American Morning

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April 20th, 2009
07:10 AM ET

Vote! Should overweight passengers pay for 2 seats on airplanes?

Do you agree with the decision by United Airlines to charge overweight passengers for two seats if they can not fit into one with the arm rest down?

Overweight passengers might soon have to buy two tickets to fly on United Airlines. The company says “for the comfort and well-being” of all their customers, they have a new policy for passengers who:

– Can’t fit into a single seat
– Can’t properly buckle the seat belt using an extender
– Can’t put the seat’s armrests down when seated

If there are extra seats available, the passenger will be
moved next to an empty seat at no charge. But if the
flight is full, they either have to buy an upgrade to
business or first class where the seats are bigger or
change to another flight and buy a second seat.

What do you think?


Filed under: Controversy
soundoff (277 Responses)
  1. Bruce M Resch

    Once again we are asked for a 'yes or no' answer to a question that is just not that simple! Without even getting into the parameters of obesity let's all agree that two of anything costs more than one of the same thing.
    But who has decided what weight or size is obese?
    My son is by no means obese but he just flew round trip on American Air in a cramped seat with so little leg room that he was nearly in pain the entire long flight. He is the most mild mannered non-complaining young man I have ever known but these seats made him upset!
    Should the obese be discriminated against? Not if we put it that way!
    Should anyone who cannot sit in one seat and therefore needs to have two seats on a plane pay for two seats? Absolutely!
    Should the airlines continue to shrink the sizes of the seats and the space between aisles to make more money and force us to pay for two seats? DUH!

    February 12, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
  2. Susan

    Well, there shouldn't be a problem at all if the airlines wouldn't have been shrinking the seat space for many years, to cramp more money-bringing seats into the same airplanes.

    The issue about the leg room was created the same way. I remember some 15 years ago there was very little legroom discussion, because, well, the seats were farther apart. Now everyone is cramped (unless they're midgets) and the airlines are offering paid options to get more legroom (a problem they created). And articles like these try to focus the blame on the other passengers. That's nice.

    I guess an article about "should airlines have larger seats and farther between (again) so that they will fit the people they're supposed to be carrying" is out of the question, right?

    February 11, 2010 at 2:42 am |
  3. robert

    Absolutely should be charged for extra weight just as I am charged for extra baggage. I think obese individuals should also pay more for insurance premiums

    December 4, 2009 at 10:32 pm |
  4. GIL MASON

    Of course air lines should charge for two seats if a person can't fit into one. I worked for the Air lines for 33 years. Do you remember the popular wrestler "Andre the Giant" ? I worked a flight he was on and he bought two first class seats and believe me he needed both, is the only way he could fly anywhere in the world.
    The airlines aren't the only businesses that have a problem with obese people. Have you ever sat beside an obese person when they try to squeeze into a single seat on an aircraft, makes your flight miserable.

    November 18, 2009 at 7:23 am |
  5. Ron Popeal

    I'm leaning toward Keith's comment. They will have to make some sort of rule that no matter how large or small you are, if you "overflow" the seat, you will have to pay a penalty. They should also give the passenger a refund option if he/she decides not to pay the fee UNTIL they can get some sort of test chair setup at the airports just like they do with carry on bags.

    Remember, for safety, the FAA certifies aircraft with the assumption that every passenger weighs 170lbs. That is hardly close to the average of males in the Midwest! Every male 25+ years old is 220+ lbs. That is actually very significant if you think about it. For weight&balance calculcations (to determine if the plane can take off), for every three midwestern male passengers, they are taking on the weight of four FAA "standard passengers".

    The airplane's fight against gravity is science. The fight of restricting how many people can get onto an airplane is common sense.

    November 17, 2009 at 10:13 am |
  6. Keith - Hartford, Ct.

    Who decides what's overweight? The problem comes down to a human determination of obesity. Is there a scale? Is it up to the person at the gate? The flight attendants? The person in the adjoining seat? The pilot? Will the determination be fair across the board? All that in mind, the most controversial rules in the country are those that are not fairly enforced. This will create a firestorm of legal action the minute a marginally overweight person is allowed to fly and another one is denied. Let's look at this from a different angle. Isn't it time we start asking questions about the shrinking seat sizes? Let's figure out what overweight means and go from there. I've seen skinny six-footers that have a hard time fitting into the new, smaller airline seat. Are we going to start penalizing people for being tall? Let's face it, the airline people have a hard enough time getting people to understand they can only bring two bags.

    November 17, 2009 at 12:33 am |
  7. Ron Popeal

    I forgot to add that handicap people PAY FOR EXTRA SEATS. The airlines aren't charities and don't give away anything. I have been on several flights that involved a pax with medical problems. They paid for the extra space and it was honored.

    November 16, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  8. Ron Popeal

    Nothing like getting that sweat mark on your arm from the fat guy that was sqeezed up next to you. Worst ever for me was last year when flying back from Vegas. This mammoth left sweat marks on my right arm and pants. It almost looked like we spilled a drink lol. I'm going to wear a garbage bag next time to hopefully act as a barrier from overweight beasts.

    November 16, 2009 at 12:13 pm |
  9. Sam

    Several years ago I noticed the preboarding carry on "luggage gauge" displayed so passengers can test their carryon bag to confirm it would fit in the overhead compartment. Being a real estate developer, we are required to develop a certain percentage of our housing units as ADA accessible, there is an extra cost but it is often absorbed by the owner or special tax credits. I have always been in favor of accessibility features including ramp walkways, lever door knobs, roll in showers and features for the blind or hearing impaired....but only on a reasonable as needed bases as to not waste money. Anyway, given the unhealthy lifestyles of many Americans nowadays, can someone design a "traveler gauge" so that gate agents can check the proper fit of obese passengers? Design the contraption from centerline to centerline of the armrest for a standard seat and use a non pliable rigid material for a true gauge of comfort, that imaginary line travelers are entitled to. While the spillage factor might still be an issue, it would send a clear signal. Of course we can accommodate larger travelers and airlines should have seating available provided a medical professional confirms it is a truly a medical condition. I guess we all wish we could have that little blue parking pass to hang on our rear view mirror for the convenience or comfort….yet we also know those guys that buy the big 4 wheel drive duallys and they won’t even fit through the drive-thru at the bank….by choice.

