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Charging Obese Flyers For Two — Reasonable or Ridiculous?

"Passengers requiring extra space" might be a sugar-coated way to describe overweight individuals, but there's nothing sweet about United Airlines' new policy for such flyers. The airline announced yesterday that larger travelers will have to pay twice as much for a flight.

If you cannot fit in a single seat, buckle a seat belt property, or put the armrest down when seated, then you'll have to buy two tickets. United says it has the safety and comfort of all passengers in mind.

In Canada, obese air travelers have a legal right to an extra seat at no extra cost. The one-person-one-fare policy is considered a guarantee against discrimination. Maybe it's time for the US to have the same law.


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Matdredalia Matdredalia 8 years
Seeing the responses to this reminds me of the exact reason why I spent most of my teenage years being a suicidal wreck --- because discriminating against fat people is the last really PC prejudice, and because most people treat us like freaking pariahs, and assume we're just lard arses who eat too much and don't exercise. Most people are NOT obese by choice, despite what many of you seem to believe, and regardless of whether or not someone is obese by choice, they don't deserve to be discriminated against. I don't like annoying, screaming, bratty kids who are undisciplined. But you don't see me discriminating against their parents and telling their parents not to breed, do you? It's their choice to have kids, and their choice on how to raise them, and their choice to subject society to the little hellions. But you don't see people telling them they have to pay more to torture people at a restaraunt, or on an airplane, or whatever, because their kids are ill mannered brats, do you? And as far as I'm concerned, BREEDING and raising brats is more of a choice than how big your arse is! Argh...*headdesk* I don't even know why I read crap like this anymore.
kristyy kristyy 8 years
I agree with bbkf (post #3). Make a row with seats larger than the "economy plus" seats and charge a premium for these seats. Maybe charge 50% more instead of 100% more for the extra seat. So if you're fat and need the extra room, you'll have to get one of these seats. Medical condition or not, you're still fat and taking up room and making the people next to you uncomfortable.
mandy_frost mandy_frost 8 years
agree with margohkal 100% -- This is ridic. A lot of folks forget -- yes, few have a physical medical condition, but have you ever listened to an obese person who is overweight as due to eating too much. Often, it comes from how they think and feel -- a psychological trouble. This will NOT be the "motivation they need" to go on a diet. This will be HUMILIATION!
Jinx Jinx 8 years
I think its totally reasonable. Seriously, if you are too freakin big to fit in one seat, too bad. I hope the Canadian Airlines ensure the weight for passengers is worked out correctly since they are giving away the seats.
danixk danixk 8 years
completely reasonable!
lovy29 lovy29 8 years
Maybe paying twice the cost is a bit much, but I think 1.5 times the charge of a regular ticket is completely fair.
sham28 sham28 8 years
It makes me uncomfortable but the logic is sound. Being unable to fit the armrest over yourself is evidence that you exceed the accommodations.
bairdlet bairdlet 8 years
Zucchero, they make you pay for extra carry-ons.
bairdlet bairdlet 8 years
Perfectly reasonable. Even if safety was the only concern, aside from space and cost, I would still say that those who require an extra seat should have one. I sat next to a woman once whose breadth was such that her lap flowed over the downed armrest into my lap. Every time she inhaled, her seatbelt would come unbuckled and land on me, at which point she would apologize and retrieve it. Now, seeing as I am usually freezing on cross-Atlantic flights, this situation came with the added bonus of being quite warm, since I was completely behind and in some cases, under, another person. It was, without choice, a bit more intimate than I would normally choose to get with a complete stranger, but the lady seemed nice enough. (She also seemed quite soft, but I don't think she would have appreciated me snuggling into her side, which wasn't quite fair, since she took up the space in my own seat which I would have used for sleeping. I did resent the fact that I had to fly 11 hours at attention, my back and chin ramrod-straight because I had to avoid leaning on the person who was taking up a good half of my seat. If she'd have been a wall, or a suitcase, I would have slept on her.) However, I did spend eight hours holding my bladder because I could not bring myself to say "I'm sorry, could you please take your hip off of my lap so I can pee?" or physically PUSH her excess bits off of me so that I could stand up. In the event of an emergency, I would be stuck waiting until this lady could get out of the plane before I could, and she moved a darn sight slower than pretty much anyone else I've ever met. I hate to be mean, but if she were to pass out or roll to the side, I would have been trapped. An extra seat would have prevented this. Look, I am a chunky girl, and at 5'8", not that little, but I fit in an airplane seat just fine. My fiance, who is a big guy (6"1", 220lbs.) also fits, though not as comfortably (but then you can fold muscle and extra long limbs, while fat tends to overflow its confinements, hence the "muffintop" effect). I don't think it's discrimination. If, for the safety of both yourself and others, you require an extra seat because your dimensions are such that fitting into one seat is mathematically infeasible, you should have to buy an extra seat. For the sake of argument, even if it were cost alone: Tolls make you pay by the axle, don't they?
