This week saw a man known as Rick Mountain complain after Hong Kong Airlines charged him $100 NZD for being “too tall”. Initially, upon reading the title, I felt compassion with the man being 6ft 3in myself. However, having read deeper into the story, I’m concerned that Mr Mountain could be causing a PR scene more than anything else. The incident occurred during flight HX27. The flight, operated by an A330-200, was travelling from Hong Kong to Auckland.
The incident all started during check-in. Mr Mountain had requested a seat with extra legroom and was told this was given. However, upon boarding the aircraft he discovered that he had instead been allocated a standard legroom seat. Seat Pitch is the measure of the distance between the exact same point on two seats that are one in front of the other. Now, that being said, Hong Kong Airlines has a pretty standard seat pitch of 30-32 inches according to seat guru. This is fairly standard for airline economy, with Ryanair providing 30in and British Airways 31in. Can you imagine what Ryanair would say if you demanded a seat in row one?
Mr Mountain reports that he was told by the airline staff that he would need to pay $100 NZD (around £50) to upgrade to a seat which accommodated him. Hong Kong Airlines, in line with many other airlines, charges passengers a premium for bulkhead seats. Reports state that the 4 bulkhead seats behind the section where he was sitting were empty. Mr Mountain said that his complaints about a free upgrade fell on dead ears, and he had to pay the $100 for the upgrade.
Was This Fair?
Many people have commented online that he shouldn’t have had to pay extra for the seat. I initially agreed with this viewpoint, however, having contemplated it all day, I now sit in the other camp. Let me explain my reasons why:
- I wonder how Mr Mountain was addressing the cabin crew. I’ve had a couple of seat changes at my request, and have even been upgraded twice when I was in a seat that was unsuitable for me. Both times I was very polite and respectful of the cabin crew. I don’t have any evidence that Mr Mountian wasn’t polite and respectful to the crew, however, past experience has shown that cabin crew will go out of their way to help you. After all, it is their job.
- Obese passengers have to pay for the privilege of an extra seat. If a tall person cannot fit into a standard seat, then they should pay extra for an extra legroom seat. There have been many times that I’ve paid for extra legroom seats on flights. In fact, the cost of these has sometimes amounted to up to £80. I do this because I know that a regular seat may not be the most comfortable, and if somebody else has paid for a seat with extra legroom, why shouldn’t I?
- Finally, Mr Mountain claimed that he was forced to sit with his legs in the aisle, constituting a safety risk. I doubt this was really the case, and more for dramatic effect. No cabin crew would allow an aircraft to take off if there was a danger such as this. Circling back to point one, If Mr Mountain was physically unable to fit in his seat, the aircraft wouldn’t have been able to take off, and he would undoubtedly be moved to a seat that would accommodate him.
Once again, I’ll reaffirm that I was not present during the events which took place. I do, however, believe that this is a case being hyped up within the press, and Hong Kong Airlines had every right to charge him to change seats given the circumstances. Do you agree with Hong Kong Airlines’ decision? Let us know below!