An aggrieved lawyer is suing Emirates airline after enduring a nine-hour flight seated next to an obese man who allegedly bulged into his space, forcing him to spend most of the flight standing in the aisle.
Italian lawyer Giorgio Destro, an Emirates “Gold member” passenger, was on a flight from Cape Town to Dubai, the Daily Mail reported.
Destro told an Italian newspaper the airline wouldn’t let him change his seat, or even offer an apology.
“For nine hours, I had to stand in the aisle, sit on seats reserved for the cabin crew when they were free, and in the final phase of flight, resign myself to suffer the ‘spillover’ of the passenger at my side.”
Emirates declined to comment, telling the paper the legal matter was on-going as the case was set down for hearing in October in Italy.
Whatever the outcome, the case highlights the problems airlines face with the growing number of very large passengers.
Sometimes the cases are extreme, like the family left stranded at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport when an airline refused to carry their son, a 22-year-old who weighed 226.8 kilograms – approaching a quarter of a tonne – back to France.
Many airlines, including Qantas and Virgin Australia, try to seat large or obese passengers next to an empty seat if they appear unable to travel comfortably in one seat.
They also let such passengers book the seat next to them at a reduced fare, giving them two seats. But the offer falls flat if an obese passenger decides not to take it up.
Consumer advocates say that if a passenger pays for a service – a single seat – it must be fit for purpose. An enormous passenger sitting alongside, and bulging into one’s seat-space, can make the seat unfit for purpose.
Written by Peter Needham