Flying with the obese – I need your seat
The topic of obese flyers taking up two seats and causing discomfort was discussed sometime ago on many forums including my own Facebook page.
At the time however it was largely theoretical without any real evidence of other passengers having suffered directly.
This is no longer case however as this story about the passenger having to stand for seven hours during a flight has received a great deal of publicity recently.
“Isn’t the captain paid to make judgement decisions”
My initial reaction is one of astonishment, apparently the 57 year old gentleman in question; Arthur Berkowitz was prevented from using a vacant flight attendants jump seat due to U.S. Airways regulations.
His safety was therefore put at risk; he was stood during take-off and landing without any seatbelt restraint. There is also the risk of severe turbulence; it seems the airline regulations are more important than passenger safety. Ridiculous!
Where is the common sense in this? Isn’t the captain paid to make judgement decisions and maybe in this case regulations were not the most important consideration. The airline has not exactly covered itself in glory regarding this incident.
It also seems that the airline were unprepared for this eventuality, which considering it is becoming a more common occurrence seems naive at best.
It is common knowledge that airlines generally overbook flights; maybe this is no longer a safe option, possibly learning from this should mean there are always several spare seats.
“is it a form of prejudice; ‘fatism’?”
The obvious suggestion being put forward is that those that are so overweight they require two seats. Is this fair, is it a form of prejudice; ‘fatism’?
Is it really fair to expect an obese person to pay for two seats, there are genuine reasons for obesity would it be fair to penalise them for this?. The average passenger often needs to save for a flight/holiday many would probably not be able to pay for two seats.
However this must be balanced with the rights of other passengers. It is certainly unfair to expect another paying passenger to be inconvenienced by the person sat next to them. Having at best an uncomfortable flight, or in this case forced to stand for seven hours.
The rights of all passengers of course need to be considered, however a paying passenger having to stand and his safety put at risk is certainly not acceptable. Airlines need to find a policy regarding this issue, and in fact any case of a passenger which may prove uncomfortable for another person.
One of the points expressed by one of my followers was regarding another passenger with foul smelling body odour, this could potentially inconvenience several other passengers. It is a really sensitive matter however and it would be a brave airline that tackled that one!
“consider this an invasion of privacy”
Whatever policy the airlines adopt it will need to be introduced and then enforced somehow. This will prove problematic especially if the additional charges are included.
Passengers booking flights online maybe asked personal details i.e. height/weight/vital statistics, some would definitely consider this an invasion of privacy.
Height/weight charts are also notoriously inaccurate, a well muscled athlete can weigh more than an overweight person of the same height as muscle weighs more than fat. Passengers booking at an agency will be compelled to give accurate details but online they maybe not so forthcoming.
There would also need to be policing at the check-in/gate with possible refusal to board if unable to fit into one seat or additional charges incurred if seats are available.
Topic for debate
This is a subject that is likely to produce much debate for some time to come, long after decisions have been made by the airlines.
It is also quite plain that whatever policy the airlines do eventually implement there will be many that do not agree as somebody is likely to feel aggrieved by it.
What do you think how should airlines deal with the growing problem of obesity and comfort on increasingly cramped planes?