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Passenger Charges Obese Seatmate $150 to Stay on Flight

Passenger Charges Obese Seatmate $150 to Stay on Flight
Jeff Edwards

A passenger’s online confession about charging an overweight seatmate $150 for allowing the hefty flyer to encroach across the armrest, has garnered mainstream media attention and divided social media into two camps, with some commenters painting the put-upon-air-traveler as a hero and a master negotiator, while others see only a villain who is no better than a common extortionist.

Like the infamous dress that is either gold or blue (depending on the eye of the beholder) or an oft-shared audio clip that is clearly a voice saying, “Yanny” or absolutely, 100 percent, saying “Laurel” (depending on who is listening), the tale of the airline passenger who reached an unusual ad hoc settlement with an obese seatmate has ignited a debate that might never be resolved. Whether or not someone strongly views the flyer who confessed to charging his overweight seat mate $150 for lost personal space, as a hero or a goat, is another case of undefinable perspective in the digital age.

According to Fox News’ Alexandra Deabler, who first reported on the controversial and anonymous social media confession, the purported incident has “split the internet.” She writes that the notoriously definitive Reddit “Am I the A——?” community was even somewhat torn in evaluating whether or not the original poster was, in fact, the A——.

“This is ridiculous,” one user commented. “You made a scene and embarrassed the man and then made him pay you for a fraction of your seat. You are the epitome of an a——”

Other Reddit users, of course, disagreed. Some pointing out that the man’s actions were more akin to seeking fair compensation rather than blackmail.

“You compromised,” another redditor countered. “He compromised. It was an awkward situation of nobody’s making. I think half the cost of the flight was maybe a bit steep though, if he was only in a third of your seat. Having said that, five hours is a long time.”

The unlikely tale reportedly came to a head just prior to a five-hour-long domestic flight on which every seat was filled. While there is no airline on the planet that would allow one passenger to charge another passenger the use of a portion of a seat, in this case, it appears there was a private arrangement in which the flyer agreed to withdraw his objection to his seatmate spilling over the armrest in exchange for the cash.

“I told the guy, ‘Look, I’ll put up with this if you give me $150 — that’s half the cost of this flight and that would compensate me enough for the circumstances,’” the enterprising passenger wrote in his account of the transaction.

Unlike a disembodied voice saying, “Yanny” or “Laurel” or a dress that might be white-and-gold or black-and-blue, in this situation, there is perhaps a third possible viewpoint that all sides could agree on. The idea that airline seats should be large enough for most human beings to sit in comfortably remains remarkably uncontroversial.

[Source: Shutterstock]

View Comments (34)


  1. Flight44

    March 4, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Air travel has reached new lows. Where is the bottom? A slave ship in the sky?

  2. RoyalSwazi

    March 4, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    He bought a seat. Not half a seat, 2/3 of a seat or whatever. He should get a seat, but he was willing to give up part of that seat for compensation. Basic contract law.

  3. jjmoore

    March 4, 2019 at 7:52 pm

    Bottom line is this… if you are an oversized passenger, you have a couple choices:

    1) Purchase two economy seats next to each other.
    2) Purchase a first class seat.
    3) Don’t fly.

    This is not a matter of discrimination. It’s a matter of respect for fellow passengers.

  4. rthib

    March 5, 2019 at 4:01 am

    If you do not think your seat is large enough, there is an option for you to pay more to get any options you want on plane including bigger seat, more leg room even “free” baggage,. Do not raise the price for everyone else on the plane just because you want something for “free.”

  5. glob99

    March 5, 2019 at 6:04 am

    If it’s on the internet it must be true! 😉

  6. strickerj

    March 5, 2019 at 8:53 am

    WTH? Talk about cheeky – having your space encroached upon is annoying, but the passenger has no legal authority to extort money out of his seat mate. I’d have told him to pound sand.

  7. jjmoore

    March 5, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    I wouldn’t have demanded $, I would have asked the flight attendant to have the big dude removed, or to grant me involuntary denied boarding. After all, my seat was occupied by another passenger in this case.

  8. Fine Art Landscape Photographer

    March 5, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    Larger person should pay for 2 seats if he / she occupies more than 1 seat. If the person cannot fit into seat with arm rest open its not the problem of another passenger that is able to fit into his / her seat.