    October 30, 2009 at 10:00 pm |
  10. John Galt

    So, a lot of you folks say that since obesity is something self-inflicted, it's not a disability and therefore heavy people should have to pay for two seats? Well, what if someone is in a wheelchair because they were hurt skiing, skateboarding, etc.? They take up extra space with their chairs, and their disability is the result of their own actions. So I guess you're OK with them paying double too, eh? Nice.

    June 26, 2009 at 2:25 am |
  11. Keeta

    I have never flown before but will do so in about a year when I go to Vegas. I am an obese woman and will most likely fly first class for the larger seat. I don't blame my being overweight on a glandular condition. I have been this way most of my life and it has been my actions that have caused it. I do not have a problem with purchasing an extra seat and i absolutely understand the reason for it. That being said, some of the comments that I have read have been downright hateful. Yes, my being over weight is my fault. However it is not always so easy to just lose weight. Some people are compulsive eaters. And if you've never had this problem then you just have no idea what it's like. Just like i don't know what's it's like to crave alcohol or drugs or cigarettes constantly. I am currently working on my problem and who knows, maybe by the time i go to Vegas I won't need a bigger seat.
    Ps,
    In response to an earlier post about having to produce a Dr's note if your obesity is due to a medical condition. Well, no matter what caused it you're still spilling over into someone else's seat. Why would it make a difference? Because it's more socially acceptable?

    June 2, 2009 at 8:48 pm |
  12. beau

    well first off i am a husky guy. i have never been on an airplane before. but i will be experiancing it for the first time this september. i agree somewhat to an extent. if the person is overly obese, then yes but if the person can manage to sit in the seat without his/her body parts touching the person next to him/her then no i have to disagree. some people are heavy some are fat, some are obese , some are hefty, some are husky. theres a difference in being obese , husky, fat, hefty etc...

    June 1, 2009 at 6:24 pm |
  13. Sad for the state of the world...

    To -US ARMY Soldier/ Econ Major

    You say you have long legs and that your knees push into the seat in front of you... and you know that bugs people but you still insist on flying coach. I wonder how you would feel if the airlines said you must pay for the seat in front of you due to your long legs? just a thought since you are for anyone who causes the discomfort of another passenger to be charged for the second seat that they are discomforting, but I guess you only meant to the left and right only, not front or back. think before you point fingers and cast judgments.

    The fact is yes something needs to be done so that all passengers can enjoy their flight. My thoughts on this are as follows. Anyone who takes up multiple seats due to large size (obese or not) that has a legit medical reason (and can provide paper work on said medical problem) should not be discriminated against and should have their second seat free of charge, after all its not their fault, as for the rest of the multi-seat people they should have to pay for the second seat since the airlines would never dream of spending any kind of money by say not making their coach seats horribly small.

    Anyways aside from the issue of seats and personal comfort, the majority of you have used demeaning and horribly rude describing words that accomplish nothing but to make people feel badly. To some people food is as strong of an addiction as smoking, the only difference is you don't see overweight people standing in front of public buildings cramming food down others throats. To those of you who used this language, you should be ashamed of yourselves, it was totally unnececary and you have accomplished nothing by using such language other than to show the world what horrible people you all are, It is people like you who make this world a place that needs to be changed and I hope you feel 10x the hurt that you have undoubtly caused to the undeserving recipients of your black hearted secretly self-loathing behaviors. I know that to most of you this message will fall on deaf ears due to your ignorant way of thinking, but know this the rest of the world is ashamed to have you as a member of the human population...

    May 8, 2009 at 10:55 pm |
  14. Jim

    Ok, while we are on the subject of 'oversized', if anyone has read the material on airlines making seats smaller and closer together, that includes less leg and knee room. I flew United from Ankorage to Denver, and there was almost no knee room, AND THEN THE COUPLE IN FRONT OF US reclined their seats and literally mashed my knees (which have both had surgery). The same would have been true without knee surgery. I have NEVER before had an experience like that.

    I asked the flight attendent if she might have the couple in front of us raise their seats a little and the reply was something like "No we can't help you – if you want more room you should have booked seats in a higher level of coach!". I later found out that they had three levels in coach. By flight was booked months in advance by Princess Line and I am sure that no one expected the agony I suffered for more than 6 hours!

    Three sizes of knee room in coach on the same plane??? I will never fly United again.

    May 1, 2009 at 5:05 pm |
  15. US ARMY Soldier/ Econ Major

    I have absolutely zero sympathy for people who are overweight on this issue (and for many others as well). I was watching a video earlier on CNN.com where a lady is making the case of overweight people in this case(who looks like she's pretty overweight herself), who's entire argument consists of (and I quote), "why are we holding individuals responsible for the size of their bodies instead of holding the airlines responsible for providing adequate seating for their customers?"

    Are you kidding me?

    Okay, lets not take any personal responsibility for our own actions, and the resulting consequences. Lets not read the nutrition information on the back of packages, watch what we eat, and get regular exercize. I wonder how many other people have used, and continue to use similar, fallaciously self-absolving, illogical and irresponsible excuses.

    I'm sorry, but if your rolls are getting in my seat, not only should you pay more, but the airline should give that money to me because I had to be in physical discomfort due to your flab on the flight, plus you were taking up my seat that I paid for. Think of it as a "cap-and-trade" If you want more real estate for your cellu-butt (and/or take up more weight on the plane), get in first class or pay for two seats.

    And don't use the "I can't help it argument" either, because you CAN. I'm a tall guy and I have long legs. You don't see me saying "why are we holding individuals responsible for the size of their legs instead of holding the airlines responsible for providing adequate seating for their customers?" With someone who is tall and gets uncomfortable during the flight (and I do, and also sometimes my knees dig into the seat of the person sitting in front of me, which I know bothers them), it actually ISN'T their fault, but I've never heard anyone complain about it, ever. If I want to sit where I have more room, I'd fly first class.

    But since I want to save money, I'll fly coach.

