Friday, September 11, 2009 at 5:18 AM
Given the growing pandemic of obesity, it behooves commercial airlines to establish industry-wide standards to determine whether, or under what circumstances, obese people should be barred from flying. What happened to Emery Orto last week is a case in point:
Orto is a 6-ft, 350-lb man who was barred from flying a Southwest Airlines (return) flight from Las Vegas to Chicago. According to him, he was barred because:
The airline gave us the impression that I was too big or too fat to fly.
For its part, Southwest insisted that it was merely enforcing its policy of barring passengers who cannot sit in a seat with both side arms down. And when reporters asked why the airline allowed Orto to fly from Chicago to Las Vegas in the first place, a spokesman conceded that the Chicago crew screwed up.
But never mind the crew; it’s this policy that is screwed up. After all, no crew should be authorized to bar a passenger from flying based solely on a visual scan of his or her girth.
This is too subjective, and will invariably give rise to disputes – with morbidly obese passengers insisting that they can fit in their seats just fine. Indeed, that’s exactly what happened in this case – with Orto reportedly becoming belligerent. This, conveniently, allowed Southwest to bar him by claiming, essentially, that not only his big butt, but also his big mouth posed a threat to the safety (and comfort) of the passengers and crew.
In fact, the only fair and objective way to enforce this policy would be to have a replica seat at the check-in counter so clearly obese passengers can show that they will fit; rather like the measuring template that is there so passengers can show that their carryon bags will fit.
In any event, whether an obese person can fit (or squeeze) his butt into an airplane seat is not the issue. Because, if you’ve ever had to sit next to a fat person (in coach), you know that the real problem is that the rest of him tends to bulge over and take up far too much of your seat.
This is why the only fair and equitable way to deal with obese passengers is to require them to purchase two seats – the second one perhaps at half price. And, incidentally, no matter how snuggly you may think you fit in your seat, if you need a seatbelt extension, you would qualify for this surcharge!
The only alternative would be to designate obese people a disabled class and require the airlines to provide two seats for the price of one to accommodate their disability.
What do you think?