27 October 2010

Obesity and Airline Travel...

Obesity is a problem that extends beyond just the health implications. It can be a factor in many matters from employment to travel. In this case, travel.

A Canadian woman has been given a full refund for having to endure a 1 hour and 45 minute flight from Halifax to Ottawa in Canada. The woman, Janet Ogilvie, was forced to squeeze into about 25cm of seat space after the obese woman sitting in the seat next to her also took up half of her seat as well. The plane was fully-booked and Ogilvie decided that she did not have any choice but to endure the very cramped and uncomfortable conditions. In fact, to her credit Ogilvie did this without complaining to the woman sitting almost on top of her in order not to embarrass the obese woman.

Nevertheless, Ogilvie did complain on getting off the Porter Airlines flight. But, in essence she was told to suck it up, get over it, and there was no chance of a refund. Great customer service skills there Porter Airlines. You know what they say, "A happy customer tells five others of their experience, an unhappy customer tells more than twenty people about their experience".

Airlines in Canada have to supply a second seat at no extra cost to passengers with disabilities. Obesity is a disability. However, this does not mean that passengers with disabilities can front up at the airport and just get on the plane. The way the regulations are written require that passengers with disabilities notify the airline of that disability so that appropriate measures can be taken to facilitate the comfort of all passengers on the flight. Technically, it is my understanding, where an obese passenger fronts and check in without having notified the airline of their requirements for an additional seat, the airline can refuse to board that passenger.

Ogilvie received her refund and a more extensive apology of sorts from the CEO of Porter Airlines.


Multibrand said...

Hi Rob,
Obesity is disability in Canada? WOW!
I am sure that it's just a physical, not mental, disability, in the sense that he is legally competent to take action.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Harry...

It actually makes sense to class obesity as a disability. If nothing else this would allow governments to toss money at preventive measures within a policy framework that argues it is better to treat the problem now, and cheaper now too, than to try and address the problem later on.

I would need to read more, but preliminary thoughts might suggest that it manifests in a physical way (body size) but there might be underlying psychological issues that contribute to the physical manifestation.

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