Accommodating clinically obese passengers
Last week, I was on an Easyjet flight from Italy and Graham was in the seat next to me. Saying in the seat is somewhat inaccurate but I am sure you get the picture.
Graham, who turned out to be a really nice guy, said that he was 22. He probably meant years but I guessed stones.
He said the problem was that he did not fit the standard passenger prolife for economy seating. This was obviously not the first time he had had this conversation.
Bizarrely, he said, some airlines do accommodate oversized passengers by providing oversized seat belts. In Graham’s case, getting him out of the seat seemed a bit more problematic that belting him in to it.
I know the Americans, who seem to breed very large people, have airline policies that require passengers to be able to fit between the armrests and then require that they purchase a second ticket if they fail. I discussed this with Graham who saw the funny side of it and suggested that the carry-on baggage test devices might be adapted to check people prior to boarding.
My flight was made palatable because Graham was funny, witty and self-deprecating. However, the truth of the matter is that it was uncomfortable. Graham overflowed into half of my seat, invaded my space and made any normal activity such as reading or eating impossible.
My argument is not with Graham or with any overweight or obese people, or even with anyone with any kind of disability. However, what this flight did highlight for me is that, in the very unlikely event of an emergency, having Graham squeezed into a seat that was far too small for him, could have been downright dangerous. By the time he had gotten out, the whole plane could have burnt to a cinder. I do not claim to have any answer to this problem but I really think it needs to be discussed.
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Dave Santry, Oxford, England
17 April 2010, 01:55PM
This type of thing is scary. There is all this big emphasis on safety and not having luggage in the aisle (must fit under the set in front of you etc) and then you have the human road block. I feel sorry for this Graham and understand that he has rights etc but there needs to be a solution.
Mary Green, Brighton, UK
17 April 2010, 01:57PM
This is what the CAA is for. They make the tough decisions on airlines and airports. This is going to be a tough decision, Graham's rights against the rights of lots of other travellers.
Jane Williamson, Cardiff, S Wales
17 April 2010, 01:59PM
I agree with the previous comments but if we are going to have a quango decide, I would at least like it to be a decision before an accident rather than an enquiry after an accident.
JennyLamb, United Kingdom
17 April 2010, 02:42PM
I too find this to be a problem. It is not just you, I had one very large woman sit in the seat behind me and her knees were constantly banging into my seat back. When she tried to get up, she pulled herself up using my seat back and I thought it would give way.
Angie Cobb, Manchester
17 April 2010, 02:47PM
Have any of yous heard about discrimination. Leave him alone he has got as much right to a seat as you have if he paid the money and all. What are you going to say that he has to stay in the airport cause he is too fat? He'd have the discrimination people there in no time. The best thing would be to make the seats bigger and then we would all be ok.
KimLester, United Kingdom
19 April 2010, 12:41PM
Poor old Graham. I bet he wishes that he had sat next to someone else! Seriously though, this is a real problem. I do not know what the airline can sensibly (or probably legally) do about it, but I see the danger that any immobile passengers might create.I, for one, would be interested to hear the views of other readers and am grateful that this has been raised.
Paul Ellis, Cornwall
21 April 2010, 04:46PM
An evolution in plane interior design would be nice, giving a bit more space to ‘cattle class’. Being quite tall, I would love a bit of extra legroom.
Amanda Plant, Essex
22 April 2010, 03:32PM
What do you suggest that big people do? If there was a big section that charged extra for extra space then I would consider that but just saying that we cannot fly because we are bigger than average is wrong.
Daryl King, Norfolk, UK
23 April 2010, 06:18PM
Amanda Plant says "If there was a big section that charged extra for extra space then I would consider that". Well there is, it is called business class. But that does not solve the whole problem. If you are immobile then you are still going to be a problem in an evacuation. No personal offence intended but this a genuinely interesting debate.
Jack Long, London
1 May 2010, 02:06PM
A man from Ryanair told me that people like me used up more fuel and put up prices for everyone. I complained to his supervisor but then he said that he did not say it. (I am overweight and admit it)
5 May 2010, 09:28PM
I heard of a guy from the states who got ejected from a plane for exceeding the width of his seat. This should be a policy across the board, sitting next to a person overflowing into your seat for 8 hours would be horrendous.
Susan Gale, Glasgow
5 May 2010, 10:01PM
I can imagine that a great number of clinically obese people find long haul flying too uncomfortable/expensive and avoid it altogether. Airline seats are too small for even average sized people, airlines should cut a bit of profit and have bigger seats, that would make me very happy!
