Passenger Stands On Seven Hour Flight

The passenger who stood said the airline is not addressing his safety concerns.

ByABC News
November 23, 2011, 1:49 PM

Nov. 23, 2011— -- Arthur Berkowitz was buckled into his aisle seat and ready for take-off on a flight from Anchorage to Philadelphia when a morbidly obese man boarded the airplane at the last minute and headed toward the vacant middle seat which separated Berkowitz and a young exchange student on the otherwise full flight.

"He was very apologetic," Berkowitz, 57, told "When he boarded, he said: 'I'm your worst nightmare.'"

Those words turned out to be prophetic for Berkowitz, who said he was forced to stand for most of the seven hour flight, which he took on July 29.

"During takeoff and landing, I was wedged into my seat and unable to belt it," he said. "The man next to meet was resting on top of the seat belt."

Other than takeoff and landing, he said he spent the seven hour flight standing in the aisle and galley area.

Berkowitz said he is speaking out about his ordeal now because he believes US Airways did not properly address his concerns.

"My issue first and foremost is that this was a safety issue," Berkowitz said. "The airlines and regulatory bodies need to have protocol when it comes to this."

He said he brought the problem of his large seatmate to the flight attendants' attention and asked if he could sit in one of their jump seats.

They apologized and said there was nothing they could do and that sitting in their seats was against FAA regulations.

"We have attempted to address this customer's service concerns, but offering increasing amounts of compensation based on a threat of a safety violation isn't really fair – especially when the passenger himself said he didn't follow the crew members' instructions and fasten his seat belt," John McDonald, a US airways spokesperson, told

"We realize it is inconvenient, but it is our obligation to be safe," McDonald said.

Despite months' worth of correspondence with the airline, "they felt the matter was closed," Berkowitz said.

He said he brought complaint to the attention of the Department of Transportation and the FAA.

"They've done next to nothing other than to acknowledge they received [my letters]," he said.

US Airways, for their part, said they have discussed Berkowitz's complaints with the crew members who were on the flight.

Berkowitz, a frequent flyer, isn't satisfied.

"They say they want to give passengers comfort and convenience," he said. "Well, this is as inconvenient and uncomfortable as you can get."

Consumer advocate Christopher Elliott, who tried to help Berkowitz mediate his complaint, said travelers need to communicate, especially during the busy holiday travel season.

"I deal with hundreds of cases like this on a weekly basis," Elliott said. "If you're stuck in a situation where you can't use your space, talk to the passenger first."

If the direct communication doesn't work, Elliott said passengers should talk to a flight attendant. Above that, they can appeal to the lead purser.

"The final level of appeal on the flight would be to talk to the pilot," Elliott said. "Pilots have the final say."

Beyond that, he recommends passengers immediately put their complaints in writing and submit them to the airline when they land.

"Airlines say they're giving us what we want-- low fares," Elliott said. "But we haven't also asked to be tortured. This is a form of torture."