Weight Listed In The ‘Friendly Skies’

Apr 16, 2009 2:44pm

ABC’s Stu Schutzman with his take on an airline’s new policy: Memo:
Fr: United Airlines
To: Overweight Passengers
Re: New Overweight Policy Attn: all oversized jet-setters — your girth may now cost you. "For the comfort and well-being of all customers aboard United Airlines…" If you "are unable to fit into a single seat in the ticketed cabin; are unable to properly buckle the seatbelt using a single seatbelt extender; and/or are unable to put the seat’s armrests down when seated," then for you, the friendly skies of United just got a little less friendly. United’s new policy is aimed at corpulent travelers who might impinge on the space of their seat mates. They could be asked to buy an adjoining seat; pay to upgrade to a bigger seat or be of be forced to find another flight. "We’ll first try to re-accommodate you on another flight," says United. "If the flight is full…you’ll be bumped…" In which case,  United says it will waive any fees and penalties it might otherwise charge.
Now that should mitigate the stress and embarrassment most of these passengers will endure. United is not the first carrier to adopt this policy and probably not the last.  Airlines say they get hundreds of complaints per month from disgruntled customers tired of putting up with seat mates oozing into their already limited space. I’m not defending the policy but, from personal experience, oversize seat mates can be a problem for the rest of us.  On a flight from Germany to New York just after the Berlin Wall fell, a gentleman well in excess of 450 pounds occupied the seat in front of me. They had to supplement his seat belt with an extender. I was in business class, quite comfortable until he showed up. After he nestled into this seat, it began to creak and squeak and slowly push backward towards me. I’m not an engineer, but I was concerned the seat wasn’t designed to withstand that amount of poundage. As his seat continued to creak and bend; I took action. I approached a flight attendant, voiced my concern and advised her my pocket was full of shards from the Berlin Wall and they were hers if she could do something. She gladly took some and disappeared. Five minutes later she returned, "got any more?" she asked. I gave her some more, she paid off whoever need to be paid off and I was promptly upgraded to first class. Some situations will be resolved that smoothly and others will not. Maybe the airlines could remove some seats, especially from the coach cabin and give everyone a little more room. But if some really overweight passengers are thinking about a diet, I can recommend a sure fire one…it’s called airline food.

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