June Ford, Hastings
6 May 2010, 07:41AM
Going back to the safety issue raised in the original article, I presume that blind, slow, old and generally disabled passengers fly all of the time. In the event of the evacuation, they are going to be in the way and slow things down. But I presume the same applies in the cinema / theatre etc if there is a fire. I had not thought about this before and I really do not have a answer. I do however see the problem from both viewpoints.
June Renton, Shropshire
6 May 2010, 01:38PM
I have to admit that I am overweight and when I fly I do get embarrassed if I have to struggle to get up to let the other person (in the window seat) out. The seats are just so small and there is so little space between the seat and the seat in front. I am very sorry for people that I inconvenience but there is nothing at all that I can do.
7 May 2010, 12:49PM
Passengers need a bit of leniency, we come in all shapes and sizes and all have the right to travel. Being packed in aircraft like sardines is not pleasant but there are no other options.
11 May 2010, 07:25AM
In Sweden we have made special facilities for big people but airlines are different and this size issue is a real problem. I am sorry for the Graham in the story and perhaps it would be fair to have him pay for a wider seat just as we have to pay for excess baggage. But how do you work this? will airlines have to put in a certain number of larger seats at extra cost? I see the problem but just do not see a working solution.
Claire Hatton, Welling
11 May 2010, 04:47PM
Paying for two seats seems unreasonable, but perhaps the only valid option for oversized people. They certainly should not be allowed to squeeze into a normal sized seat and make the neighbouring passengers uncomfortable.
Louisa Smart, Kent
11 May 2010, 06:27PM
I dont think paying for two seats is 'Unreasonable', although I may be seen to be 'controversial' and it is not discrimination, the main feature here has to be safety and the fact that it would take longer to get out of a seat and evacuate the plane, mobility is affected there is no two ways about it! The airlines need to 'rethink'
Penny Marshall, Romsey
12 May 2010, 03:01PM
My friend is big and she says it is awful because everyone looks at her and makes her feel very uncomfortable. It is not her fault, she has been under the doctor and may have to get a band but she does not eat that much and her mother was also big but she died with her heart last year.
MarciaKennedy, United Kingdom
13 May 2010, 03:43PM
We have the problem in the US where there are lots of overweight people. Fast food and fries etc. Most of our internal airlines do enforce the rules and make them purchase two tickets. It may be hard on the passenger's pocket book but it is the fairest way of dealing with this.
Sally Bartlett, Scotland
16 May 2010, 12:46PM
I just feel that is is so awful having someone so large next to you too, not being able to move, to go to the loo when you need to as it takes so long just to get out of your seat and the inconvenience of it all, I dread it when I see someone large approaching to sit next to me!!!
Miranda Phelps, Banbury
21 May 2010, 09:41AM
Ouch - yes having an obese passenger next to you is horrible. It is certainly not PC to say so and we normally just put up with it. I had a two and half hour flight last month next to a man with BO (body odour) - absolutely disgusting. Can we start a column here for people I don't want to fly with? dangerous ground I think !!
Alex Simpson, Cardiff
22 May 2010, 08:18PM
Nothing worse than body odour Miranda, totally sympathise, have had this issue with someone sitting next to me as well, ruined my flight, and it was long haul!!
Henry, South Africa
27 May 2010, 06:40AM
Yes, I agree with (most) of the comments above. Another issue in the same vein is maximum allowable weight. The airlines should weigh the passenger AND his luggage, certainly both go on the plane? We travel often and are between 50-75 Kg per family member, yet we may only take the regulation allowable weight and the very large, too big for his/her seat passenger, gets the same allowance? THIS is unfair!
sue mckenzie, Turkey
27 May 2010, 08:26AM
Reading these comments,I feel I must bring up the question of over weight baggage.Last year I travelled 12 times and nearly always have to pay for excess baggage,I often think we should be weighed with our luggage,when I see obese people not paying extra,,,we all board the same plane and their weight is`nt added on...
28 May 2010, 02:00PM
Yes I agree with Henry, weighing the passenger and luggage together should be part of the maximum allowable weight on flights, this makes a lot of sense.
28 May 2010, 05:47PM
Can you imagine people to agreeing to being 'weighed' before they got on a plane!! I think not....I for one would be too embarrassed!!
