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Pax Sues AA After Enduring TransPacific Flight Next to Obese Seat Mates

An Australian passenger has filed suit against the airline for forcing him to literally sit on the edge of his seat for the entirety of a 14-hour flight from Sydney to LA.
A flyer based in Australia is suing American Airlines for forcing him to sit next to two obese passengers during a 14-hour flight from Sydney Airport (SYD) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Michael Anthony Taylor claims the airline’s refusal to allow him to change seats has left him with a permanent back injury.
The 67-year-old wants to make it clear that his decision to seek compensation isn’t about fat shaming, but is very much about the airline’s disregard for the safety of passengers. “I don’t hold any malice towards the people in the seats next to me – they’d paid for a ticket too,” Taylor told The Sydney Daily Telegraph.  “The airline could have put me in a crew seat or moved people around but they did nothing.”
Taylor insists that rather than allowing him to relocate, he was instead forced to take a “crouching, kneeling, bracing or standing” position for nearly the entire trip. According to his lawsuit, his in-flight contortions aggravated an existing scoliosis condition, resulting in lingering back and neck issues.
The cramped passenger told local media outlets that he was assigned to a window seat, but because of the two extra-large seat mates in his row, there was precious little room left for him to sit. Taylor blames this entirely on American Airlines employees, who he claims repeatedly declined to make any attempt to rectify the uncomfortable and ultimately dangerous seating situation.
“We just received the lawsuit and we are reviewing the allegations,” American Airlines spokesperson Ross Feinstein told NBC News. The airline confirmed that every seat on the December 28, 2015 flight in question was occupied when the plane departed SYD. FAA regulations strictly prohibit passengers from occupying seats reserved for flight attendants.
Remarkably, this most recent lawsuit has quite a bit of legal precedent. In 2015, a passenger filed a lawsuit against Etihad for injuries allegedly caused after being forced to sit next to an obese passenger on a flight from Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) to Sydney. In September of last year, an Italian lawyer filed a lawsuit against Emirates after having to endure a flight from Cape Town International Airport (CPT) to Dubai International Airport (DXB) seated next to an overweight passenger.
[Photo: American Airlines]
Comments are Closed.
Richard Street May 12, 2017

@swm61230 and others Let's not turn this into a fat thing. Some people are just born wide (not tall). At 9 stone (125 pounds) I had a 36 inch waist and 42 inch chest but was medically under weight. I am now more like 14 stone (195 pounds) much healthier and have a 38 inch waist and 45 inch chest and just by stretching in an economy seat could easily break it and my arms (not my body) will definitely spill into the space on either side. I cannot change my DNA and dieting will not change the basic shape of my body. But before you jump to say sucks to be you or some other unhelpful jibe lets just put this in context... I don't have the same problem at work, in a restaurant, on a bus, taxi or train. I really on have this problem because the major US and EU airlines keep reducing the width of their seats so they can cram in more seats. Generally they do this on routes with little competition where they don't compete with other more generous airlines. Can I buy a seat with extra width? On some routes YES and I do... but on many routes I cannot. Are there overweight people that have the same problem as me? Yes, but for every obese person, in my experience there are 3/4 guys like me that are just BIG.

fedup flyer May 11, 2017

One problem with that story. Seat belts extension are not allowed and don't work in most emergency exit aisles.

makfan May 11, 2017

I believe the SYD/LAX flight is operated by a 777-300ER, which is a plane where they are now seating 10 across in economy instead of 9. That is only going to make the problem worse. I don't know what the ultimate answer should be, but making a normal sized passenger contort his or her body because of the adjacent passengers is not it.

Ourmanin May 10, 2017

I have to say that it's about time. A few years ago I was on a BA flight from Glasgow back Gatwick. I was in an exit row and the middle seat of three was empty. The passenger in the aisle seat and I nodded at each other knowingly as the doors closed and we realised that the seat would be empty. Until suddenly a lady from the back of the plane was moved into the middle seat. as a statement of fact rather than judgement she was at least 140 kg and no more than 5'6" tall. The first thing the cabin crew did was bring her an extension seat belt. To say she was invading my seat space was an understatement. I was annoyed but took the British 'say nothing' attitude. It was, however, too much for the passenger in the aisle seat, who pressed the call bell and proceeded to insist on seeing the cabin manager, insisting that not only would this lady be incapable of operating the emergency exit, but she wouldn't fit through it. This went on for a minute or so and he refused to back down, to the point that they actually asked the lady if she would move back to her previous seat. It sounds horrible, but in an age where seats and space are shrinking then I suspect more of this is going to happen.

AllanJ May 10, 2017

The right thing to do is complain to the flight crew before departure, preferably but not mandatorily going to the front of the plane to do that. If the flight crew fails (refuses, neglects, etc.) to find you an empty seat then suggest that they ask for volunteers. Point out the lack of an empty seat. Do not discuss the larger seatmate or crew seats or first class upgrades; let the flight crew figure out the best way. If you still do not get a resolution then demand (not in those words) a conference with the captain and the ground complaint resolution officer. If needed, repeat your suggestion that they ask for volunteers. Do not squeeze into the partly occupied seat.