James Andres Bassos has an interesting lawsuit against Etihad Airways for a flight from Sydney to Dubai. Bassos charges that he was forced to sit next to a “grossly overweight” person and, as a result, injured his back in having to contort his body during the flight. The court in Brisbane, Australia decided that Bassos has a legitimate claim and declined to dismiss he lawsuit.
It may be the fact that I pulled my back on my flight to San Francisco, but this story struck me as particularly interesting given the continued struggle of airlines in dealing with obese individuals. Some airlines are insisting on such persons to purchase a second seat while other tell customers that sitting against an obese person is just a reality of air travel.
Bassos says that the crew was unhelpful and only allowed him to sit in a crew seat for a short period. He complained that the man was occupying part of his seat, and was into his seat, coughing frequently and had fluid coming from his mouth.
Judge Fleur Kingham ruled that this was no reason to strike out the claim.
This would make for an interesting trial as to the reasonableness of the airline in not mandating the purchase of a second seat or having an alternative accommodation for affected passengers. Airlines are in a tough position. They do not want to be accused of discrimination (and some countries are looking at discrimination or hate speech connected to “fatism”) while they also want to guarantee the safety and comfort of other passengers. Yet, weighing passengers and changing by weight is likely to set off a chorus of objections and add new inhibitions to flying.