travel

United Airlines to charge obese passengers double on full flights

71 Comments

United Airlines said Wednesday that it will require obese passengers bumped from full flights to purchase two seats on a subsequent flight. The change brings the carrier in line with eight other airlines including Continental, Delta, JetBlue and Southwest, United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski told Reuters said on Wednesday.

"Last year we had 700 complaints from passengers who had to share their seats," she said.

Under the new policy, obese passengers -- defined as unable to lower the arm rest and buckle a seat belt with one extension belt -- will still be reaccommodated, at no extra charge, to two empty seats if there is space available.

If, however, the plane is full, they will be bumped from the flight and may have to purchase a second ticket, at the same price as the original fare, Urbanski said.

If the bumped passenger chooses to cancel the trip, the ticket will be refunded with no additional charge.

© Wire reports

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71 Comments
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"And no, obesity is NOT a disease. It is a condition resulting from the average American's poor education, dietry habits and lack of exercise.

Not entirely true. I am an average American with a good education, good eating habits, and I exercise. I am not obese but I am not model thin either. I do not know what the answer is for those struggling with obesity however it seems heathier foods are very expensive and the cheaper foods are the fattest. I know you should see my grocery bills. Healthy foods are pricey even at the farmers markets.

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Pay up or take the bus or train. I completely agree, they should charge according to weight and volume. The "why" of a person's size is irrelevant to an airline but is a seperate debate completely for health officials and the medical community. Airlines need to safely (and profitably) transport people and part of doing it in airplane is factoring in the load (passengers and cargo), weather conditions, route, etc, those are immutable facts.

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Someone is sensitive. Again, with space occupation, the times have changed yes? People have gotten bigger, not only in girth, but in height. I am sure coach seats are not comfortable for most fit people either. But that is why they are coach right? They are the cheapest and they want to pack you all the way in the back, forget that people are growing and people are living longer. I guess you do not like that either. Airlines are losing profit daily. They want to add all these extra charges and all they are doing is losing customers. This is a service we are paying for, whether we are big or small, and some airlines have made changes to accomodate all types of people. Once this becomes standard, this will no longer be an issue. But hey, maybe we will all change to accomodate you.

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The first time I read this story through quickly. Now I see something else I'd be taking issue with - why does Mr. Obese get two seats and I only get one? If I had two seats I could sleep very nicely. It's not my problem that he's fat, nor should it be the airline's. I'm traveling and I've got my own things to deal with, one of which shouldn't be having half of someone's thigh on top of my own, and I won't put up with it. But that's all I'm going to say about that. I'm not paying attention to trolls today.

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@tasha77-that would be discrimination if they were terminated for that. I am sure they have standards that they must maintain, but I am sure they are hardpressed for veteran attendants.

@Nessie, if you read her whole statement, you would understand what she and some other people are trying to say.

The people who are obviously not going to fit in a normal seat should be required to buy two seats. It's also going to take extra fuel to get a heavier person from point A to point B, no matter if they got to be heavier by overeating or by medical condition.

Again, where in the article is it talking about weight? Is it a JT miss or are you adding stuff? It is about space occupation. Oh, if you need to google it, it is a disease. I hope no one in your family has a medical problem to where they cannot be flown or taken somewhere because of a disability.

Working in the medical field, you see people who really try to lose weight and have sick individuals like you all who ridicule them. I guess this is what you do to children who have down syndrome, severe excema, scoliosis or any other medical problem. But maybe you feel sorry for the person who is anorexic? Doubt it though. Whether they are obese or frail becuase of a medical condition or because of their own or parent's fault, I am sure this is not something you would go up and say "Hey fatty, lose some weight will ya". But then again, maybe you are.

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Charging obese people double is making them pay for the airlines' poor planning,

How so, Jean? Would me eating two dinners and paying for one be poor planning on the part of a restaurant? Or taking up two seats at a concert and paying for one?

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I have flown countless times in the US and always have a quiet laugh when the flight attendant has to turn sideways to walk down the aisle due to her size. Get rid of a few of them and start hiring people who have no problem walking down the ailes.....that will lighten the load a bit. As for passengers paying extra I can see the lawyers rubbing their hands together already. Hey why not give the poor person (who has to put up with the smell "constant sweating of the overweight person" as well as the ridiculous angle they have to sit for the duration) a half price discount for his inconvenience.