  9. Janus777

    March 5, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    @strickerj, I don’t find the passenger “cheeky” or to be extorting from the Passenger of Size. Every airline has printed guidelines about fitting into a seat. Southwest by far has the best system, which is to book and pay for two seats and at the gate once it is proven you are too fat(or just too big) for one seat they reimburse you for the second seat (this policy is to prevent everyone from booking two seats and only paying for one to have the convenience of an empty seat)
    In this case the Passenger of Size clearly didn’t fit, the put-out passenger came up with a novel solution and they both agreed upon it. Offer and Acceptance is the basis for all business transactions..
    I am 6′-5″ and 250lbs and I fly often with Delta Regional Jets and my shoulders are wider than the damn seats, I carry drink coupons and always offer any seat-mates free drinks. I also offer to switch with anyone who asks if they prefer the aisle or whatever because I KNOW that I’m the problem…I also wear clothes that have full coverage so my hairy arms and legs are at least covered…whenever it is feasible I pay for first or comfort+ (both for my sake but also other passengers)
    I also will volunteer for being bumped if my schedule allows when it is a max load flight..

    What I dread is when I am headed for my exit row seat on a regional flight and I see a sweating, morbidly obese guy wearing a tank-top and shorts literally overflowing the seat with the arm-rests pushed up because he can’t fit his hips in between the arm-rests..because I know its going to be a “moist” ride..thankfully RJ’s can be short flights but are also the ones that have flights “ground holds” because of heavy loads at the destination (in my case mostly ATL)

  10. Hotel Points Guy

    March 5, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    I am quite surprised that these individuals were able to reach such a reasonable settlement. It was a win-win for both parties. The man whose seat was infringed upon asked for (and was given) an amount equal to half the cost of his ticket ($150). I believe this to be fair compensation, as another poster pointed out that he paid for a whole seat, not a fraction thereof. The payee also came out ahead, as the cost to upgrade to first or business class would most likely be well above his “settlement” price of $150.

    As a personal side note, If I were the passenger being infringed upon, I would likely not have agreed to any compensation short of having the larger passenger relocated or removed from the plane. I have been in this situation before on a relatively short hour and a half domestic flight. My seat mate infringed upon my seat so substantially that I had to sit in an awkward position for the duration of the flight, and my back became sore and began to hurt by the time we landed. I respect others’ personal space, and I expect the same. If someone is 6’5″ and weighs 350 pounds, why is it fair that I should get back pain sitting next to him? I’m sorry, but my back is worth more than $150. Buy a first or business class ticket, be aware of the type of plane you are purchasing a ticket on (e.g. an RJ), or be prepared to be walked and take a later flight.

  11. IBobi


    March 5, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    This almost certainly didn’t happen. It reeks of “I want attention so I will post this thing on Reddit that I have been theoretically thinking about as though it actually happened.”

  12. redreeper


    March 6, 2019 at 6:38 am

    Agreed with above. Fat attacks always get media attention, fictional or not.

  13. F16wannabe

    March 6, 2019 at 8:11 am

    I had a morbidly obese pax walk up to take the seat next to me last year and before sitting he reached over and raised the armrest between us. I looked him in the eye, shook my head no and put the armrest back down. Somehow he managed to make himself fit and the flight was still uncomfortable for me but not as bad as it would have been without the armrest between us. This guy raised the armrest knowingly intending on poaching some of my space!

  14. sfoeuroflyer

    March 6, 2019 at 10:56 am

    I don’t get it. When a person buys a ticket, that person is entitled to the room afforded by the seat in the class purchased. Not one millimeter more. So if that person is fat and intrudes even a fraction into the space of another seat, he or she needs to buy a second seat. Said another way, either you fit into the space of the seat you bought or buy another seat or a larger seat. Fat people are not entitled to take space away from others.

  15. Chubbahill

    March 6, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    What about the 110# jack wad who treats the armrest like an extension of his own body? Manspreaders (guilty)? The ass in the fully reclined seat in front of you who bounces around like he’s either doing the mombo or he’s on fire?
    The seat mate who spreads the laptop, 2 drinks and and last years reciepts across his tray table and the area around himself?
    Inconsiderate pax exist on both sides of this discussion.
    The fit but hasn’t bathed I 2 weeks seatmate? Should we have to endure him? Tolerate or negotiate?
    Inconsiderate pax generally fall onto the “get over yourself” crowd.
    If the big guy fits in his paid for seat, can buckle up and isn’t being a jerk, get over it and realize that we all annoy someone else at some point, today may just be the other guys day.

