Is This Fair? Passenger Charges Obese Passenger $150 For Sitting Next To Him

A man has charged his obese seat-mate $150 for violating a 1/3 of his own seat, leaving people unsure how they feel about this situation.

What are the details?

The situation happened on a 5-hour transcon flight with United Airlines. The passenger sharing his experience explained he specifically chose an aisle seat in a row of two for this flight. A “very obese” man boards the flight and takes a seat next to the passenger. “He sits down and is easily seeping into about 1/3 of my seat, I sit down and am pressed up against him, making me uncomfortable.” the passenger says. After a minute, the passenger is upfront and tells the obese man “Sir, I’m sorry but this situation is not working for me, you’re taking up quite a bit of my seat.”

Source: United

The obese man shrugs, knowing there was not much he could do and tried to tighten his arms in to take up less space. “It just wasn’t enough” says the passenger. The passenger raised the issue to a flight attendant, who then suggested to the obese man to purchase a second seat. However, the flight attendant wasn’t able to accommodate as the flight was completely full. The obese man mentions he cannot miss this flight and the flight attendant tells him that unless someone on the flight agrees to let him take up part of their seat, he’ll need to book another flight. “The guy seems really flustered by this ultimatum, and here’s where I made my offer” says the passenger.

I told the guy, “Look, I’ll put up with this if you give me $150 — that’s half the cost of this flight and that would compensate me enough for the circumstances.”

He instantly agrees, pulls out cash and pays me. He even told me he appreciated it.

“I gave the guy a valid option to stay on the flight and I was compensated for literally having only 75% of my seat max (let alone the feeling of a person’s body pressed against you involuntarily). A win-win. He wasn’t angry at all, if anything he seemed quite relieved we could work it out privately.”

Source: United

The debate around whether larger passengers should pay for two seats has been discussed for many years. Policies differ from airline to airline about similar situations to this one.

Alaska Airlines, says: “We require the purchase of an additional seat for any customer who cannot comfortably fit within one seat with the armrests in the down position.”

Meanwhile, American Airlines policy states: “For the safety and comfort of all customers, if a customer’s body extends more than one inch beyond the outermost edge of the armrest and a seat belt extension is needed, another seat is required.”

And United Airlines, states: “A customer flying in the economy cabin who is not able to safely and comfortably fit in a single seat is required to purchase an additional seat for each leg of their itinerary.

Conclusion

Was the $150 a compromise to the problem or was the man being taken advantage of? Is the airline truly to blame for offering such small seats or did the man have other options?

 

16 comments
  1. It appears in this instance that the crew and gate agents didn’t follow United company policy. The passenger should be refunded the full cost of his ticket, because United failed to meet the conditions of its contract of carriage.

    1. You know those boxes they have at check-in to determine if your baggage is of the appropriate dimensions for carry-ons? Well, airlines should determine the circumference allowable for overweight passengers, and construct a barrel to those dimensions. If the barrel doesn’t fit over the person at check in, they have to purchase an extra ticket. 😁

  2. I don’t think a passenger has any right to charge another passenger. I’v had this issue twice, and thankfully was able to move on both occasions as the plane wasn’t full, but airlines need to do more to meet their policies about purchasing extra seats, otherwise people will continue to ignore them.

  3. I don’t think a passenger has the right to intrude on someone else’s seat. They know they are too large for one seat when they buy the ticket. This type of seating has happened to me many times. Airlines should demand payment for a second seat.

  4. This opens up a huge can of worms. This will lead to a entire group of jerks who think they can make money off of some poor soul who is a little chubby. “Give me a hundred bucks or I’ll get you kicked off the plane”

  5. Unless the passenger of size gained a tremendous amount of weight very quickly, he knew when he bought his ticket that he could not fit into a standard economy seat. He should have bought two seats from the get go. I actually think that in this sort of situation the airline should flag the passenger’s frequent flyer number, or other registration identifier, and require that the passenger buy two seats on future flights.

  6. I’m a bit confused by some details of the article. In ‘coach’, all mainline UA aircraft have seats three abreast each side of the aisle, not two. The article states this was a transcon, so we’re not talking about some regional jet here. The ‘offended’ passenger was a jerk but if he can get $$ out of the heavyweight, more power to him, nothing illegal going on.

  7. $150 would not have been enough for me to accept the discomfort, what he did was generous. His reasoning is understandable. Twice I’ve encountered large passengers seriously encroaching my seat. Once, as the final passenger to board the last Southwest flight of the day from Ontario to Oakland, I found the only available seat half occupied by the adjacent overweight passenger. There was no way she might have fit into her seat without keeping the armrest up. Considering the option of alerting the crew and possibly being forced to wait overnight, or shoehorning myself in and being home in an hour, I squeezed in and kept quiet.

  8. This is a tough situation for all involved. I mean, really, where do you draw the line? What is the determining factor in whether a person exceeds seat space? Weight, height, width, circumference? Would you want to be the airline agent to say, “I’m sorry sir, but it appears you need to purchase two seats instead of one”? I know I would not want to be in that position. At the same time, I would not want to be a passenger sitting in 2/3 of the seat I purchased. It’s a bad situation without a clear solution.

  9. Funny. Airlines regularly accomodate passengers with other medical conditions (broken legs, etc) without extra fees. Obesity is a clinically diagnosed disease and falls under the the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Airlines need to accommodate passengers of size without extra charges, no matter the cost to accomodate, or they violate the ADA and expose themselves to massive legal liabilities.

    I work in the transportation Infrastructure construction industry and see the long arm of the Access Board influence development decisions on a regular basis.

    Take note: ABBUNDANT CASE LAW SUPPORTS THE POSITION OF THE ACCESS BOARD IN THAT (EXCESSIVE) COST SHALL NOT BE AN AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE IN LIEU OF PROVIDING REASONABLE ACCOMODATION.

    The current airline policies are bully tactics and I’m surprised their attorneys have let them get away with such incriminating policies.

  10. The situation of obese passengers taking up more than one seat is so well publicised by now that I have no sympathy for fat people who continue to put themselves and others in this situation. Tell them they need two seats and to hell with their feelings. They knew perfectly well what they were getting into when they booked the flight. If you can’t afford a second seat to accommodate your obesity, that is your problem and nobody else’s.

  11. On a flight a few years ago, a very fat man was seated next to me and asked if he could put the armrest up, I said no. My seat is my seat and as far as ” Obesity is a clinically diagnosed disease”, 9 times out of 10, it’s not an overactive thyroid, but an overactive fork. I have seen people at buffets who who should not be there and no one wakes up one morning and finds themselves 40-80 pounds or more overweight.

  12. The post office charges by size and weight, because it costs more to ship heavy, large packages. The same goes for shipping people.

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