A couple of months ago I wrote about my trip to the Financial Blogger Conference, and the size of airline seats. I talked about how uncomfortable I was on the plane because of my “carriage”, and that served as another motivation to lose weight.
Well, I recently read about a guy who was forced to stand on a plane for 7 hours, because he was forced out of his seat by one of a growing number of overweight passengers.
Overweight Passengers & Airline Safety
Arthur Berkowitz was forced to stand for his entire 7 hour flight from Anchorage, Alaska to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 29, 2011. He boarded the flight and assumed that he had an empty seat (in the middle of the row) next to him. Unfortunately, the airline (US Airways) allowed a man who weighed over 400 lbs to board the plane and take that middle seat!
According to Berkowitz…
His size required both armrests to be raised up and allowed for his body to cover half of my seat! [The flight attendants] were sympathetic, but could not do anything. No other seats existed on plane. They would not permit me to sit in their jump seats, and fully acknowledged the mistake by their gate agent, in allowing this individual on plane without requiring him to purchase and occupy two seats.
Since there were no more empty seats on the plane, they didn’t seem to have much of a choice. Unfortunately, his comfort wasn’t the only thing at stake, but safety was also an issue:
It did not allow me to use my seatbelt during takeoff and landing as well as required me to stand in the aisle and galley area for most of the seven-hour plus flight, stated Berkowitz.
I can’t imagine how this can be considered safe or comfortable. I have to assume that someone who is over 400lbs should know that he cannot fit in a single seat – even if he has never been on a flight. He deserves as much blame as the employees at the gate who let him board the plane!
To me, the proper thing to do would be to tell the overweight passenger that he has to take a later flight, and buy two seats! If there was no way to stop the plane by the time the flight crew was alerted of the situation, then there was nothing they could do.
US Airways Response To Overweight Passengers
However, once they landed, Berkowitz wrote an email to US Airways explaining what happened. He asked for either a refund of the fare or a voucher for that amount. According to the article, here was a part of their response:
“Our intention is to offer the best travel experience possible,” it added. “The details you have provided indicate that we have failed to meet our intentions.”
They responded by offering a $200 voucher and failed to address any of Berkowitz’s safety concerns. Since he paid over $800 for his ticket to stand, he feels that US Airway’s offer isn’t enough.
Arthur Berkowitz ended up consulting with a consumer advocate who received this response from US Airways…
I contacted US Airways on his behalf. A representative told me US Airways had made its last, best offer. It didn’t say anything about the safety concerns this case raises.
I think he has a much better case than Martin Kessman, who has a fast food lawsuit against White Castle, because he is too fat to fit into their booths!
Since US Airways made several bad decisions that attributed to Arthur Berkowitz being uncomfortable and unsafe during his flight, they should have been willing to issue a complete refund. In fact, they could have turned this into a great public relations move by giving him a refund and a voucher!
What Do You Think?
- Was US Airways wrong in the way that they handled the overweight passenger?
- Are they wrong in offering Arthur Berkowitz a $200 voucher (when his flight cost over $800)?
- Should overweight passengers be expected to buy two tickets when they are too large to fit into a normal airline seat?
- What was your worst experience being in a tight space?
© 2011 – 2016, Khaleef “Fat Guy” Crumbley. All rights reserved.