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A Free Lunch for the People Who Need it Least

"Hurley" from the TV series "Lost", posing beside one of jet engines on the beach

While I believe that airline seats should be widened a little – even people of “average” build find them a bit narrow – I think that the Canadian Supreme Court’s recent ruling that the obese have the right to two airline seats for the price of one on flights within Canada is wrong. Just as airline cargo space has a value and you have to pay accordingly if you bring on more than the standard weight allotment, airline seats have value and you should have to pay for the seats you use.

8 replies on “A Free Lunch for the People Who Need it Least”

As a counterquestion, should handicapped or elderly people who need special assistance be charged?

Not exactly.

The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling. So did the Federal Court of Appeal. And what the Reuters story says (though not in full) is that the Canadian Transportation Agency’s “one person, one fare” policy stands.

All this really means is that the courts don’t think they’re the proper mechanism for changing this policy. Contact your MP…

As Justin’s question, what about people who need oxygen during flights (more baggage space, more stewardess time), what about old people who get to get in and out first, what about anyone with a special need or a disability?

I get a little uncomfortable with this discussion because it often seems as though fat is seen as a moral failure of some kind– and therefore people should need to pay for their excesses. (“a free lunch for the people who need it the least”) Given the socioeconomic link with obesity, these are actually often the people who need it the most…

I’m very fat, and I barely fit in an airline seat, and only very uncomfortably, and I don’t love this decision. On the other hand, airlines do have a policy of allowing a medically needed attendant to fly free with a passenger, taking up another seat under those circumstances, as well. So I guess, if obesity is going to be treated as a disability, it should be treated as a disability.

And far too many people who oppose this seem to do so on the basis of ‘Fatty McFatAss ate too many Big Mac’s and deserve everything they get for being fat’. The amount of pure, unedited fat hating that’s been going on around the internet over this stuff is really appalling.

It seems to me that if the flight is not full, airlines should arrange it such that the empty seats are next to fat people and and parents traveling with small children — for the benefit of the people who aren’t now sitting next to them as much as, if not more, than the fat people or the small children. If the flight is entirely full (which is relatively rare outside Christmas and Fridays at 5pm) and someone else would be on the flight if it weren’t for an obese person, only then does it seem reasonable to me to charge them for a second seat. The logistics of that, though, would be difficult. My understanding is that’s how Southwest’s policy works, though, so it’s obviously possible.

I can’t get behind this one. I have a kid who fits perfectly well on my lap, but have to pay for her seat because she’s over 2 years old. Why should I have to pay for her seat? Granted, I haven’t looked into the wording of the legislation, but there is a difference between being overweight for medical reasons, and simply being overweight. What about the poor sod who is 6’7”? That’s not his fault either. It’s a slippery slope argument, I know, but this ruling makes me feel about the same as the bailouts for those living in the States who bought too much on their credit cards and went for the adjustable rate mortgage.

Oh, and by the way. Just wanted to add that I also think legally speaking much depends on how they word their tickets. Are they selling the seat, or are they selling passage for one person with one ticket? If the former, then they may do as they like– but then they’d probably be in fairly serious hot water regarding regularly overbooking flights (there are rules against selling things that you don’t have) and if it’s the latter, then it seems to me that they are generally stuck with the consequences.

(Sorry. I’m generally just a lurker here, but I find it an interesting discussion. My Dutch hubby is tall enough that we can’t fly many airlines because of the leg room issue, so I’ve got a vested interest in the debate. :))

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