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I have to disagree, jean. Doctors know what is normal weight for a man or a woman. How someone got to be 60 lbs. or more over normal weight shouldn't be a concern of the airline at all. The people who are obviously not going to fit in a normal seat should be required to buy two seats. It's also going to take extra fuel to get a heavier person from point A to point B, no matter if they got to be heavier by overeating or by medical condition.

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Whether or not obesity is a disease is how you define the term. Hippocrates saw it as a disease: "Corpulence is not only a disease itself, but the harbinger of others." WHO calls it a world-wide epidemic. If it is not a disease it is a "medical condition." Recent studies, which you can Google, link poverty and obesity in developed countries. Poor people buy cheap food and that has a tendency increase among them. The degree obese people are able to stop being obese through free will is a matter of good luck and genes as it is effort. When obesity starts in childhood the child has little free will in deciding what he or she eats and has less of a chance in not becoming obese in later life.

The problem with the airlines is that they ignored the problem of obesity. Charging obese people double is making them pay for the airlines' poor planning,

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The cause is irrelevant. The issue is not whether obsese people could choose to slim down to normal seat size. The issue is the cost to the airline in fuel and inconvenience to non-obese patrons.

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proudathiest: And no, obesity is NOT a disease. It is a condition resulting from the average American's poor education, dietry habits and lack of exercise.

Mostly, you are correct. But its not true for everyone. The causes of obesity are many, and disease is one. Also, the habits of many a thin person would make another one obese. I am one of those lucky people with an extremely fast metabolism. Modern excesses are doing nothing to me except maybe steering me toward an early grave.

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jeancolmar>

You make it sound like obese people have no choice or free will in what they eat or do. Come on now, it affects just as many middle and upper class people in the States!

And no, obesity is NOT a disease. It is a condition resulting from the average American's poor education, dietry habits and lack of exercise.

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One of the reasons that a US air FLight went down years ago was due to overloading conditions, because the formula they used to calculate the weight of the passengers was based on the averge American weight in the 1960's (I think now that wieght is probably a bit more than then). Same thing about seats, they make them smaller and narrower to get more passengers in order to compensate for fuel costs.

I am a big fellow. Not so much "fat" but large from working out from time to time. I have problems at times fitting seat belts in airlines across my lap, and those bulky armrests (with all the remotes buitl in to them) take up a bit of room too. I would recommend that if they did this, redesign the seats, and arm rests first. Then if someone can't fit charge them.

If I ran an airline, I would start an ad campaign. Basically stating "no charge for large" and just watch my profits "soar" on that.

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I expect that UA is going to be challenged in the courts over this and they might have to back down, given the number of obese people in the United States.

Contrary to what you think, obesity is not simply the result of over-indulgence and lack of exercise. If it were, curing it would be simple and no one would have to be overweight. It is not simple. Witness UA's overweight flight attendants for example.

An obese friend of mine died recently. This person spent a lifetime trying earnestly to lose weight--losing the equivalent of "one whole person" at one point--and still remained obese. Besides the physical stress this person suffered there was also the mental stress of being ridiculed by heartless people.

Obesity is very much a lower income disease as it comes from eating cheap starchy food. Obese people also tend to not get the high paid jobs. Forcing them to pay double is one more act of cruelty that they have to face. UA and other airlines ought to be required to have limited handicapped seating, which would include seating for the morbidly obese.

UA, I might add, has horridly cramped seating that is a pain even for those of who are not obese.

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United Airlines said ... it will require obese passengers ... to purchase two seats ...

Does this mean UA will give the fat ass who's unable to refuse that third or fourth pie two meals?

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If a person weighs twice what's "normal," which was probably what the airline calculated in the beginning, then he should pay for 2 tickets. It's taking twice the amount of gas to get him from point A to point B. Purely physics. And no, for children and the 90-pounders, I'm sure the airline's not going to reduce the price of their ticket based on the same ration used for fat travelers. They're not even going to go there.

