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Why Larger Passengers Should Pay for Two Seats

Not sure how I missed this one:  The NY Post published a photo of a larger-than-average passenger squeezed into an American Airlines aisle coach seat last week (I’ll wait while you check that out).  With roughly 42% of the man spilled into the aisle, his presence in a single seat created a safety hazard for the others on the plane.  In response, the airline paid the man next to him to give up his own seat so this passenger could have two.

Southwest (and others) have gotten all sorts of grief for implementing a policy where obese passengers need to purchase two seats, but when you see this photo the reason becomes clear.

(Thanks, D-Lux)

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  1. And it is my understanding that Southwest policy allows for the passenger to be reimbursed for the cost of the second seat if the flight is not sold out – I think that’s incredibly fair and considerate.. As a former flight attendant I can attest to not only the safety hazards on a full flight but the discomfort caused to both the obese passenger and his/her neighboring pax.

  2. Im a flight attendant for Continental Airlines, when we have an obese passenger we are to notify the captain and ground supervisor. I feel this should be handled before the person is on the aircraft to prevent embarrassement of the passengers. I once had a passenger in our exit row, she needed the seatbelt extension and there was no way she could have exited the window, but our manual and P&P does not prohibited her or anyone else of size from sitting there.

  3. It certainly makes sense that a large person should not try to occupy a single seat, but why does it necessarily follow that the large person must pay for two seats? The airlines decided what size to make seats based on human norms and their own profitability goals, but human beings show a wide range of variability with respect to every possible physical (and mental) characteristic. When you offer a service to the general public, why should those who are not in the middle of that range be penalized because an airline chooses to provide seating for only those in the middle of the distribution? There is a real access issue here that deserves to be thoughtfully discussed. Just as access is an issue in other areas of life, denying larger people the ability to travel limits their job opportunities, their chance to be with farflung family, their ability to participate fully in life, simply because of airline profitability issues. Airlines are, in effect, saying that only mid-size people can fly because otherwise the plane could not fit as many people into its rows. It would be simple enough for airlines to design and offer seats accommodating big people, tall people, those with physical assistive devices and even families with children, if they were so inclined. Because airlines started with the idea that only business people should rightfully travel, they have never gotten around to serving a fuller demographic. When every movie theater offers access, why are airlines so backwards?

    Part of the reason for this attitude is the idea that fat people are fat because they eat too much. There is a moralism about this despite hundreds of studies showing that genetics and metabolism, not will power or self-indulgence, are causal in extreme obesity. It is the reason why people gain back everything they lose after weightloss programs. When we stop making obesity a moral issue and people stop blaming those who have different body sizes, maybe airlines will be forced to provide reasonable service to ALL customers.

    Along the same lines, I travel twice a month for work, yet am treated as if I am someone’s granny going to visit the grandkids. I am heartily tired of being ignored by attendants and treated as if I am not every bit as important a business customer as the guy in the seat next to me, who generally is panicked by the thought that I might show him kids photos if he even makes eye contact. I am a college professor but because I am female, I am part of the disposable demographic that airlines don’t care to serve well. Last time I encountered a travel problem, the airline employee told me that I shouldn’t complain about any inconveniences because I had just enjoyed such a nice European vacation! Judging people by their size and shape is a big airline mistake. I hate to see people here buy into it.

  4. OMG that guy is huge!

    @Sally: I’m sure your reasoning is well-meant and built upon ideals of individual rights and compassion, but it misses at least 5 points:

    1) To plug up an emergency exit and risk a hundred lives, rather than to hurt the feelings of someone who had three breakfasts, is deeply inconciderate to a hundred people, instead of to one.

    2) To force an industry by legal means to accomodate 200 kg/2,10m passengers in every seat (or whatever you think should be the norm dictated by the federal government) will hurt the industry tremendously

    3) Because you have capitalism (in theory) in the US, the way this is supposed to solve itself is by airlines realizing they should offer services to people that need them, meeting demand with supply, just as Walmart is meeting demand for obese people wanting to stock up for the three breakfasts per day. Which, coincidentally, they have to pay for. They don’t get three breakfasts for the price of one just because they’re hungry and feel bad about themselves.

    4) There are substitutes. Trains. Buses. Livestock trailers.

    5) Fat people are generally fat because they consume more calories than they need. Period. If your metabolism argument was correct, there should be plenty of studies going on as to what part of the US DNA differs from e.g. European DNA, as plenty of direct decendants from Europeans are fat in the US but their relatives back in Europe aren’t. We also have supermarkets in Europe, and cheap, crappy food, so it’s not the lack of food as such. It might be a cultural thing, or lack of peer pressure to keep fit; I have no idea, but the bottom line is fat people should eat less and excercise; hiding away from this simple fact is quite frankly a sign of western civilization going down the road of the Roman Empire 2000 years before you. They feasted on candied grasshoppers and watched gladiators die, you feast on hot-dogs and watch football.

    Then the barbarians come.

    Happy New Year!

  5. christopher maxwell

    I hate it when easterners hate on us Americans, yea we are over weight, but that doesnt mean that we can be discriminated against and made to pay more than regular sized passengers on flights to anywhere………. and comparing obesity in the US to the fall of the Roman Empire……is ignorant on your part, so this is what you do, you stay in Europe and us FAT people will stay in America……. yea we might be overweight but u wonder why you all have those rare diseases over there than we have…..because yall eat all that rare and medium rare meat….we might be diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, etc……….but those can be contained……but not those rare diseases over there will take you all out of the game…..because there is no medicatin to treat them….so take your mouth off of us obese people and worry about your own country!!! If theindustry made accomodationd for bigger passengers when they build these planes the wouldnt get so much back lash……Discrimination, I tell you, Discrimination!!!!!!!!

  6. christopher maxwell

    THANK YOU SALLY!!!!

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