    Be responsible for what you shove in your face. If you know you're overweight and you know it, don't complain because you encroach upon the seat next to you. Either buy two seats, fly first class, or... JOIN A GYM, LOSE SOME WEIGHT AND STOP EATING OREOS AND PUTTING LIBERAL AMOUNTS OF RANCH ON EVERYTHING YOU EAT.

    April 25, 2009 at 10:44 pm |
  16. Donald/Albany, KY

    How about a fat section, like the old smoking section. Sit three fat people together. Or just tell fat people they can't fly. Hey, it's for their own good, obesity is responsible for so many health problems. Plus skinny people won't have to worry about the plane being over loaded.
    Let's all applaud the airlines for their sensibility if not their sensitivity.
    Serious? Of course, I'm serious, of course. See I'm not laughing at all.

    April 20, 2009 at 3:14 pm |
  17. Debra

    I agree! They should pay for 2 seats, or move them someplace that has 2 seats available if possible! I've had so many horrid experiences with someone sitting next to me – taking up 1/2 my seat along with theirs – once I was pinned in my seat – the flight was booked – and they could not ask him to get off, and I had to get home to my kids! So I suffered sitting in 1/4 of my seat – sitting sideways because the armrest was gouging my side! I was ticked to say the least – yes I paid for that seat – the entire seat! On top of that – the guy acted like nothing was wrong, didn't apologize for his fat flowing over on me! I was so mad I was waiting for the stewardess to tell me to sit back in my seat at for take off – which was impossible – she just looked at me a little in shock!

    April 20, 2009 at 3:03 pm |
  18. Paul

    Imagine if I have to tell my kids, "Sorry, we won't be able to afford to go to Disneyland after all because the airlines had to double the size of their seats to accomodate fat people who didn't want to pay their fair share, so as a result, capacity was cut in half and fares doubled." The kids will have such disgust for obese people if everybody needs to suffer because of their condition.

    RE: "it is unfair for the heaver passengers to have to pay more"..

    Why??? When you mail a big, heavy book, it costs you twice as much postage as a small, skinny book. Yes, the postal service has a 'flat rate' envelope if you can fit your shipment in a 9×12 space. If not, you pay more. Everything you transport works like this: cars, pets, EVERYTHING. We all know if you overfeed your dog and he becomes obese, it will cost twice as much to transport him. So why is it unfair that transporting people works the same way? Like the USPS flat rate envelope, the airlines also have a 'flat rate' seat if you can fit in it.

    Don't make all the healthy people pay extra to subsidize the cost of transporting obese people . It's unfair and will only fuel discrimination against them.

    April 20, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  19. Rose

    I agree. If you take up two seats, you should pay for two. Or if you encroach into mine, will I get a refund? I one's size is a problem, the one should take appropriate measures, such as paying for two seats.

    April 20, 2009 at 1:03 pm |
  20. Nick

    Are the seats on airplanes too small? You bet! Does that give you the right to sit in my lap? No. I just want the space I paid for – armrest to armrest. If that gets infringed, why can't I complain?

    April 20, 2009 at 12:42 pm |
  21. ECU Student

    Wow, yet again, this blog is showing the flagrant disregard for the overweight people. If you don't like the fact that you may or may not sit next to a larger person on a plane, then don't fly. I'd have to agree that with the current economic status of our nation, healthier food is ridiculously overpriced and it is harder for someone to buy the food if they are poor or of a lower middle class. I would know, I'm a college student and I can barely afford to pay for college. For the airlines and the general public to judge and ostracize and treat overweight people as subhuman is disgusting and saddens me that still to this day people act like they are still in junior high. And for the people who complain about having to pay for their baby, seriously? Your BABY is a PERSON therefore you should be charged for another seat. Are you going to hold your child for the whole 15 hour flight that you have? No, so stop whining as to how you have to pay for them to have a seat. An overweight person's extra weight IS NOT A CHILD so them paying for their extra poundage is ludacris. Some people are overweight for reasons beyond their control whether it is medical or psychological. What the airlines are doing is UNETHICAL and shows a LACK of common sense and tact for people.

    April 20, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  22. Carlo

    I'm in favor of the airlines policy. Kate Harding's premise that she isn't responsible for her size and that it's the airlines fault for not making the seats wider to accommodate her is ludicrous.

    Why should I have to subsidize her seat, this is what Kate is asking for.
    If the airline has to make seats larger, then the airlines will have fewer seats which means they will have to schedule more flights etc... the end of it is we will pay more for seats. So why should I have to subsidize an overweight person's seat.

    I resent this is in many other ways. As a average height, in shape person there is nothing more frustrating to me than when I sit down and get crushed by overweight people on a plane. I also resent that they pay the same fare as me. How's it fair that a 250+ lb person will pay less than a 150 lb person with 1 checked bag.

    I don't want to pay more for my seat, particularly when it's done to help validate someone's unhealthy diet and exercise choices.

    April 20, 2009 at 11:15 am |
  23. TMJRecordings

    I was watching this on CNN in disbelief. There was a lady representing the over weight people against this new AA policy. She was clamming that its not the responsibility of the over weight person to do something about the fact they take up more than one seat. WHAT! They are the only person that can so something about their weight!!!! It is that attitude that is the downfall of America. "Don't expect me to do something about me, you should fix it". Come on, give me a break! If you don't like having to pay for 2 seats, don't fly or start living healthier. If you don't like standing outside to smoke, don't smoke.

    WOW!

