Should airlines discriminate against "heavy" people?

Isn’t 800 pounds quite dangerously, morbidly obese?

I could imagine an airline refusing to take such a person on health grounds, like they advise against(?) very heavily pregant women flying, at least without a doctor’s letter.

(Apologies if I am wrong about the amount, it just sounded exceptionally heavy, even for an obese person).

Airlines are continually going bankrupt. I think there are bigger problems here than a few overwieght people cramping others in an already cramped seat (no matter who is sitting in it). And of course it isn’t just overweight people, anyone with broad shoulders has the same issue of squeezing into others’ space.

I like the bench idea, though, that’s interesting… but of course, we’d run into the same problem as before with seatbelt placement on a bench, so I don’t know if we can get anywhere there.

Yes, 800lbs would be very dangerously obese. That is more than my immediate family’s weight combined. Surely if she really wanted to, she could do something about her weight.

Well, not bankrupt, but in the red…

Gus: Your plan would work if all the folks travelling were to be stacked up like cordwood. The thing {“The thing” = “Reality”} people aren’t cordwood.

800 pounds is beyond “mobidly obese” and well into the realm of the surreal. Such a person probably could not fit into TWO standard airlines seats; she’s take a row of three, and I’m not sure there’s room in front of her anyway. Actually, an 800-pound person would have difficultly fitting through the airplane door.

At 800 pounds, really, it’s very difficult for someone to do something about their weight besides radical surgery. At that size you can’t really exercise, and you’re pretty far gone for dieting. There are places for people that big to get help; Dick Gregory runs one and apparently he works wonders, amazing things, getting 700-pound people down to 250. But it’s EXPENSIVE - thousands and thousands of dollars. Unless you’ve got the cash to go to a place like that, recovery would be damn hard.

If you read the OP, he (it was a guy) did indeed die from complications of obesity at the age of 28.

Still, I think the whole obesity angle is spin. There are plenty of people of near-standard weight that have broad frames and thus impose on other passengers in substancially the same way. I do think airplane seats are just a tad too small, but I really don’t know how to adjust the problem without adding more stress to the profitability factor.

Has any country seriously considered nationalizing airlines? I am one of the last people that would want such a thing, but it is always an interesting notion anyway, if for no other reason than to shoot down. I have always had the feeling that publicly available air travel came a bit before we were ready for it and we got ourselves in some trouble with the whole affair.

I do not understand all the costs associated with airlines.

I forgot to mention, I fly quite a bit more than the average schmoe for work and I say this because I meet these people far, far more often than obese people.

I can’t stand airline seats. For me, they’re horribly uncomfortable, because I’m five feet tall and just under a hundred pounds. I always end up getting horrible cramps in my neck. And I ALWAYS, without fail, somehow get seated next to the largest person on the plane. Last time I flew (From Charlotte, NC to Denver), I was seated next to a BIG guy. Not fat, just BIG. Big as in, head mere centimeters away from the overhead compartment. He must have been a linebacker or something, because this guys shoulders were about as wide as I’m tall. It was uncomfortable, because he put the armrest up and was partially in my seat.

I know it wasn’t his fault, because he was obviously not fat, just big. But I paid (well, my parents did) for the seat that I was sitting in. Call it petty, but I don’t want someone else taking up my space. I paid for it. You pay for your space. If you want/need more space, pay for it.

Many countries have nationalized airlines. British Airways was nationalized, and boy did it improve after going private. I’m not sure of the current status, but government has owned all or large amounts of many European airlines, e.g. Air France, Al Italia. And then there’s Aeroflot.

According to the Department of Transportation, The Americans with Disabilities Act says that carriers must provide passage to an individual who has a disability that may affect his or her appearance or involuntary behavior, even if this disability may offend, annoy, or be an inconvenience to crew-members or other passengers.

Treating a person who is handicapped by morbid obesity any differently from an average-sized person sounds like discrimination to me. But IANAA.

I grew up in a small town with a small movie theater. There was one very, very large seat to accomodate the morbidly obese. Why couldn’t an airlines have one large seat that would have to be reserved ahead of time?