FitZucchero FitZucchero 8 years
I really struggled with this one. As someone who travels internationally 25%-40% of the time, I can completely emphathize with getting stuck next to someone who is definitely taking more than their fair share of space. With this said, I think that airline seats are one of the few things that have not grown larger as Americans have. Sometimes, I even find seats to be on the "smaller" side on domestic flights and I consider myself a pretty normal size (5'7", size 8-10). I actually think that what Canada does is far more fair. Where do you draw the line? How does someone know if they are "too big"? Do you get on the plane only to notice that you can't put the armrest down and you then have to pay for an additional seat? And if the plane is overbooked? And as many others have mentioned, where does it go from there? Tall people? What about that jerk that brought on too many carry-ons? This seems to be going down a very slippery slope. This isn't a new problem, but the way that United is approaching it does seem unfair and unreasonable in my opinion. It seems a little too clear that this is simply a means of making extra money.
Renees3 Renees3 8 years
I do think this is reasonable and I don't think that most of the arguments against can change my mind. Someone said Think about it from the big persons point of view. This is not about worrying about someone embarassment. This is about the comfort of everyone involved in an already not so comfortable environment. I'm an overweight person, I don't require two seats, I fit in one just fine. All these people are saying the seats are made for super small people, but I don't agree. It's not supposed to be like your comfy chair at home, you're sitting 5 inches away from a stranger! Planes will probably never be super comfortable and spacious, it's not cost effective and this is a business. I've flown a lot and sat next to tons of different people. MOST people don't have problems fitting in the seats. they don't. So the people that don't fit and require two seats are NOT your average person. I've only been on one or two flights where I've actually seen a person struggle to fit. And it's true, it's sad that this is even an issue. America is overweight. If you eat right and exercise and still can't lose weight you need to see a doctor to make sure everything is ok, because that's not normal. Most obese people don't have a medical problem that caused their obesity. It's a bummer, but it you can't fit, you Can't fit! What is the airline supposed to do on a full flight? Kick someone else off so the big person can have two seats?
babysoftpink babysoftpink 8 years
I think as long as your weight decision is not affecting others then you have the rights and entitlement to what others have. However, in a long flight and tight plane seats, you are affecting others. I don't necessarily agree with the decision to charge extra. But you are affecting others even if it is not your intended objective, it is only fair and reasonable for you to do certain things to accommodate others for the effects you've caused others.
greenapplelover greenapplelover 8 years
I put reasonable. Maybe it would make the people realize they need to be healthier... but I can see how it would be really embarassing, especially if your weight is caused by a medical reason you can't change. But if there were an increased charge, I'm sure overweight people would try to cram themselves into one seat to pay less, which isn't safe for them or other travellers. On the fence about this issue, not sure what the best solution is.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i think that it's a reasonable request. i've sat on a plane when i've been next to someone that doesn't completely fit in their seat and i've had to share my seat so to speak. it's not necessarily the most comfortable way to spend a 6 hour flight - and i was put in the seat because i'm smaller, and it would be better for the other person. i feel like if they are taking up space from someone else that would have paid for the seat, then they should have to pay for it. granted looking at the other side of it, it's really hard sometimes when you're trying to make do with the money that you have - with the cost of airfare - it's not always easy to afford 2 seats. it's such a hard thing to talk about.
bloomsgal8 bloomsgal8 8 years
Totally reasonable! Yes I realize that some obese have a disability, but come on, I do think that if you are a size 22 without a disability then it is possible that it didn't just happen by no fault of your own. I don't like that people never truly take responsibility for their weight. In fact, the above posted who mentioned he lost 90 lbs and has another to go, now that is great! I am sure that was really hard but look with hard work losing weight is completely possible and that is awesome that people are taking that responsibility and really putting in the hard work! You take up two seats, you pay for two. I am not saying that all people od this of course, but how many of you have seen morbidly obese people eating fast food in massive quantities and felt annoyed. I am not obese but I don't eat fast food for that very reason, because I don't want to be that way. If i can avoid it, why can't others? And yes, there are socioeconomic factors. But if you actually add it up buying fresh produce and cooking an entire meal for everyone is cheaper than feeding the entire family Big Macs! Unless you are buying imported fancy vegetables then it WILL be cheaper. Okay rant over, this whole thing just makes me mad. I never get any benefits for being smaller or watching what I eat constantly (which is freaking hard!), so it is frustrating.
