United Airlines to charge double fare for overweight passengers

Friday, April 17, 2009, 12:34 by Aviation Correspondent

Chicago-based United Airlines, a subsidiary of UAL Corporation, will now charge overweight passengers the fare for an extra seat. This is in accordance with United Airlines’ new rules which require that a passenger too big for one seat will be moved to two adjacent empty seats at no charge.

However, if no two adjacent empty seats are available, the overweight passenger may have to upgrade to a larger business class seat or buy two seats on the next flight.

According to a statement from United Airlines, stewards will move passengers from their seats if they are unable to lower the armrest and buckle a seatbelt with one
additional extension cord.

Stewards will then try to accommodate the overweight passenger with two empty seats on the same plane at no extra cost.

However, if no space is available, the obese passenger will be taken out of the plane and will have to buy an additional seat on the next available flight.

United Airlines, which operates about 3,000 domestic flights a day in the United States, is the 9th carrier to have placed restrictions on obese passengers.

According to data available with the United States US Centres for Disease Control, two-thirds of Americans are considered overweight, and over a third are obese.

United Airlines explained that the new policy was adopted in response to 700 complaints the airline received in 2008 from passengers seated next to obese passengers.

“The new policy was created for the comfort and well-being of all our guests onboard, some of whom do not have a comfortable flight because the person next to them infringed on their seat,” the airline said.

The website redorbit.com quoted a spokesman of Obesity Action Coalition as saying, “If a passenger is requested to perform an armrest test in front of a full-capacity aircraft, that could possibly be humiliating to that individual if he does not pass United Airlines’ guidelines.”

The spokesman also requested United Airlines to “make seating decisions with compassion.”

In a press release, Carrie Padian, president of the Fat Rights Coalition, reacted to United Airlines’ new policy on overweight passengers, saying, “This policy is less
about customer comfort than it is about making money; it is one thing to accommodate a fat person on another flight for everyone’s comfort, but insisting that he pay for a second seat is blatant discrimination.”

If United Airlines “really cared about the comfort of its passengers,” it should buy planes with more space for everyone, Padian added.

In 2008, the Canadian Transportation Agency – an independent federal agency responsible for resoving disputes and for economic regulation in the transportation
industry in Canada – had ordered three Canada-based carriers to accommodate passengers “functionally disabled by obesity” at no extra charge.

Though Air Canada challenged it, Canada’s Supreme Court upheld the Canadian Transportation Agency’s decision.

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