United Airlines vs. Obese Passengers

Articles
April 16, 2009

United Airlines vs. Obese Passengers

United Airlines is now the fifth major airline, and the third largest in the U.S., to adopt new policies when it comes to overweight passengers. As of now, any tickets purchased on or after March 4, 2009 for travel on or after April 15th, 2009, will be affected. The new policy follows a series of complaints the airlines claims they have received from passengers saying they feel cramped seated when they are seated next to overweight guests. According to the airline's new policy, in the event that a passenger does not fit properly into one seat, they will be asked to pay for two seats. If the oversized passenger cannot be relocated to a two seats, they will be asked to book a ticket onto the next flight and purchase two seats. Obesity rates are still high, according to the Centers For Disease Control, however, they have not increased measurably since 2004. Currently, an estimated 34% of adults in America over the age 20 are obese. We only wonder if this comes as yet another method for the airlines to make extra money, or try to in fact make flying more pleasant for all – and to be fair, there is little doubt it is a bit of both. Last year, United reports that they had over 700 complaints from passengers who were physically uncomfortable having to fly next to an overweight passenger. I’ve been there, and frankly as a third of Americans inch there way into obesity we can expect to see a lot more problems between seat mates.

United Airlines is now the fifth major airline, and the third largest in the U.S., to adopt new policies when it comes to overweight passengers. As of now, any tickets purchased on or after March 4, 2009 for travel on or after April 15th, 2009, will be affected.

The new policy follows a series of complaints the airlines claims they have received from passengers saying they feel cramped seated when they are seated next to overweight guests.  According to the airline's new policy, in the event that a passenger does not fit properly into one seat, they will be asked to pay for two seats.  If the oversized passenger cannot be relocated to a two seats, they will be asked to book a ticket onto the next flight and purchase two seats.

Obesity rates are still high, according to the Centers For Disease Control, however, they have not increased measurably since 2004.  Currently, an estimated 34% of adults in America over the age 20 are obese.

We only wonder if this comes as yet another method for the airlines to make extra money, or try to in fact make flying more pleasant for all – and to be fair, there is little doubt it is a bit of both. Last year, United reports that they had over 700 complaints from passengers who were physically uncomfortable having to fly next to an overweight passenger. I’ve been there, and frankly as a third of Americans inch there way into obesity we can expect to see a lot more problems between seat mates.

Topline is that this is a form of discrimination; however, let’s look a little deeper and it is just common sense that someone who is 300 pounds uses more resources than someone who is 150 pounds. The added weight does increase fuel consumption at the least. And as someone who has to fly over 150,000 miles a year I would suggest that both the obese passenger and the person adjacent might find their next trip to be more comfortable. Question is if this is the solution, or perhaps another section in the plane with wider seats? Or will this give some entrepreneur the idea of a new airline built to meet the needs of the obese passenger?