort of policy industry wide. Do they just choose to not fly or do they choose to pay up?”

Canadian policy tries to provide extra room for the obese as they consider it a medical issue. But in the U.S., being obese is not a category protected from discrimination such as race, sex, religion, age, or gender.

Will the policy please more people than it angers?  And who decides how obese one has to be to be charged extra? 

How It Works

A flight attendant will first try to accommodate a person with two empty seats together.  If there is not one, the gate agent will talk privately with the passenger. He can be offered a second seat on a later flight without paying the change fee.

Passengers who do not cooperate may not be allowed to fly.

Delta already allows a heavy passenger to buy another seat at the lowest fare available.  

Continental says it has a heavy passenger policy similar to what United is proposing. Southwest charges heavy passengers for two seats if they take up additional space and has had that policy for 28 years. 

On Southwest, if a passenger cannot lower the arm rest between seats, that signals an additional seat should be arranged.

Passengers who are not sure if they are obese, can calculate their BMI or body mass index, to see if they are overweight, obese, normal, or underweight.   #


Anonymous User
Posted by S. J. Silver
Tuesday, May 05, 2009 10:16 AM EST

If you think being obese is not a medical disease or disability think again. It is both and airlines are on thin ice treating these passengers differently in light of their health problems. While obesity is not specifically covered (mentioned) under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) it is specifically against the Americans with Disabilities Act to discriminate against them. Sort of like charging people in wheel chairs for the use of a ramp if they cannot climb up stairs. Airlines intentionally cramp space to make money and not even a normo-weight person can sit comfortably in coach on American Airlines. I'm not even a lawyer and this seems like a no brainer to me, just waiting for a class action.

Posted by edgurr1943
Tuesday, May 05, 2009 3:01 PM EST

Being overweight is a medical condition, but almost never a disease. Being overweight can, on the other hand, be the root cause of many diseases.
The ADA does specify that ramps and things like accommodation for seating of people in wheel chairs be provided. However, the airlines neither charge people to use ramps nor for the special accommodations they might need.
Airlines do have the intent of making money AND this requires a reasonable seating plan that gets the most non-wealthy passengers into coach and also fewer larger seats for those who require more room and can afford it.
The fact is that there are alternatives for the morbidly obese, if they can afford business class or two seats. Further there is no intent or conspiracy to deny people who require wide seating the opportunity to fly. If one cannot afford to fly, than other arrangements must be made: like a train, or save up for a flight.
You are obviously a resentful person and perhaps have been mistreated, but this does not form the basis for a lawsuit; class action or otherwise. May I suggest that you study the law, become a lawyer, change the ADA to include provisions for the obese. Then it will not be necessary to state the obvious: that you are a no brainer non-lawyer.
I'm not a lawyer, but I do have a brain that can think critically.

Anonymous User
Posted by R Garza
Tuesday, May 05, 2009 9:53 PM EST

A person who is taking PREDNISONE for medical reasons can swell up to be a bigger person in a short time. What happens to these people? This is medical discrimination by the airlines.

Anonymous User
Posted by kagil
Friday, May 08, 2009 2:13 AM EST

I was a size 7 until I became partially paralyzed and lost my ability to walk.
I don't have to fly though. I'll just drive or stay home.

I've found out that obesity is also closely linked to income and social status. A lot of it is stress, and lack of sleep - science is showing sleep is as important as anything.

HOpefully people even a bit overweight will avoid them for other airlines that are more compassionate. I know I will, even though, thankfully, I still fit in their tiny stupid seats.

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, May 08, 2009 9:48 AM EST


You bring up an important point. A disability can preceed obesity/overweight, and being disabled does carry some protections under law, as I understand it.

It sounds like the airlines are opening themselves up to the potential for a lawsuit in some circumstances unless they handle these situations with extreme care.

Anonymous User
Posted by Nick
Wednesday, June 10, 2009 5:29 AM EST

The airlines are just doing this to make up lost revenue due to economic times. We need to file a class action lawsuit.

Comments for this article are closed.

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