1 June 2010, 01:03PM
I think we should go further. No fat people. No tall people. Certainly no one over 60. Definitely no disabled of any age. Absolutely NO annoying children. That should leave plenty of room for all you perfect, pompous, pontificating prats.
David J, Guildford
4 June 2010, 01:13PM
Charging for the combined weight of passenger and baggage and then a separate charge for plane seats seems the only fair way to deal with this. Future aircraft should definitely have a quota of extra large seats with more legroom for cattle class and then charge a reasonable amount extra for them.
14 June 2010, 02:01PM
I agree with the comment made above by Graham. This seems like the only fair solution. Overweight people should not be discriminated but obviously there are serious safety concerns.
21 June 2010, 10:24AM
Jan's comment say it all really!
KerryHolland, United Kingdom
20 July 2010, 10:54AM
It is an uncomfortable experience being next to 'an overweight' person on a aircraft, for both actual person and the one sitting next to them, I do feel the airline needs to consider this aspect too.
28 July 2010, 01:06AM
Oh for goodness sake when are we going to stop being so accepting? I pay for my seat on a plane. It's small enough in cattle class already without having to share it with some overweight person who is too large to fit into their own seat. Please explain to me why I should have to be inconvenienced in this way?
3 August 2010, 09:22AM
I have just found this forum and loved this article.
5 August 2010, 07:51AM
I find all your comments a bit unfair with regard to overweight people, I cannot help it, I wish I could but the medication I take is responsible for my weight, I am embarrassed about it believe me, it is difficult for me to travel because of my size, could you all not be a bit more sympathetic about this instead of discriminating against size?
Graham Read, Colchester
6 September 2010, 05:16PM
Why should the majority of society be accepting of persons who are morbidly obese ? I sat next to a large gentleman only today on a flight, and I can assure you it was a most uncomfortable experience for both of us. If he'd booked himself two seats (as airlines should force him to), then we would have both travelled in comfort.
15 November 2010, 10:53AM
I think Jan's comments are fair, however there should be other options for obese travellers, they may be fat but they are still human.
24 November 2010, 07:17PM
I think that just because somebody is obese they should not be treated any differentlyl. Personally i think that on all aircraft there should be seats set aside that can accomodate the lager people.
29 November 2010, 04:33PM
I agree with Jan! Why should larger people be treated wrongly because they are overweight? It is discrimination!
30 November 2010, 11:04AM
I think that Georgie is being naive. If you are too big to fit the standard seat then you need to pay for a bigger seat. The only complaint here is that airlines do not readily provider seats for larger people.
Slim Jim, Birmingham
4 December 2010, 10:11AM
I know that some people are over weight because of health problems but some people choose to be obese. I agree with some of the comments above but some are a litle extreme.
10 December 2010, 05:53PM
I think everybody should pay the same fare after all we are all human! Everybody should be treated the same in my opinion
7 January 2011, 10:14AM
Jan & Graham are tossers, I have just come back from Egypt, in december,Im 22 stone, a very able construction worker.
Tara Hales, Ridgemont
10 February 2011, 11:22PM
It is definitely a tough one, both morally and for safety.
12 February 2011, 12:34PM
Grant, you might want to re-read Jan's comments, she was being sarcastic!!
15 February 2011, 02:05PM
I am overweight , I admit it . During a Rynair flight recently I sat next to a slim female reporter and she did nothing but whinge. We are not all the same build so why are all the aircraft seats the same size ?
29 March 2011, 01:49PM
It is about time that the whole space issue on aircraft was addressed. We have for too long been shunted into seats that are too small.
3 April 2011, 06:31PM
Lardasses are that way because they are weak willed and just eat too much. Nobody forces them to stuff globs of fat rich processed food into their gullets and they have the ability to lose weight as well.
13 April 2011, 05:12AM
I mean really have some of you heard yourselves, your rude, arragant and dam right out of order! Large people deserve to go on holiday just as much as a skinny people! I'm sicked by John's comment amoung others.
5 May 2011, 01:35PM
just came across this page!!!
18 May 2011, 06:11PM
Having read Jen's comment (above) I think she is being unfair. I have re-read the original article and would say that Catriona was very fair. This is not anti fat people but is a genuine issue that needs to be discussed and hopefully resolved.
Jenny Saggers, Kent
6 June 2011, 08:56AM
There are several issues here. Firstly if we say big people are a safety issue, who is going to tell those unable to walk, see or hear that they cannot fly either for safety reasons?