    April 20, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  24. Laura

    I can't believe the amount of prejudice and ignorance expressed here. It's a fact that here in the US, there is a connection between obesity and poverty, and a new study shows a higher rate among Hispanics and African-Americans. This is not caused from eating too much–someone above mentioned having enough $$ for extra food–but that the cheapest foods are the worst, with the healthiest being out of reach for the impoverished. Heavy people are mis-characterized as having a self-inflicted condition of overindulgence and lack of control, when it's a nutritional and financial crisis that keeps the healthiest food the least affordable. Americans in general are also getting larger, not just wider but also taller. The seat sizes are too small. My husband could easily pass the "arm rest test", but his shoulders are very broad and muscular and would definitely crowd the next person. Society is bad enough about making heavy people feel subhuman, or at least like they should be in perpetual shame that they even exist. I'm big, but can fit in a seat, and I can't imagine the humiliation of being singled out that way. I'm surprised no one's yet said "and they're smelly, too!" Unlike luggage, we can't just leave a few pounds at home. Unlike children, we are ONE human being. You people are smug bullies who justify your hateful bigotry on the false premise that it's OK because fat people are just bad, piggy people who bring it on themselves. Again, the poor, Black, and Hispanic are more likely to be obese. Too many of you are showing cruel, junior-high glee in targeting and ostracizing people–as long as you believe it's their own fault, you convince yourself it can't possibly happen to you.

    April 20, 2009 at 9:25 am |
  25. stan march

    To: R. Boseman

    I agree, When you travel down to the Caribbean, use a boat.

    April 20, 2009 at 9:17 am |
  26. GI Jane

    What is discriminatory is-

    1. Do we skinny people get to pay less?
    2. If babies are charged then why not the BIG person who is encroaching into MY seat?
    3. If there is an extra seat… do we skinny people get to sit in both seats for free?
    4. I am a 5’10 tall female with a disability on my knees. I really need to stretch my legs on flights. AM I GOING TO GET AN ISLE SEAT? I have a note from the VA showing my combat-related disability.
    5. I am also allergic to cats. Some old lady brings two of them on the plane. I told the gate agent. He says “I can get you booked on another flight.” WHAT BS IS THIS????? He made sure I was moved away from the cat lady.

    POINT IS: “You are too fat and there are no extra seats. I can book you on the next flight.” WOULD NEVER HAPPEN. WHAT ABOUT MY ALLERGY (A MEDICAL CONDITION) TO CATS. Maybe I should start suing.

    That’s it: “Disabled, retired, combat female vet denied boarding due to cat allergy.”

    April 20, 2009 at 9:10 am |
  27. LARRY

    Well, SHELDON JAFFIE... you're the one I'm talking about! Take some responsibility for what your shoving in your pie hole! Stop blaming all the others for your "weight" YOU and only YOU must take responsibility
    for yourself! Yeah it's hard but so is life!

    April 20, 2009 at 8:59 am |
  28. Not so large

    I would have replied to this discussion earlier, but I couldn't get unstuck from the toilet seat in my spare bathroom.

    Look, we have made too many excuses for people for too long. In this case, the airline seats are what they are. Would-be passengers know or should know they will be in cramped surroundings because of their excess weight.

    Don't blame the airlines. They have the right to set their own guidelines; remember that the airplanes belong to them. Isn't it time we took responsibility for ourselves. If you can't fit in that seat, buy a 2nd seat, fly first-class, or travel by bus.

    April 20, 2009 at 8:43 am |
  29. Richard

    This is an unfortunate but absolutley real problem that America has brought upon itself. No one told us to eat more than necessary and then expect the world to accomodate us. When that obese person is guaranteed an extra seat at no cost as proposed by the author of "Lessons fro the Fat-o-spehre" that airline loses money on that seat. Now imagine you have 10 or 15 obese people per plane that want and expect this service at an average 200.00 per ticket what they really expect is for the airline to give up 2-3 THOUSAND DOLLARS PER PLANE PER FLIGHT. Factor in 50-60 planes making 5-6 trips per day and you see the point im making. It is ridiculous to expect a company to give up that much money to accomodate consumers and still be a viable bussiness. I say you pay to play or push the food away!!!

    April 20, 2009 at 8:42 am |
  30. ECU Student

    Way to go Airlines. Way to make people feel inferior and bad about the way they look. Seriously, I have to agree with what Kate Harding said that it is the RESPONSIBILITY of the Airlines for not having adequate seating and making them TOO SMALL! Now, I'm not overweight, but this is a ridiculous move by our airlines and not to mention it shows the rudeness and flagrant disregard our society has for one another as individuals. I thought we were past our discrimination era??

    April 20, 2009 at 8:36 am |
  31. Susan

    I believe, Southwest Airlines has been doing this for a couple of years now, so why are you raking United Airlines over the coals for the same thing?

    April 20, 2009 at 8:36 am |
  32. Lynn

    I have no problem fitting into my seat in coach. It's unfair to me to have to sit next to someone who doesn't. If someone requires more than one seat's worth of space then they should pay for more than one seat. I think that is totally fair and long overdue.

    April 20, 2009 at 8:34 am |
  33. John Presley

    HOW BIG DOES MS. KATY HARDY WANT THE SITS TO BIG!

    April 20, 2009 at 8:34 am |
  34. mike

    sounds like to me that they are given the benifit of the doubt. maybe we could start taxing these fast food joints?

    April 20, 2009 at 8:33 am |
  35. R Bosman

    This is ridiculous. I am a former frequent flyer. While, I understand the arguement. There are problems in this solution.

    1) The airlines do not charge the same price 24/7 for the the same seats. I have on many occasions been on flights where the person next to me paid considerly more or less than I did for the seat. I have even been on flights where first class seats were cheaper than coach seats. Do you pay for 2 seats at the cheaper ticket price or at the higher ticket price?

    2) Do you charge a broad-shouldered passenger who is not obese for 2 seats? I have been on many flights where the the passenger next to me is broad shouldered, do you charge this passenger for 2 seats, even though they a) fit on one seat, b) buckle the seat belt, and c) put the seat rest down? This is as much a discomfort to have their shoulders in my seat space.

    3) Do you charge the person that sits in front of me and recline their seat for 2 seats? They too are invading the space I purchased.

    4) To those that refer to people as cargo...do you charge the person that weighs 200 lbs twice as much as the person who weighs 100 lbs?

    The airlines need to stop nickel and diming their customers. If they are not careful they will nickel and dime their customers, skinny and obese alike, into other modes of transportation.