I guess that if private airlines can do what they want, they could change the “normal” seat size to twelve inches. Some of you might feel differently then. Maybe not.

The reason that pregnant women are not supposed to fly has to do with their health and not their weight.

Morbid obesity begins at approximately 100 pounds overweight.

And I disagree that obesity is automatically a controllable problem. There are too many factors to be considered. For one thing, metabolic rates do change as the weight decreases. The body thinks it is starving and hangs on to every ounce it can. Genetics is another factor. Mental health is another.


Teaches me to post without reading the rest of the post I’m responding to…

That tone suggests that you mean “some of us may feel differently about having the government force businesses to comply with arbitrary standards”, and if that’s the case, your logic is faulty.

Since you seem to be talking to free market advocates with that statement, I’d guess they’re the first to realize that an airline would fail and be largely rejected by the public if they made such a decision, thereby weeding out such a company, or more likely, preventing them from doing it in the first place when they realize the implications. No central authority imposing it’s will needed.

Sorry if this is an excessive response, but that statement rubbed me the wrong way. You seemed to imply those against arbitrary government regulation would “change our minds” when private entities did something we didn’t like, then we’d want to impose our wills through a central authority. And the logic there is faulty, hence my response.

originaly by: Zoe

Here is what I found About the Americans with disabilites act,

I think that this goes to the heart of the argument;

To me this says that if it is possible for a handicaped person to get by, or it would cause an undue burden to a buisness then the business doesnt have to change anything. IMHO Replaceing all of the seats on every jet to accomodate 500lb people would be an undue hardship. The linkied article also gives a few examples like,

I would also like to add that being overweigh isnt on the same level as haveing MS, cerebral palsy, being blind, being deaf , being wheel chair bound or haveing any other legitiamate disability. No one wakes up weighing 400 pounds. It doesnt happen by accident or by illness. It happens because people eat more calories than they can use. Everybody wants to blame genetics, but the fact is if you eat 5000 calories a day and only burn 300 calories a day you will blow up like a balloon.Genetics dont even enter into it.

Burner, you had me beginning to agree with you until…

**QUOTE]No one wakes up weighing 400 pounds. It doesnt happen by accident or by illness. It happens because people eat more calories than they can use. Everybody wants to blame genetics, but the fact is if you eat 5000 calories a day and only burn 300 calories a day you will blow up like a balloon.Genetics dont even enter into it.

In fact, morbid obesity DOES happen by illness quite often, and genetics as well, as cited here…

"The reasons for obesity are multiple and complex. Despite conventional wisdom, it is not simply a result of overeating. Research has shown that in many cases a significant, underlying cause of morbid obesity is genetic. Studies have demonstrated that once the problem is established, efforts such as dieting and exercise programs have a limited ability to provide effective long-term relief"

Your reasoning is misguided and prejudiced and your statement altogether wrong.
Moreover, the CDC has indeed classified obesity as a disease, in fact, Better than 50% of the country is considered now considered ‘obese’. The CDC says obesity will kill more people this year thanAIDS will in the next three, should the number remain the same or nearly the same.

The answer to…

is the ACTUAL caselaw definition of readily achievable, which, I am quite sure has nothing to do with the profits of a major airline, despite the Q & A session remarks. Since the inception and enforcement of the ADA, sidewalks across America have had to be remade and resurfaced, countless stalls and toilets and grab bars have had to be installed, where they did not before exist, and miles and miles of asphalt and concrete now make up the collective of handicapped parking spaces, from which, I might add, millions of local revenue dollars are now collected from violations issued nationwide.

Obesity is now on that list of disabilities. You’ll have to deal with it.