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Yeah, this makes sense, but in my opinion is not enough. You have to be pretty obese to not be able to lower the armrest or buckle your seatbelt. I once sat beside a person who forced the armrest down, and when he finally got it down, it was bending towards me! That's not fair! I'm sure there are several sources on the internet, but my search told me that in 1999-2000, 64% of Americans were overweight or obese, and 31% were obese. I'm sure that number has grown since then... By the way, I HIGHLY recommend watching the documentary movie "SUPER SIZE ME" (sorry, a little off topic)

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woops, meant "might get charged double".

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I am not a big person, but I bet none of you would say this crap to someone in their face. But I digress, it is the internet and you all can be brave. lol. Also, do not let the obese title mislead you. There is nothing about weight listed on here. It is about space occupation. So if Brock Lesnar, The Big Show or The Governator (when he was huge) was sitting next to you, bet you still would not say anything, though they met charged double. I am sure it is just great headlining from JT.

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the arm-rest limit may not be good enough, as most orcas are in fact pear shaped so the overflow is going into the other seat, as many here have witnessed first hand. Unless the arm-rest has no space under it.

When an airplane flies, I'm guessing that it has moved the cargo into a centre point of the hold for best balance. Cargo in odd places throughout the plane does not help safe flight. Thus airlines may end up being forced to create a large only section in the middle of the plane for proper balance control.

stalls should work nicely

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You guys are so cruel, it's glandular, I swear!

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Like the smoker who imposes their dirty habit on you they should be made to pay anyone they inconvenience on a flight. Or buy 2 bloody tickets in the first place to avoid the pee off of fellow passengers.

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boboh, It doesn't work on those who don't have the discipline to wake up at 5, take a 20 mile run ...

I see narcissism is alive and well though I don't think as much can be said about your sympathetic nervous system after all steroids you must consume or your digestives system if you swallow a tenth of the BS you spout on a day to day basis.

On another note. Yes, charge the large ones. If they can afford to eat so much and move so little they must have enough money for two seats. But if they can squeeze into a normal seat without much overflow let them stick to their one.

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Make them pay. Let them know that thier self-induced condition has a penalty in society.

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boboh, It doesn't work on those who don't have the discipline to wake up at 5, take a 20 mile run with a 40 kilo backpack, hit the gym for weights and a "massage" - all before 9am, when it's time to head to work. After work is more training, target range or skeet shot, 3,000 push ups, 2,000 crunches and then another "massage" session to help relax. Then home by 8 for dinner. Dinner is followed by a full weights routine, two hours of boxing/karate/MCMAP, and then a session with the co-habitant.

The obese cannot keep up for the first 10 minutes of my day. This renders them unfit for society, as I take it easy these days and only stick to the above regimen. They would do well to reduce my taxes by tasting some cold steel. They need to be guilted into it.

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TokyoHustla

More like consider eating some salad....

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The obese will have their feelings hurt by this. They should consider eating cold steel and saving the rest of us some tax money.

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I sure hope they give discounts to slim people with no bulging bellies, like me! But I think Asian airlines won't stand for that, otherwise they'd make a loss, considering that most customers would probably be Asians.

Maybe I'm lucky, but I've never really sat next to a biggie on flights to and from Japan.

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Nowhere near harsh enough. Bloaters should be put on a bacon slicer until they fit on an arse-sized seat.

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I rarely fly cattle class to Japan (thank heaven) so I haven't had to deal with fat sloshing for 13 hours. But I have had to on some "shorter" flights. The experience of being crammed in with a fat person makes the Chicago-Narita run pleasant in comparison.

Stop drinking pop, lay off the high fructose corn syrup, no more snacks in front of the TV, take a walk or something. Obesity is disgusting!

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two thirds of the american population are gonna be affected

Excuse me, which two-thirds? Actually, 30% of adults in the U.S. is obese. The figure for the UK is roughly the same.

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two thirds of the american population are gonna be affected

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As the number of obese people is rapidly increasing aircraft builders will have to redesign the cabins and seating arrangements.

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"double" cheese. Fare-st of them all, United.

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I totally agree with the requirement but, what's that? No it's not a cheeseburger... I smell a discrimination lawsuit. The guy who's side was overflowing into my seat last year isn't going to be happy about this.

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Maybe airlines should weigh customers(like fish), and calculate the ticket price based on this.

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I think morbid obese people should be banned from airplanes. Period.