    April 20, 2009 at 7:35 am |
  36. sharon reighard

    It's a money maker and it won't stop because of all the idiots with a go get'm attitude. Go get the smokers,then the obese on the air planes. Whats next ? My educated guess. Fat Tax. That will make everybody pay because it will be on the food. Go get,m

    April 20, 2009 at 7:14 am |
  37. Mike

    A sugestion, how about seating all the overweight people side by side? if they feel uncomforatable enough, they can choose to purchase another seat. If they can deal with the uncomfort, fine, no extra charge.

    Another option would be for airlines to offer a limited number of wider seats in coach for a slightly higher fee. The large people may voluntarily choose these.

    April 20, 2009 at 7:05 am |
  38. Maria

    I don't think this is discriminatory because no one is being singled out on the basis of race, religion or gender – this is an issue of physical space and let's face it – planes only have a finite amount of it. If luggage is overweight, we have to pay extra – I view this as the same thing. Maybe what would help is a row or two in coach that has wider seats – a row two across instead of three. Of course, these seats would have to be charged at 1.5x the regular ticket, but at least it is not twice as much. This could be a good thing in general; that is it could be the forcing function for some people to convert to healthier eating and exercise habits – and how could that hurt, really?

    April 20, 2009 at 7:01 am |
  39. E.V. Washington

    I think that the air-lines should first be required to have all available seating wide enough to seat the average size passenger nation-wide. After meeting that standard they should be alowed to charge proportionally extra per passenger using those guidelines

    April 20, 2009 at 6:48 am |
  40. Marlena

    I've noticed many here being outraged at the "hatred" and "discrimination" directed at fat people (some even playing the "Christian guilt" card). While certain posters may be using this forum to vent their own prejudices, speaking only for myself: I DO NOT HATE anyone or any particular group. Since the obesity epidemic is so widespread, quite a few members of my own family are overweight. It is because of my experience within my own family that I know for a fact that most obesity is due to an inability to control eating habits. It is not always HOW MUCH you eat, it is WHAT you eat.
    Having traveled extensively, I can tell you that the level of food prejudice in this country is beyond my comprehension. The closest most people in America get to a vegetable everyday is on their burgers – and then most of them throw away the lettuce and tomato anyway. I've worked with many, many people who are grossly overweight. Yet, when given the choice between donuts or delicious fresh fruit, guess which they choose! Trying to introduce these people to my healthy eating habits turned me into a pariah in the office. Yet, they all make comments about wishing they were as thin as I am. My response is: DO THE WORK.
    Americans have become whiners. Instead of taking responsibility for their own problems and doing the hard work to overcome them, they just sit back and scream: "Discrimination." I've been feeling discriminated against for years. I have no children, but I pay high property taxes to educate my neighbours' children. I don't smoke,drink or overeat, but I pay high health insurance rates to cover the costs of others' bad habits. But I really doubt anyone is going to feel sorry for me anytime soon!

    April 19, 2009 at 9:57 am |
  41. Dana Lynne

    The emergence of this issue over requiring excessively obese people to pay for a second seat just goes to prove that the A.B.G.S. [the American Blubber-Gut Society] is a "growing" organization. It seems that, despite all of the attention given to health and fitness over the past several decades, Americans are fatter than ever. Much of this can be attributed to the atrocious eating habits of multitudes of people who are often too lazy to take care of themselves.

    It was quite an education to read the above observations on this issue. I am eternally thankful for having a natural propensity toward thinness, and this is something that I work at diligently. Meanwhile, it is extremely unpleasant and disconcerting to have to sit next to an extremely overweight person on a flight, and be denied my rightful space that I've paid for. Every airline should charge them for an extra seat out of consideration for the comfort of the neighbouring passenger[s].

    April 18, 2009 at 11:15 pm |
  42. Linda Clark

    I've tried writing this multiple times and keep losing the screen. I myself am obese, tired every diet, program, some exersizes, hypmostism, and all of my doctors, M.D., Cardiologist, Nutricianist, a D.O. and an internest... all of which tell me to relax and don't over exert myself, if I get hungry, eat a sensible meal but don't skip any of my 17 pills a day. Mine is medically related, but for those it isn't why should they suffer the embarrassment of depalining or being told they must pay for another seat?
    The airlines should use common sense and not be so rude, I hoep they end up getting sued by someone like me who cannot hep it!!!

    April 18, 2009 at 11:11 am |
  43. dana hanley

    After reading otheRs' comments my reaction is this: plane seats are getting narrower, Even in America, less than Europe and a little wider than China" So who is the cause of this prOblem? FAT PEOPLE? SKIINY PEOPLE? LET'S CHANGE TO DISCRIMINATING AGAINST PREGNANT WOMEN! AND IF THEY'VE GOT SNEEZING KIDS, THE PRICE SHOULD BE TRIPLE.

    MY POINT: DON"T ERODE OUR CONSTIITON MORE. ALL PEOPLE SHOULD BE TREATED EQUAL UNLESS THEY ARE A DANGER TO THEMSELVES OR OTHERS AROUND THEM.

    April 18, 2009 at 10:07 am |
  44. mommamac

    WOW ~~ there sure are a LOT of body perfect folks on here. Overweight has a grip on the US. For some, it's an excuse ~~ for others it's medical.

    What's wrong with demanding that the Airline Industry make seats a little bigger. I'm not saying "couch" size.

    No matter how you coat it ~~ it's still DISCRIMINATION! I can see the airlines opening itself to a major class action law suit in the near future, and I'm all for it!!

    April 18, 2009 at 9:58 am |
  45. dana hanley

    I flew across the Pacific with two huge PACIFIC islanders (me in the Middle) who were as polite and big as possible. Their politeness was bigger than their size.
    I next flew back with a United Air hostess, my size, petite, who was deadheading back home. In any three seats there are four arm rests. She adamantly claimed both sides of the middle, that my arm (bony) should be constantly injured by the cart or other passengers, To top it off, she was rude about the window passenger going to the bathroom on a 9+ hour flight. United moved her to a jump seat, after seeing such behavior. I truly believed she was ready to crack.

    April 18, 2009 at 9:46 am |
  46. Margaret Harris

    As a former,frequent flyer for my previous job, I can relate to being stuck in the middle seat on an airplane with someone overweight for two hours or more. However, I still believe, that its unfair to discriminate against anyone who is overweight!

