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Seated next to a really overweight person - what to do?

Seated next to a really overweight person - what to do?

Old Oct 10, 14, 3:55 pm
  #1  
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Seated next to a really overweight person - what to do?

I just had the worst flight of my life.

On a UA flight from EWR to MIA I had a middle seat next to my gf. She had the window seat. It was on Economy Plus so there was enough leg space, and it looked like a nice 3-hour flight.

Until this REALLY fat person set next to me (in the aisle seat). He was so big that he could not sit in his seat unless the arm-rest was up. He asked me if he could lift it, and I said sure (I had no idea what followed or that he was so big).

Well all of a sudden, he is taking 20-30% of my seat. I had to cramp next to my girlfriend just to be there. The fat person (to be fair) asked the FA if he could be seated somewhere else, but she said the plane was full and she couldn't do anything (it was indeed full).

I wondered if I should make a fuss or not, but on the other hand I wanted to get to Miami. During the flight my legs "felt asleep" because they were pressured so much, so I had to move quite often in the seat to make sure I got the proper circulation. I couldn't really do anything properly - impossible to sleep in such a position, or to use my laptop. Even the tray table could barely be there.

I survived this terrible flight, but I am wondering what you guys would have done. If I experience anything that could cause such a flight again, then I'd rather step out of the aircraft and be rescheduled than go through this again.

1. Should I politely just have refused when the fat person asked whether he may lift the armrest? (if I had done so, there is no way he could sit there, so then maybe this would give HIM a problem rather than me).

2. Given that there is nothing to do and FAs say the flight is full and there is no more extra space, and the fat person does not want to be rescheduled, should I then demand to be taken off the plane with my girlfriend and rescheduled? Would UNITED accommodate this for both of us?

3. Is it at all legal to be seated like that? In case of an emergency, there is no way that our row could evacuate quickly because of the fat person.

4. How would you guys handle it? Would you really make a big thing out of it and not accept what I have been through, or would you just try to survive it?

Last edited by FlyinHawaiian; Oct 10, 14 at 5:48 pm Reason: Edit title
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Old Oct 10, 14, 4:00 pm
  #2  
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The there is only one time & place to deal with this and it is with the FA and before the cabin door closes. Once the door is closed and the aircraft is full, there are no options.

This can all be handled discretly but fairly. Using words such as, I can't safely fit in what's left in the seat will force action.
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Old Oct 10, 14, 4:01 pm
  #3  
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You should have spoken up before the plane departed. The POS (person of size, not what you were thinking) should have been compelled to buy two seats, since he did not fit in one seat. He should have been off-loaded, which probably would have resulted in a standby passenger taking the aisle seat instead. Probably a less-obese individual.

Next time, don't let a {PoS} raise the armrest like that - 'cause now you know what is likely to happen.

Good thing you had a girlfriend next to you. Just imagine if the window seat passenger had been a big, smelly stranger instead of your GF.

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Oct 11, 14 at 4:09 pm Reason: appropriate language
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Old Oct 10, 14, 4:01 pm
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Originally Posted by Frequie View Post
I just had the worst flight of my life.

On a UA flight from EWR to MIA I had a middle seat next to my gf. She had the window seat. It was on Economy Plus so there was enough leg space, and it looked like a nice 3-hour flight.

Until this REALLY fat person set next to me (in the aisle seat). He was so big that he could not sit in his seat unless the arm-rest was up. He asked me if he could lift it, and I said sure (I had no idea what followed or that he was so big).

Well all of a sudden, he is taking 20-30% of my seat. I had to cramp next to my girlfriend just to be there. The fat person (to be fair) asked the FA if he could be seated somewhere else, but she said the plane was full and she couldn't do anything (it was indeed full).

I wondered if I should make a fuss or not, but on the other hand I wanted to get to Miami. During the flight my legs "felt asleep" because they were pressured so much, so I had to move quite often in the seat to make sure I got the proper circulation. I couldn't really do anything properly - impossible to sleep in such a position, or to use my laptop. Even the tray table could barely be there.

I survived this terrible flight, but I am wondering what you guys would have done. If I experience anything that could cause such a flight again, then I'd rather step out of the aircraft and be rescheduled than go through this again.

1. Should I politely just have refused when the fat person asked whether he may lift the armrest? (if I had done so, there is no way he could sit there, so then maybe this would give HIM a problem rather then me).

2. Given that there is nothing to do and FAs say the flight is full and there is no more extra space, and the fat person does not want to be rescheduled, should I then demand to be taken off the plane with my girlfriend and rescheduled? Would UNITED accommodate this for both of us?

3. Is it at all legal to be seated like that? In case of an emergency, there is no way that our row could evacuate quickly because of the fat person.

4. How would you guys handle it? Would you really make a big thing out of it and not accept what I have been through, or would you just try to survive it?
the FA should have seen that the passenger could not have fit, contacted the gate agent to have a discussion with the passenger about rebooking and buying an extra seat.