  16. flyshooter

    March 8, 2019 at 7:13 am

    Excellent. I once sent a note to SWA about the same situation. This woman was so fat that her fat rolls encroached enough over the arm rests that my shirt was soaked with her body fat sweat. I suggested to SWA that sinc they have sizing charts for carryon bags and that they should do the same thing with the fat people. They sent me a gracious note and, coincidentally, a credit for $150. I say make them buy two seats.

  17. MitchR

    March 8, 2019 at 7:23 am

    Sat next to an extremely obese guy from DFW to HKG – 16 hour flight. I tolerated it until he started playing a video game and kept elbowing me. I asked AA if I could purchase the seat next to me in the future. I was told that if they had standbys they would cancel my second seat and put a standby in, no refund.

  18. Disneymkvii

    March 8, 2019 at 7:26 am

    Cheeky? Extortion? Look, If the pax wanted to make a stink about it, the POS would have either had to get off the flight (sold out so can’t buy a second seat) or the complainant would have had to given up the seat voluntarily and the pax would have room to spread out. This way everyone gets to the destination, no delays needed and the POS has s cool story to tell.

  19. GoProf

    March 8, 2019 at 7:35 am

    Wider seats would be the best solution but requiring large passengers to pay for 1.5 seats to be able to occupy 2 on the plane would be good to. I like this mutual agreement although half the ticket cost does seem high. I have been lucky in that only twice have I had to involuntarily share my seat due to flab oozing under the arm rest.

  20. ack68

    March 8, 2019 at 7:40 am

    You are only allowed the space in your seat. That being said, if someone is in the middle seat, I usually let them have the armrest, but if they intrude into my space past the armrest, I give them an earful. Just because some people think that you are smaller then them, they’re allowed to jab you with their elbows in your space. I could’ve banked all of the times someone larger wanted to intrude into my space if I charged them.

  21. got2scuba

    March 8, 2019 at 7:40 am

    I am sure the vast majority of frequent have had to endure an obese passenger invading their space. The airlines limit bag size so they should begin charging obese people that cannot fit into the space an extra seat or first class seat. Anyone that thinks they can take up their seat and some of yours are extremely rude and the airline is not fulfilling their contract passengers must. I know there are some vague unpublished guidelines but it is time for well published and enforced rules about an obese passenger taking up more than one seat. I have no problem demanding the full seat I purchased and if the obese person thinks this is wrong they need to rethink others rights.

  22. Mtothe M

    March 8, 2019 at 7:55 am

    @Janus777 You’re awesome! Sat next to someone like you (or it was you?) several years ago from ORD to IAH. Pleasant guy, and though I’m not a big talker on flights, enjoyed our brief chat over a couple of drinks. Wish more people today were more self-aware and accommodating – it was easy to give up some space for the 2.5 hour flight.

    @Chubbahill Being annoyed is one thing; being infringed upon by size, odor or behavior (especially ADULTS!) is absolutely and positively legitimate reasons to negotiate a regulation of behavior by request (through flight attendants) or financial settlement. Other passengers have ZERO reason to be accepting of being forced to have their entire flight experience impugned by avoidable behavior/sizing situations.

  23. MikeFromTokyo

    March 8, 2019 at 8:09 am

    I do not care about any agreement reached between the two passengers. If this story is even true, the real question is how an oversized passenger who could not be accommodated in one seat was boarded and the plaene was allowed to depart with another passenger unable to sit in his seat, creating a safety issue.

    If this even happened at all, the blame rests with the airline. The “passenger of size” should not have been allowed to fly as such, if there was not an extra seat available to be left empty next to him.

  24. Gadot

    March 8, 2019 at 8:17 am

    Stickler: If he was told “to pound sand” he could have replied by calling the FA and having the obese man removed from the flight.

  25. Gadot

    March 8, 2019 at 8:23 am

    @mtothe. Now you are getting to cultural bias. Some cultures still feel daily bathing bad. The french don’t sell antiperspirants – only deodorants and perfune

  26. POatParker

    March 8, 2019 at 8:32 am

    I once had a middle coach seat on an AA S-80. When I got to my row, there was two obese guy (Looked like brothers) in the window and isle seats, both overlapping so bad into my middle seat that I only had literally 6″ of space to squeeze into. When I saw this I immediately turned around and demanded a different seat. This was pre 9/11, thus other seats were available.

    I feel for the obese people! But my space IS my space! Back then, I suggested AA describe the space that you are buying when you purchase a ticket, in the their magazine. They never did that! Nor did they reply to my letter! Typical AA!