    April 18, 2009 at 8:55 am |
  47. Renee

    Is anyone reading what they are typing? I absolutely cannot believe the hatred that is being spewed onto the screen. You people do not understand that this is discrimination no matter which way you spin it! If we start acting like this toward someone who is overweight, what will prevent us from going further? What if I don't want to sit next to a gay man on the plane? What if the thought of sitting next to a black man bothers me. What about that old lady who wears a depend. Why should I have to sit next to her? Or maybe I don't like kids. How will this all work out? I think that those of you who are demanding to have all the comforts of home while in the air flying COACH, need to take a step back and check out your travel reservations. Coach class is supposed to be affordable for all. Which means ALL should be able to travel this way. For those of you that are too good too have your personal space invaded by anyone other that whom you so choose, FLY BUSINESS CLASS OR GO TO FIRST CLASS!!! For all the backyard rednecks who are at the public library typing comments to this page, please be aware that there are certain conditions that make a person unable to control their weight! Sometimes it's not just all about a person stuffing themselves. And are we really going to get mad when a person with an overactive bladder has to use the bathroom?

    What kind of world do we live in?

    April 18, 2009 at 3:34 am |
  48. Charles Rosak

    Oversized passengers should pay for 2 seats, or an upgrade if they need it. If it is a medical situation they should file the extra cost with their insurance carrier. They shold NOT get it free for medical reasons. This could cause denied boarding for another passenger.
    A possible solution is to have one 3 seat installation replaced by a 2 seat unit and charge each obese person 1 1/2 times the normal price.
    These seats would be assigned to normal passengers as a last resort – only if the plane is 100% full. Book in advance in order to save paying double. It's your problem, you must work to solve it, don't make demands on the airline or other passengers.

    April 17, 2009 at 6:37 pm |
  49. Richard Pike

    I believe that if I pay for a seat on any airplane, I paid for the WHOLE seat and I want the WHOLE seat. Why should I give up 25% or more of my seat to another passanger?

    Regards, Richard Pike

    April 17, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  50. stephen thompson

    Wow, I see so much misdirected anger in these notes. Rather than blaming the airlines for greed and not providing a comfortable seating arrangement for all customers, everyone is blaming overweight people. Amazing. I guess this is how divide and conquer works.....

    April 17, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  51. Dr. Sam

    A Party of WACKOS, you might say! That is what the Republican Party has become. Its members used to shout to us about "patriotism"–their way. They have even abandoned that in favor of un-American acts, like threatening "secession" when they don't get their way. David Gergen in his comments about the Tea Party failed to recognize the basic aim of that event—at least from the point view of its conservative organizers and the FOX News—to undermine Obama and mobilize dissent and opposition against him personally. Free speech? Yes! But no objective observer can fail to note the racial tone of this event and the way our President was personally attacked in superlative racist terms. Most of these willfully ILL-INFORMED AND MISLED protesters were instigating action against the President and our government. They were inciting people to rise up against the legitimate government of the United States. Different radical right, extreme groups and individuals, white supremacists, racists, neo-nazis and worse also gathered under the banner of this so-called “movement.” It is clear that so many of them were not protesting really about “taxes” but simply about a black man in the White House as President. David of all people should have not missed that! In one of theTV videos of the event, I saw a man in blue with a gun packed on his belt. Such developments are not a threat to our democracy but to our security. We ignore them to our ultimate detriment.

    April 17, 2009 at 3:12 pm |
  52. steve

    I think someone should look back into the records and find out when the airlines started REDUCING the size of their seats. It has been many years since a "normal size" person has fit into one of their seats comfortably. They reduced the size of the seats to get more fares..now they want to charge for someone to get a seat that is comfortable for above "normal size". Ridiculous

    April 17, 2009 at 2:35 pm |
  53. metschokeagain

    Everyone walks through a fatso door, much like the carry-on bag bin. If they can't fit, they are charged extra.
    Give em an extra meal for the fatso charge.

    April 17, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  54. Robert

    I am really ashamed at how selfish some people are. First of all, it is a proven scientific fact that obesity in many cases cannot be controlled. So knowing this, you're going to discriminate against someone for something they cannot control? If you've ever been on a plane, you'd realize that the seats are too small, even for "smaller" people. Next thing you know, movie theatres will start charging taller people for arriving late and having to sit in the front row thus potentially blocking people. I applaud the airlines for yet trying to find ANOTHER way to get more and mroe money out of customers for crappy service. What are they spending this money on anyway? Certianly not new planes.

    April 17, 2009 at 2:16 pm |
  55. Connie Lawn

    To: Michael Scott
    "Obesity is an illness, but you get it from self-indulgence. 98% of the obese population got that way from eating too much and exercizing too little. "
    I would be very interested to know the source of your statistics, but I imagine this is just your own uneducated and uninformed opinion.

    April 17, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  56. Toni

    I am super obese and even before Southeast required it, i always bought 2 seats. I don't like being smashed up against a stranger either. However, be aware there are "normal" folks who are taking advantage of this. i call them the Chubby Seat Chasers. let me tell you a story. If you have bought 2 seats, the airlines give you a little card to put in the seat beside you to "reserve" the seat. You are asked to pre-board (which is a bonus!!). One time I was pre-boarded and I saw this man make a be-line to the 3rd seat on my row. He was grinning. I had to ask .. I had never seen a man so glad to sit beside me. He said he always checks out the pre-board line and finds a big person and tries to sit beside them for the extra room. He then preceeded to use the empty seat (other then the 1" I was sitting on to put his laptop, his book, his ipod, his drink, etc. He even put the tray down on the 2nd seat and used that. It was a good thing the flight wasn't full as and I was returned the cost of the seat otherwise I would have been mad. I paid for the seat and he encroached on it... but that's the complaint isn't it? That we encroach on your space? I guess what comes around goes around. By the way, I've experienced several Chubby Seat Chasers since then. I've also talked to friends who are larger and they are experiencing the same thing. So I say to all of you who want us to buy an extra seat... that's cool... just remember to stay on your side of the arm rest! We paid for the extra seat so unless you want to pay half, keep your stuff to yourself.