A few years ago I had to sit in the jumpseat in the cockpit due to the agents at the gate allowing a guy to sit in a seat that took up two seats, even though my seat was the middle.
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Old Oct 10, 14, 4:01 pm
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life tip,

book window seat for gf and aisle seat for you in future
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Old Oct 10, 14, 4:03 pm
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I don't know the right answer here, and as always, any situations with customers of size are tricky to handle well. No matter what, it's going to be tough to make everyone come out of it feeling good. But, if a customer of size is not able to sit in a seat with the armrest down, they are supposed to buy two seats. I probably would have (quietly, calmly, and out of earshot of the customer of size) informed a FA that the pax sitting next to me seemed unable to fit in the seat with the armrest down. Then I would have just stayed out of the way (e.g., in the back of the plane), while the FA and/or GA dealt with things. I would not "make a big thing out of it", but that rule exists for a reason (as you found out) and it's okay to politely ask the FA to handle it.
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Old Oct 10, 14, 4:05 pm
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I've always politely declined requests from anyone to put up the armrest, POS or not. I'd personally feel too awkward to talk to the FAs about it so I've just dealt with it in the past when this has happened, however you should be able to talk to the FA in private to communicate the concerns. An amusing aside, but the day before my birthday this year, I spent the day leaning into the aisle of an E170 from DFW to EWR, getting battered by the service cart due to the POS in the window seat. Arrived home and had several glasses of Longmorn after that one.

Last edited by fjfv19; Oct 10, 14 at 4:11 pm
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Old Oct 10, 14, 4:08 pm
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Originally Posted by fjfv19 View Post
I've always politely declined requests from anyone to put up the armrest, POS or not.
Completely agree with this. And, if the armrest is up when I get to the seat, the first thing I do once I sit is to say "Do you mind if I put the armrest down?" I've found it to be less awkward if it's handled right away (although, in fairness, I've never had to do this with a person who I thought wasn't going to fit -- that would probably be awkward no matter what).
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Old Oct 10, 14, 4:13 pm
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Agree with what has been said above. You are entitled to your seat. Let the FA deal with this.
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Old Oct 10, 14, 4:15 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
The there is only one time & place to deal with this and it is with the FA and before the cabin door closes. Once the door is closed and the aircraft is full, there are no options.

This can all be handled discretly but fairly. Using words such as, I can't safely fit in what's left in the seat will force action.
Yup, this is pretty much when to handle the situation. Having a lot of experience in risk assessment, I probably could have predicted the outcome of the armrest lifting. Would have spoken up immediately. The seat he bought is about 17" wide, not the 20"+ the armrest lift provided. And OP bought a 17" wide seat, not 15", or whatever part of the love seat he ended up with.

A slick move might have been to raise the armrest between you and GF, and cozy-ing up to her.
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Old Oct 10, 14, 4:17 pm
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{unneeded comment after Moderator edit} I am pretty tall, so legroom is my issue. I hate those people who insist on reclining even though the seat in front of them has not reclined.

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Oct 11, 14 at 4:10 pm Reason: {unneeded comment after Moderator edit
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Old Oct 10, 14, 4:39 pm
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I hate to admit this but when I am at the gate before boarding I'll scan the area for passengers of size. Sometimes I'll try to discretely look at their boarding pass to determine what seat they have.
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Old Oct 10, 14, 4:43 pm
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This is a really straightforward situation that doesn't need to involve derogatory labels. The space that you purchased is up to halfway up the middle of the armrest in the down position. If you cannot contain yourself to that space for whatever reason, you can: buy a second seat, buy a seat in the front cabin, take a train, drive yourself to your destination, or charter an Antonov An-124 to get you there. In no way is any airline or any fellow passenger obligated to suffer for your: personal decisions, lifestyle, diet, or medical condition.

FWIW, I am 6'3" and 265 pounds. I go out of my way to not impose my gargantuan proportions upon anyone else. That includes using the seat in front of me to wrench myself out of and into my seat. All you need is strong abs!
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Old Oct 10, 14, 4:47 pm
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EWR-Mia not worth making a fuss.

If it were EWR DEL of course it is, and the suggestions below are appropriate.
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Old Oct 10, 14, 5:02 pm
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Originally Posted by walkerci View Post
FWIW, I am 6'3" and 265 pounds. I go out of my way to not impose my gargantuan proportions upon anyone else. That includes using the seat in front of me to wrench myself out of and into my seat. All you need is strong abs!
Oh man, I was recently on flight in F on a 737 from IAH to SAL. In the row opposite me, there was a guy of your proportions++ in the aisle seat and a tiny woman sitting next to him at the window. After dinner the lady had to go to the restroom and the convulsions that the guy went through to let her pass were hilarious. He absolutely refused to get up but attempted to move sideways to allow her to pass. While she was taking care of business he used the seat in front as a lever to pull himself up. I thought he would break that seat.
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