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Is there a country called Obese where obese people come from? No need to charge double, just send them back to Obese if they don't know how to sit in their own seats or how to wear a seat belt.

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@Nessie at 04:39 PM JST - 16th April

Different cost to the carrier, so different cost to the customer. Perfectly equitable, regardless of the casuse of obesity.

This means that a person suffering from anorexia nervosa should pay less? Get on the scales and determine the ticket price? I'd go on a diet for that!

Someone in a wheelchair (no matter the cause) must cost them more, but they don't charge more for that, for the inconvenience they cause through the need for extra attention. They even get to board planes ahead of the able-bodied patrons. What's with that? (sarcasm, folks...)

The 'litigation' comment concerned the fact that in a litigious country, this could be perceived as a negative prejudice towards a percentage of the community, and that could be the basis of litigation.

It'll be interesting to see how this all pans out.

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even if you are thin - economy class is a tight fit. they should make the seats a little more comfortable for real people.

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The obese need only to fly Air Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada has recently required airlines to provide double seats for the obese at the regular rate.

I agree with providing a couple of 'supersized' economy seat for the big ones...

I also like the idea of having a maximum total weight for passenger and luggage.

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I'll be glad to go along with this if United also agrees to charge passengers double for allowing their obnoxious brats to run wild in the cabin.

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Good news - its about time. I sat beside a huge guy once on a plane from Narita to the US, and he took up two seats. If people cant control their appetites and eat healthy food, then they should be made to pay extra.

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Are they figuring in the savings on flotation devices?

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Doesn't this decision have 'litigation' written all over it...?

Nah. Different cost to the carrier, so different cost to the customer. Perfectly equitable, regardless of the casuse of obesity.

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"Under the new policy, obese passengers—defined as unable to lower the arm rest and buckle a seat belt with one extension belt—will still be reaccommodated, at no extra charge, to two empty seats if there is space available."

Since this is the policy I cannot object. Of course it's un-PC, but I'm afraid in this case practicality trumps political correctness. Unless they make extra-wide seats with appropriate seatbelts as kind of extras on planes (which perhaps they should, but then there's still the problem of less passengers/customers due to loss of space), if they're going to take up to seats they should be charged as such, or at least charged extra (perhaps not full fare). It absolutely sucks, but it's just not practical otherwise. Human limits and excesses sometimes have to be acknowledged regardless of how it can hurt or 'punish' people.

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do they also pay overweight charges? because passenger weight is calculated on avarage human weight i guess

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I read here that the UA stewardesses are just as plump as the AA ones. Too bad. When you're just as wide as the food cart you're pushing, then you know. America is blimping out pretty hard. When you're passing through Chicago on the way home from Japan prepare for the shock of your life.

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I've always thought luggage allowance should be something like 110kg minus your body weight.

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Of course if they buy two seats they get two meals as well don't they? Then it'll be triple seat sales. Where does this end? American's please lose the high-fructose corn syrup. Or planes will just end up with benches and harnesses defined as Ocra-class.

Moderator: Stay on topic please.

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I am sure Konishiki is in no need of flying with us common folk in lowly economy class, but even at least 2 business class seats might be pushing it to try to fit Konishiki's big booty and huge legs.

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hum.... Very big problem... I happen to be overweight(well for my height I'm obese) and it is medical induced. I only find it unfair in the fact that some people might not choose to be overweight due to medical problems like myself. But then again I'm not that fat.... (well i think i am but i don't know really I'm about 187lbs (84.8 kilos) And I'm sure that i will not be effected by this. Someone said above about paying for body weight and luggage together... what happens to those bodybuilders that are skinny but weight 200lbs because of muscle. But... I just putting out thoughts. I'm neither for or against this really. Since i don't flight alot. It just didn't seem anyway one was putting out stuff against it so I wrote little. Sorry if i make anyone angry.

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I heard Konishiki buys 3 seats for his flights, does anyone know if this is true?

Why would he do that? He can afford a seat in the business class.

Obese people are not always obese by their own choosing, but still if on an airplane, where space in the economy class is so limited, they bother their fellow passengers, they will have to face the consequences.