Further, the fact that nearly 50% of Americans are obese, coupled with the reality of plummeting airline stability, means that should an airline decide to charge more, they will be summarily discriminating against a fair portion of customers or potential customers. Should this be legal? Perhaps not, also the arguement that an airline is a private company is only half true. There are few other industries so heavily federally regulated and managed than air transport. So then, the debate remains, should it be called discrimination? Indeed it should. Here’s why. Like many, many other disabilities,and as cited above, obesity cannot always be managed by the sufferer, and often needs to be medically treated, and even then cannot always be cured or even controlled. It is indeed like MS, and CP, and other crippling diseases, in that it effects the way in which those affected live their day to day lives.

Now I’ll grant you, it’s unlikely that there was a real need for an 800 pound person to fly when suitable ground transportation was probably available, and that a person of that size should be aware of his or her imact on those around them, and be considerate of that impact.

Still, the issue, IMO addresses those who are more mainstream, and who fly often enough for this to be an issue. I personally am 6’4" and weigh 300# I have a very large frame (60" chest 44" waist), and am not all that fat, yet considered obese by the standards of many institutions. I am an active firefighter and paramedic, and can work circles around many of my thinner, less in shape colleagues, yet should I choose to fly, I may be made to purchase another seat, not quite so simple on a firefighters’ salary.

Lastly, playing devil’s advocate, smoking, because of it’s hazards and general danger to the public was banned from all flights.

I ask the following questions to all posters based upon above fact.
What indeed is the hazard and general danger in coming in accidental contact with someone in the seat next to you?
Would you be offended if a person with an obvious physical defect, flaw or handicap other than being obese sat next to you and came in accidental contact with you?
Would you be offended if a homely person that was obese sat next to you, and came in accidental contact with you?
Would you be offended if that person were attractive and thin rather than fat and homely, or handicapped? (don’t lie either)
Do you think there is more of a risk touching someone than breathing the air they breathe? (please, get me started on that one)
Are we just stereotyping and allowing ourselves to be taken in by the hollywood myth of beauty?

I already know the answers to many of these, politically correct or not, but the truth is that we are so compartmentalized in our culture, that we are afraid to let anyone else in. We have come to enjoy the antiseptic nature of our lives, the anonymous non-committal contact such as this very board. We have become comfortable drawing lines, real and imagined, around ourselves and in the end, we’re all poorer souls for it.

What is commercial airline industry average cost to transport one pound one mile? In other words, is there a significant cost differential to airlines between carrying people of widely varying weights? If so, it is the light people that are subsidizing the heavy people.

It’s a business. Fat people are not a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ergo they can discriminate all they want. If it is really best characterized as discrimination, which I’m not convinced of.

It’s really a question of paying for what you’re using. If you’re 800 lbs., you’re using two seats. You’re paying for seats, therefore you should pay for two. If the company wants to be nice and not charge you for two, that’s great for them and it might be a good niche market opportunity. Imagine the airline that catered to comfort and space, that accomodated the hefty passenger, they might do good business in competing against a world of airlines that treat passengers like cattle. But it’s their call. It might be different if one was merely paying for admittance (like lawn seating at an ampitheatre) but when one is paying for seats, one pays for the number of seats they use.

Firewitch, I have a 40" waist, not too far off from your 44" one. I agree, it’s not all that uncommon, and for guys with larger frames that’s not even necessarily “obese”, though it is surely overweight by most standards. I have no problem fitting into seats in coach, and I imagine you don’t either. I don’t think you should have to pay for two seats unless you actually use two seats, like this 800 lb. behemoth of a woman apparently did.

Late last year a woman successfully sued an Airline in the UK because she was seated beside an obese woman. As she was getting onto the plane the obese woman was lifting the arm rest to gain more room and squashed the lady to the extent that she was forced to seek medical attention. The air crew wouldn’t move the squashee into first class even though there was space.

Back to my benches and by the pound idea for a minute. If the seat belts were on bars and could be slid into what ever position was needed and we all were charged by the pound as is all other cargo of the non human variety, would we not remove all the objections for people both great and small? No need for cord wood. I used top fly on a lot of military aircraft where bench canvas seating was the only option. With multiple rows of a major comfortable type, picture one long couch like affair, and sliding lights, air vents, ear phones and seat AND SHOULDER harness which would increase safety, is this not win – win?