WeTheLiving WeTheLiving 8 years
Totally reasonable! Who wants to sit next to the obese person who doesn't fit in their seat? It's not fair to the person who paid the same price for their ticket and is being squished by an overweight person. Just like someone said, when you have a baby, it kinda sucks to pay for a whole ticket for this little person, but after a certain age (usually 2/3) they are required to have their own seat, so why shouldn't a person who is the size of two people have to pay for two seats? bbkf, wrt your suggestion about bigger seats at higher prices, what happens when there are too many big people to fill in the seats? Or when there are too many people who don't need the extra big seat and don't want to pay extra for it. Not every flight has the same size people.
sprinkibrio sprinkibrio 8 years
The thing is, is that this is an airline and a business. Planes can only carry a certain weight and space and they base their ticket prices and the number of seats in the plane based on what will make them profit. If the whole US starts growing like we have been airlines lose money. That is why they will charge you for heavy or numerous bags and that is why they are making big people sit in first class or buy two seats. If you don't have 20/20 you can't be a pilot and if you don't fit in the teeny cockpit seat you can't be a pilot... this is not discrimination.
EmmaDilemma EmmaDilemma 8 years
This comment is particularly directed towards Vsug - I think that you should check your facts a bit better before you conjecture that "There is NO WAY someone is THAT big and eating right and exercising. IMPOSSIBLE. It IS their fault if they are that big." A family friend of mine had a brain tumor as a child, and had to have part of his brain removed, which essentially took away his ability to recognize when he was full. So yeah, he's overweight, but not for the reasons you suggest, but because otherwise he would have died. I suppose that this really just suggests his selfishness though, right? Because he isn't respecting your right to have lots of space on an airplane. I disagree with but respect your opinion that overweight people should have to pay for extra seating room, but don't make generalizations like you have, because you have no way to know of possible exceptions.
redchick152 redchick152 8 years
United is just trying to make $$$....all airlines are charging ridiculous and annoying fees right now and this is one of them. Aircraft manufacturers are just happy that someone is buying their airplanes right now, so i doubt they will be making rows of larger seats anytime soon....although that would be a fantastic option for customers that KNOW they will need more than the average amount of space. i also like the paying per pound idea....just like our luggage! i am 5'0 tall and 125 lbs (with enough body image issues of my own) and i do not think its fair to me that a person 2 or 3 times my size is spilling over into my area. i also don't think its fair to have a screaming, bratty kid sitting next to or behind me either....but that is opening a whole other can o' worms!
c4rolin3 c4rolin3 8 years
refinedharmon- yes definitely would have to be bmi rather than mass. As someone who is short and overweight may still just weigh about the same as someone who is tall and within the healthy weight for their height. Would it then be a collective weight- can I take more in my luggage as I'm dainty so would've been entitled to have more weight on my person?! Could open up a can of worms :)
refinedharmony refinedharmony 8 years
c4rolin3... The airlines that already require this make the decision at check-in. I heard about this on the radio the other day and they were talking about having a scale and the check in area (much like when you fly on super tiny planes and EVERYONE has to weigh in with all of your luggage and carry ons). However, people DO hold their weight differenty, a person at 5'3" and 6"3" each weighing 250 pounds is very different. Maybe they will use a height-to-weight ratio? BMI? Because people talk about paying per pound will not work if you are in the healthy weight range for your height. But then again- why does your health determine how much you pay to travel?
c4rolin3 c4rolin3 8 years
Just had a thought- how would an airline know over the phone or online if a person is obese? Do you now have to provide your weight when booking an airline ticket? If someone turns up and they are deemed to need to have two seats and pay for two seats... and the plane is full what happens to the passenger who was allocated a seat next to them if there aren't any others available on that flight?!
c4rolin3 c4rolin3 8 years
This is completely reasonable. As if another passenger has to sit next to them and has an uncomfortable flight because someone else is 'spilling' into their chair it's utterly unfair. Especially on any transatlantic flights. On another note- airlines weigh cases etc and if your case is over you have to pay more as they claim they'd need to add more fuel.... is someone is grossly overweight and only using one seat and paying for one seat they're getting a better deal than my suitcase where you can be charged for being over by 0.01kg about £30 in England! Actually they're probably getting a cheap second seat when you calculate on that ratio :)
sarahgibs sarahgibs 8 years
I think charging people is reasonable, however I question how this will be enforced. Who will judge if the person is 'obese', will there be a fake seat set up by check in? People judge other people's size differently and I could see issues coming about if a person who was charged, ended up not 'needing' the extra seat. Also I could see this becoming an issue when boarding with other passengers calling out an obese person if they do not have two tickets (which I feel is pretty cruel). However I have been on one to many flights where I have been crushed and had little room in my seat. I just dont know how this will work out in the long run.
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