8 January 2012, 01:37PM
I am disgusted by some of the comments on here. Not all big people are fat because of what they eat. Many, like me, suffer from arthritis and have other medical conditions that do not allow us to burn of the smallest low fat meals. On top of this some of the drugs we take also add to the weight problems. I was once, one of the fittest people you could ever know but my disabilities stop me from doing almost anything, even walking hurts. Should this mean I can not go on holiday, or fly to see my friends and relatives. I don't believe so. Just provide me with a wider seat and I will pay the extra. I dont want it for free or to spoil anyone elses flight but I do have a right to travel.
9 January 2012, 11:20AM
F.Y.I I have two beautiful children and am a makeup artist who showers regularly OH YES IM A HUMAN BEING WITH FEELINGS,and just wanted to visit my friend in the u.s who had a very traumatising miscarraige over Xmas, now i am terrified of going for fear you will all be there to burn me at the stake KKK style no less. This is discrimination, excruciating!
I hope you have fat children and you see how hard it is and it was your fault 4 replacing love with food,you heartless people...
Simple answer 'bigger seats' why is this so debatable? you are pointlessly arguing when there is the quickest of solutions,Although we are an easy target to pick on because WE ARE SO HUGE!!!
TRY BEING INFORMED INSTEAD OF JUST OPINIONATED.
15 January 2012, 09:55AM
The reality is simple, I am a 6'4" man that has a large frame but I am not obese al though I would say of my self that I am a little overweight although I have freinds that would disagree and say I am average. When flying (I have made 100's of flights because of my work)I barely fit between the arms on the seats and my knees normally are touching the seat back infront of me. I have at times ended up bruised on the hips from the narrow seats. It is clear to me that the standard seat size being used by most airlines is based on the averages size of a person as measured 40 years ago when people my size were uncommon.Today in the western world men my size are common and I regularly find myself looking up to speak to men taller than myself. This is something that never happened to me 25 years ago. The airlines need to get with the times and stop trying to pack in as many passengers as possible. The seats need more room between rows and they need to provide wider seating
7 March 2012, 10:54PM
I wondered when people would start talking about weighing passengers. I think it's a shame that people focus on their individual entitlements to the point where they are unable to share space or accommodate fellow humans.
27 June 2012, 02:40AM
I have read a few of the comments. I'm hoping to go to New York (my first ever holiday due to money) and I'm overweight. I wear size 26 jeans (though they are too big, the smaller size are too small) top wise i'm big busted (in general) and my shoulder are wide (as are my shoulder bones). thing is, people who are overweight all have different body shapes. I have big thighs, my mum has skinny legs but is bigger in general. I fit into old theatre seats (though getting out is stupidly odd because i have zero leg room). I fit perfectly and comfortably in cinema VUE seats with my friends who are skinny. now, my issue is that I'm not the size of two seats, if i'm paying for room then wouldn't i pay for one and a bit. I'm guessing I would fit in the seat but more room would be nice, but i don't want to pay double (or whatever) for two seats. lets throw it over, a girl is anorexic, she's half the size of the seat...does she pay half? no. it would be wrong...just saying.
Linda Morrison, Bristol
1 July 2012, 12:19AM
An average is, by definition midway between too extremes. In the case of airplane or theatre seats an average sized seat does not discriminate against those with eating disorders which make them too small. Only against those who are obese. However the average dress size for women in the UK is size 16 . I am a dress size 22 IAlso happen to be 5ft 10ins tall) this is a clothes size readily available in M&S stores. If M&S acknowledges and provides for size 22 women how come airlines cannot? I cannot fasten their seat belts, neither can I wedge myself into the Seats in the back stalls of the Bristol Hippodrome or the Colston Hall. It is not as if these places ever advertise the dimensions of their seats for us to make an informed choice. No they sell us the ticket, take our money and then let us suffer in extreme discomfort for hours. Shame on any of the smug beggars who condemn us.... I wish obesity on you for one year!
2 July 2012, 06:53PM
Having travelled long haul in the past all I can say to big passengers of who I am one is check out flight guru or seat expert for airlines individual seat pitch and seat widths.
29 April 2013, 11:48AM
I have read these comments with interest, I am overweight and do get embarrassed, I do manage to sit in a cattle class seat but find it difficult when people in front of me recline their seat, I get very claustrophobic and am unable to use my table, I think as their is so little room seats should not recline. and don't worry on a very odd occasion when I have had to ask for an extension to mt seat belt the stewards have enjoyed embarrassing me in front of the whole plane.
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