    April 17, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  57. Connie Lawn

    To Jeff,
    "You offend me & countless others. Quit smoking and act like a grown-up. Take responsibility for yourself. If your embarrased about the fact you pollute the air and affect other people's health…LOOSE THE BUTTS. Or you must pay the price."

    April 17, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  58. Bruce Resch

    I once sat in the second row; a seat behind a musician who paid for and sat next to his cello. He had the bulkhead seat on the two-seat side of the plane and his cello was in a soft large case that protruded over the back of its chair and into my space.
    TWA had several empty seats in First Class open but insisted that I move to a middle seat in the last row of the plane – FOR MY SAFETY! I guess my comfort didn't enter into the equation but their bottom line sure did. When I refused they insisted and made it seem as though I was going to hold up the flight. They even said they were going to get a air marshal! Naturally I gave in and in fact sat next to an overweight guy in the aisle seat. Back then there was no talk about paying for another seat due to weighty issues but I assure you if he had paid for two seats I would have been bumped off the plane before they allowed me into First Class.
    If airlines wish to please everyone they have to see both sides of every issue before coming up with silly solutions and once in a while bit ethe bullet and give back to the customer.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:36 pm |
  59. barbara

    This is ridiculous, I think that people in America needs to realize that everyone can't be skinny and that being obese is not fun and it is really hard to deal with and when things like this come along it makes it worse to deal with. I think that the seats on planes are too small anyways and it is unfair for the heaver passengers to have to pay more, what about other passengers like the ones with children shouldn't they have to pay double too it would only be fair if they did because plane tickets are so expensive already not many people can afford to pay double and obese people just want to go on vacation and stuff just like skinny people do and they deserve respect just like skinny people do, AMERICANS QUIT PUTTING LABELS ON PEOPLE THIS IS AMERICA.

    April 17, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
  60. lmallen2790

    I find this story to be so disturbing. Airlines are always trying to find ways to cover expenses but to embarrass people or single out people or discriminate against people to do so is simply messed up. If enacted I would not use this airline. EVER. (And I'm not overweight)

    April 17, 2009 at 12:21 pm |
  61. Mike

    Leave it to CNN to frame this discussion as if United were "charging certain passengers for being obese". That's not true. United is charging passengers who take up two seats for two seats. Who cares why. What's the discussion!?

    April 17, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  62. Scott

    I support the idea and take particular issue with people who complain about how bad the coach class experience is for everyone. I agree–seats are getting smaller and closer-together–but airfares are also cheaper than they've ever been. If you want luxury, it's available up front–but be prepared to pay for it. Don't blame the airlines for providing cramped cabins... be amazed that you can fly 1,500 miles at 500 mph in a pressurized tube in just 3 hours... all for $250! That's incredible!

    April 17, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  63. Amelia

    I understand how uncomfortable sitting next to someone who is exceeding their seat and imposing on my space however the airline should think of other way s of dealing with this. For instance, give only aisle seats to these heavier people, where they can use the right arm rest (or left)and when necessary space to their right.. How about making a couple of rows with larger seats and charging 1 1/2 the price so all your customers can travel in comfort. Apparently you KNOW the seats are TOO small for most people except in first class and business class RIGHT! Stop the nonsense and imintation just to make more money. Everyone on your fight wants you to succeed so treat us with respect and consideration.

    April 17, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  64. Bruce Resch

    My son sat next to an overweight woman who could not lower the arm rest. As a result she was overflowing into his seat for most of the long flight. It was the most uncomfortable ride he had ever been subjected to.
    I am in favor of rights for all but that includes the 'not-so-overweight' populace as well.
    The singling out of overweight people is a tough issue. In order to get it right perhaps the airlines could utilize a movable arm rest with comfortable bench-type seat that would allow for one 'larger' passenger to sit next to another, more slender one. The armrest could even be removed and turn a 3 seat row into a 2 'seater' that would accommodate 2 larger than average individuals.
    The stigma caused by the need to move the armrest over would be far less than that of buying an extra seat and could assuage all involved.
    Obviously the armrest would have to have the ability to be locked once it was moved but I am certain this could be accomplished using some of the money the industry will save not having to fight ACLU led lawsuits.

    April 17, 2009 at 10:34 am |
  65. CFaith

    I think this is discriminatory. What will be next extra charge for certain races?
    I will not fly on this airline any longer and I hope no one i knows does either. Bold move, but when your company fails we will all know why.

    April 17, 2009 at 10:05 am |
  66. K.W.

    In addition to my previous comment: Those of you who say that the airlines should take seats out and install larger more comfortable seats are nuts. Do you have any idea how much money that would cost?! WAY more than charging these morbidly obese people for two seats. Not only that but it would punish all fliers for the extra weight of a few by sky rocketing air fare. I take care of my body. I am a pregnant woman, I eat mostly fruit and veggies. I eat Cheerios and egg whites for breakfast. I work out 4-6 times a week. I also pay an absurd amount for my health insurance because other people do not take care of themselves (I'm not talking about people with diseases they can't do anything about, just those who chose not to do something to prevent diseases we know are preventable). Work places and insurance companies should offer more incentive to people to be healthy. It is not your right to put me at a disadvantage or to force me to pay more so you slowly eat yourself to death. That is truly unfair. I will not pay for your cigarettes, your alcohol or your drugs, why should I pay for you to eat as much as you want for your food addiction. That is unfair. Obese people put the burden of paying for their problems on the rest of America, be it higher insurance rates or from what some of you are saying, higher travel rates. Also, installing a couple of extra large seats is unfair. Again, why reward them for being unhealthy? Can I, a 125 lb woman be able to sit in the extra large seat if I want more room, and not pay extra? I understand those who have a legitimate thyroid or glad disease. I would say these people can bring a doctor's note or documentation of this problem and not be charged for the seat. And hey, if there are empty seats on the plane, before non-revs and standby are seated, then the person should get a refund for the second seat. Some of you say who's going to decided, are they going to weigh them... listen and read! They said: those who cannot put the arm rests down, are too big for a seat belt extender, and can't fit into a single sit. Those are your criteria. Not by weight and not based on anyone's opinion of size.