    I feel the bigger issue is the greed of CEO’s like the Jack Asses, Parker and Munez. They have gone way beyond the limits of human dignity in the name of profits. (Small seats, small bathrooms, terrible seat rakes, etc.) It is only a matter of time until passengers revolt with their wallets or worse!

    There are all kinds of solutions to this problem, but as long as Ass Wipes like Parker and Munez are running the show, the human dignity of the public will suffer. They NEED to go!!!!!

  27. m44

    March 8, 2019 at 9:06 am

    Accordingly to Fox News Earth is flat and Sun rotates around Earth.
    This is what many people are saying.

  28. John Aldeborgh

    March 8, 2019 at 10:27 am

    It’s odd that this is controversial. When you bring a carry-on bag for a flight it has to fit in a predefined box, if it doesn’t you must check the bag. Similarly, if a passenger is too large to fit in a coach seat they should be forced to sit in first class, where the seats are bigger. The fact that first class is more expensive is justifiable. When shipping goods by air both weight and size are large factors in the fee.

    As a frequent long haul coach flyer, it is extremely uncomfortable to sit, for 6, 12 or 16 hours, next to an obese person that is spilling over into your space. Anyone who feels differently has, and I believe I can guarantee this, never sat on a SFO – SIN flight next to an obese person. It’s not fair to anyone involved.

    Airline seats are getting smaller and people are getting bigger. This issue needs a formulaic resolution, like the luggage box for carry-on baggage.

  29. jrpallante

    March 8, 2019 at 10:41 am

    Great to see the passengers settling this between themselves. While airlines have rules regarding oversize passengers, none of them have the guts to enforce the rules. My brother was recently the skinny passenger in this same situation, and Delta suggested that HE could take a later flight, rather than the large woman who was occupying two seats. When I pay for a seat, I expect to have exclusive use of the whole 17.5 inches. Every gate has a bag sizer to make sure your carry on complies, and it is high time they introduce the “Pax Sizer.” Two poles placed 18 inches apart. If you cannot walk through without touching the sides, then you must buy another seat, or a first class seat. For that matter, to my own personal detriment, I think it would be totally reasonable to charge passengers based on weight, as they do for every other item that you may ship, including luggage. FT regularly has articles demonstrating how an airline saved $xxx by eliminating olives, or printing on both sides of the paper, etc. What is the point of these tiny savings if a 400 pound passenger can fly for the same price as a 100 pounder?

  30. iwanderafar

    March 8, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    I’m sick of people dumping on the fat people and not the tall men. I know several skinny men with enormous shoulders that don’t fit in their seats. I’ve been in the middle seat between two of these behemoths and I could barely move my head because their shoulders were almost at my ears. Or what about the tall person whose knees keep poking me in the back, bumping my seat? Do I get to charge them for taking up my space? Tall men and anyone with wide shoulders should NOT be allowed to fly unless they buy larger premium seats.
    When are we going to realize the problem is the airlines expect normal people to fit into tiny seats with no room between the seats?

  31. blissing

    March 8, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    I wish I could just pay $50-$100 or so and get a wider seat for myself. I’m fat, but I used to date a man who weighed about 120 lbs. and he was uncomfortable in airplane seats, too. First class service is nice, but I just want the wider seat and I’ll bring my own water, nuts, etc.

    The fact that we have to talk about millimeters is disgusting and humiliating. It’s a big sky up there. IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS WAY!

  32. LostAntipod

    March 8, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    Watch the new BA inflight safety video. Sir Michael Caine and “Chabuddy G” are sitting next to each other and there is no shoulder room. There’s your problem right there – seats are too narrow for many grown adults. That’s also why we get smacked by inflight trollies when sitting in the aisle seats.

  33. gwynedd_gal

    March 8, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    Re the knees: legs aren’t detachable unless you’re an amputee. What’s a tall person to do? I’m barely six feet but long in leg. When the seat in front reclines, you get my knees and I get that nasty bar which gives me an amazing amount of pain. As to fat people, I had a gigantic football-player sized German man slip onto me and sleep 8 hours to Frankfurt. I’m a woman; no chance to shift his bulk off me.

    The bottom line is cheap fares mean squeezing humans into inhumanly small spaces: no plane seat in coach is suited to anyone over six feet, really or anyone over 100 kilos. So who’s fault is that?

  34. Mtothe M

    March 12, 2019 at 7:27 am

    @Gadot: Stink is stink. You want to fly in a confined space for hours? Take a shower and space everyone else your “culture” for a few hours.

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