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Now only if UA would start inplementing policies for their old, surly and obese flight attendants... can't they walk down the eisle without their thunder thighs/hips smacking every head or shoulder of those sitting in aisle seats? In C class, no less... That's why I like to fly Asian carriers for trans-pacific flights...

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Seems logical to me, and a good reason to go on a diet. Obese people just have to be prepared to pay for two seats if they are planning on flying. I am afraid that in the future, as someone mentioned, the weight of the person may be factored in too. Perhaps a higher fuel surcharge for heavier people. That would affect a lot more people, including people who are not obese.

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It's time to have 'Plus-size' seats because it sounds better than booking two seats.

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When I first read the headline I thought that it seemed a bit unfair, but after reading the article it is actually very accommodating.

Anyone who just doesn't FIT into the space will be given two seats together (if available) at NO EXTRA charge.

It's only if the plane is full and there are no extra seats available that over-sized people will be inconvenienced. They will be bumped from the flight and will have to take another flight. They will only have to purchase an extra ticket if they want to be 'safe' from being bumped again. Should they choose to not go, they will be refunded their money.

On the one hand, it seems that they are being discriminated against, but really it's a matter of space (not weight as others have suggested). A compact but very muscular and heavy person wouldn't have to worry as long as they fit into the seat or space provided. Simple as that.

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domestic flights in the US must be a real nightmare with a high possibility rate of being squashed between 2 selfish tubbies. good grief. train travel should be a serious option even if its much longer.

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Seems that there's quite a few chubbies in the US; this seems like commonsense really.

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i'm usually quite the bleeding-heart liberal, but i'm afraid that when it comes to the obese i'm in the the "why not lay off the cakes?" camp

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Couldn't get that. If the flight is full how can they buy one more ticket.

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tmv123: If you're thin then congratulations, you've paid for 100% of a seat and since you're so small it's nice and roomy and best of all you're not inconveniencing anyone else. Get it?

Fat people pay for being fat, end of the line.

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So, does this imply that if you are thin, and weigh under 115 pounds (102KG) you get half off on your ticket? They charge for everything else. How about the underweigt person!! Should go both ways. Greedy airlines!!

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Good - Because I hate being charged extra $$$ for a few extra pounds of luggage, especially when I watch people getting onboard who weigh more than me and my luggage combined....

I think tickets should be billed on your combined weight (body and luggage)... Seems fair to me! My point is that more weight costs more in fuel? So heavy passengers should only have to pay more...

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Good move by UA. I've had my share of nighmares where the fatty next to me had to get a seat-belt extender plus he/she couldn't get the armrest down - meaning that 20% of his/her body was in my seat. Why should I be subsidizing the fatty's airfare when I paid for 100% usage of my seat?

Not only should they start measuring the width/girth by using test seats prior to boarding (or those figures like those you see at amusement rides), perhaps they should start charging surcharges for people who weigh more than, let's say 125kilos since their weight probably makes the flight heavier and thus less fuel efficient. Hell, they do that for luggage.

Thank god that recently I'm flying F or C class so there's a better border between the seats.

Regarding litigation, I think Southwest has had this system in place for a while and it has withstood any challenges. Besides, being fat is not, I believe, a protected class in the USA (nor should it be).

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Thats crazy....they have to purchase another ticket for the same price...there has to be something else...I always purchase my tickets and ask for emergency exit, get the leg room and the window.

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My country Canada is a$$-backwards country in this regard. They say obese people have a "right" to two seats for the same price as one...a right!!!

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Good move

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Doesn't this decision have 'litigation' written all over it...?

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When I read the headline (to charge obese passengers double on full flights)my first thought was that the poor crushed person should be getting the money. I see they mean that they have to buy two seats :-)

“Last year we had 700 complaints from passengers who had to share their seats,” she said.

Is that what they call it? I've been lucky in that I've never sat next to a morbidly obese person. I did sit once next to a body builder whose shoulders were huge, I had to sit tilted for the flight but my seat was still my own.

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Thank god! It is about time! It is bad enough to suffer sitting for hours on a flight from Japan to the US etc..let alone sitting next to somebody the size of Konishiki (the ex sumo wrestler who i really like) but no way in hell would I want to sit for 13 hours smashed into my seat. By the way, I heard Konishiki buys 3 seats for his flights, does anyone know if this is true?

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