    April 17, 2009 at 10:05 am |
  67. Shirley Mandigo

    I think that eventually each airline should convert at least two seats to accommodate larger passengers. In the meantime, I don't think that the overweight passenger should have to pay the full price for a second seat, but perhaps a larger fee would be in order.

    April 17, 2009 at 10:04 am |
  68. Phyllis Yocum

    Passenbers should pay for the number of seats they are going to use for whatever reason. If the plane is not full, and the airline wants to create goodwill, they could refund the additional seat costs, but they don't have to.

    April 17, 2009 at 10:03 am |
  69. Jeff

    When us smokers were no longer allowed to smoke on the plane...that was a major inconvienence for us. Yet we really didn't cry.Theres a lesson here for GROSSLY fat people.

    You offend me & countless others. Lose weight & act like a grown-up. Take responsibility for yourself. If your embarrased about the fact you can't sit in a normal size chair...LOOSE THE WEIGHT. Or you must pay the price.

    I smoke...alot. You probably supported the new cigarette tax. I don't cry about it. I pay to continue. So ,you should pay to inconvinence us.

    April 17, 2009 at 9:56 am |
  70. Melissa

    Correction to the last line in my comment – Those who take up one seat should NOT be be penalized because someone else needs two.

    April 17, 2009 at 9:55 am |
  71. Melissa

    My husband, who is 6 feet tall and not overweight, was on a flight once and got stuck with the middle seat. He got on first. A very obese woman took the window seat and flipped up the armrest between them because she could not fit in otherwise. Then, her friend came down the aisle and took the aisle seat, also flipping up the armrest because she, too, was very obese. It was very obvious that these two friends had intentionally booked a window and aisle seat, thinking the airline would leave the middle seat vacant. The other passengers saw what was going on and were snickering. The flight attendant came to my husband's rescue and moved him to another seat, which, fortunately, was available. Had another seat not been available, who should have gotten off? Certainly not my husband. If people need more than one seat, then they should have to pay for it. With airlines cutting back on flights, most flights these days are full. Those who take up one seat should be be penalized because someone else needs two.

    April 17, 2009 at 9:54 am |
  72. Michael Scott

    Hyper-fat people are unfair in every way, but especially in demanding that people with self-control pay for the extra fuel that it costs airlines to lift into the sky the suet sacks that fat people call their disability. If you want to ship a piano, it costs more than it does to ship a violin, because it takes more fuel to lift the piano. Why should I pay for your piano, if I want to ship my violin?

    As to the fatty disability scam, alcoholism - which unlike overeating actually is an organic illness - does not entitle you to get on an airplane after 5 bourbons in the airport lounge and throw a drunken fit. The airline will not treat your disability; they will have you arrested.

    Obesity is an illness, but you get it from self-indulgence. 98% of the obese population got that way from eating too much and exercizing too little. You want to treat it? Get your lard cheeks off the airplane seat and walk from Chicago to Dallas. That should burn some calories. You want more room? Buy a ticket for the 1st class section. The greedy, selfish, incompetent, overpaid executives at United Airlines will be be glad to sell it to you without discriminating against poor, sensitive you and your carry-on bag full of sugar-coated pork rinds & french-fried candy bars.

    April 17, 2009 at 9:53 am |
  73. Bill

    For those that say the rights of the overweight are being trampled on, your rights end when they supercede the rights of another. Just as you have the right to smoke unless it endanagers another, you can't expect someone else to suffer as a result of another person's personal issue. And for those that say the airlines should provide us all with larger seats, do you realize that means higher fares? We all want cheap airfare. As soon as they widen the seats everyone will complain the prices are too high. You can't have it both ways.

    April 17, 2009 at 9:34 am |
  74. Ann

    How is an airline qualified to determine whether someone is obese? Obesity is not just a number on a scale. How about the athlete who weighs a lot, but has low body fat. Since body fat is supposed to determine obesity, are they to pay more? For example (and this is an extreme example but an example), didn't Earl Campbell have 34 inch thighs (each thigh). That is larger than most waist lines. As an athlete, he could have had a low body fat. All I know is that if he sat next to me, I would be uncomfortable. Will larger athletes pay more?
    All I can say is that I will no longer fly United nor will my family.

    April 17, 2009 at 9:31 am |
  75. C Barban

    People who take up more than 1 seat should pay for two. This would include people whose shoulders are too large for one seat, people who have legs over a certain length and must leave them in the aisle. It should also include people who fall asleep and drift over to the next seat. It should also include all people who are so offensive that noone wants to sit near them. You could go on forever

    April 17, 2009 at 9:29 am |
  76. 30yrbiz

    Absolutely I agree! Good for United! Civil Rights groups have said that overweight passengers are being discriminated against...what about the other 100 people on board?
    I'd like to correct a point...it's not the person who doesn't fit in one seat who gets reaccomodated....but the person who is sitting next to them and raises the issue on board....
    We charge for pets on board and infants in arms (when traveling overseas)....what space do they take up?
    And what about the time 4 large men had to help a 400lb passenger change planes and had to use a tarp to do it because this person didn't fit in even the oversized wheelchair!
    An airline is a means of transportation...not the only transportation.

    April 17, 2009 at 9:18 am |
  77. Tom from Philly

    After listening to the few dissenting positions i would like to add, If i were 400 Lbs, I wouldnt dream of flying coach, this is simply unrealistic and delusional, like ordering a diet coke with a triple big mac and super size fries.. I know some people cant control thier body size, that there are disorders. But as someone that suffers from Ulcerative Colitis ( look up the symptoms if you dont know them ) I have chosen to stay OUT of the food service industry where i was employed for years, out of respect for others! A question to the large people: Do you feel you have a disorder or no control of yourself? Should anyone else suffer from your disorder or lack of control or have to pay fuel to make it airborne? How do you respect yourself ordering a coach seat ticket? Are you that dilusional? If i built a fence 3 feet into your back yard what would you do?

    April 17, 2009 at 9:18 am |
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