As the more significant number of the world’s population increases in weight and size, airlines continue to squeeze more passengers on their flights. The 17″ average seat makes it difficult for passengers with excess weight to fit comfortably in single seats.
Air travel has never been comfortable unless one is ready to pay for extra legroom or upgrade to the business or first-class cabins. Sitting next to a plus-size passenger in the already uncomfortable economy cabin can make a travel experience a discomfort one.
Passengers are turned away all the time by airlines but do not make news because they are not popular or famous. Just a few days ago, PM, the winner of Atinka TV reality show Di Asa, was denied boarding by Emirates Airline due to her size.
Did the airline err? Was it negligence of the part of PM or her agent? Or was everyone ignorant about the airline’s policy on plus-size passengers?
What’s the airlines’ policy on plus-size passengers?
Most airlines do not have a published policy on passengers with excess weight. The policy does exist and in force but not readily available to passengers unless they enquire about it.
One rule that cuts across all airlines is that passengers who cannot fit comfortably in a single seat must buy an extra seat. This is because international safety regulations on air carriage require that passengers sit with seatbelt around them with both armrests down.
Seatbelt extender is provided upon request. If passengers are still unable to buckle their seatbelt using the single seatbelt extender properly, or unable to lower both armrests without infringing upon the adjacent seat or another customer, then he/she will not be allowed to fly. Cabin crew can change their seats if the flight isn’t fully booked.
If a plus-size passenger turns up at the counter and the flight is not fully booked, an extra free seat is provided. Trouble comes when flights are fully booked. Depending on the situation, an arrangement is made for the passenger to fly at a later date.
Plus-size travellers denied boarding receive no compensation.
Air France gives 25% discount on extra seats purchased by plus-size passengers and provides full refunds if flights are not fully booked.
British Airways says: “Our customers have individual needs, so we discuss options and provide guidance on a case-by-case basis.”
Some people with excess weight have argued that these airline policies are discriminatory. They say that if customers with excess weight must pay for another seat, why aren’t tall people required to buy a second seat, so their legs don’t push into the seats in front of them? A customer with a baby who cries for the entire flight also makes passengers very uncomfortable, as does a customer wearing too much perfume. Yet, they fly for the price of one seat.
A Canadian court ruling forces airlines to accommodate passengers with excess weight by offering a second seat at no additional cost. They considered it a human right issue.
Passengers have sued and are still suing airlines for sitting next to plus-size passengers who shared their seats with them. Some claim to have suffered injuries while others say they felt discomfort throughout the flight.
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