Customer Service
COMPLAINT: Squeezed Out of My Seat - Flight 365

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Old Jan 13, 2012, 5:06 AM
Travel-Guy Travel-Guy is offline
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 3

I was seated (28B) next to a morbidly obese passenger (28A) who could not fit into one seat. Her body overflowed onto my seat and was against my hip, arm and shoulder. There was a passenger on the other side of me (28C), so I couldn't lean to that side.
I was fortunate to find an empty seat in another row, but the flight attendants seemed oblivious to my situation and only allowed me to change seats after asking about it. I was lucky that there was an empty seat on the flight!

Why wasn't the morbidly obese passenger given two seats? Why was the seat adjacent to her offered as 'available'?
What would I have done if I hadn't taken the initiative to find another seat?
I have heard about other passengers being displaced due to morbidly obese passengers, but this is the first time it happened to me.
I didn't want to be rude to the morbidly obese passenger, but I feel that Alaska should not have sold 1/2 seat to me at full price!
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Old Jan 13, 2012, 4:26 PM
mars6423 mars6423 is offline
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Location: New Jersey/Singapore
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when i have booked flights online i have never seen a box or anything that says people of size or anything that would let the airline know that the person may need more space

unless the individual contacts the airline or informs them then the airline cant really do much, especially if you printed off your boarding pass at home and the flight was relatively full
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Old Jan 13, 2012, 6:30 PM
Gromit801 Gromit801 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 745

It should have been noticed by the counter or gate agents that this passenger might need two seats. The FA should have also caught it. The ball was fumbled.

I would suggest you contact the manager of the station you flew out of, and make a complaint with them, so they in turn can talk to the employees. There really isn't much else they will do except to apologize to you, and maybe award you some miles.

Out of curiosity, did you talk to the Alaska desk when you landed?
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Old Jan 14, 2012, 4:58 AM
Travel-Guy Travel-Guy is offline
Join Date: Jan 2012
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I didn't stop at the Alaska Air desk upon landing, but I did file a complaint online when I got to my destination. It will interesting to see how they respond.
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Old Jan 16, 2012, 7:22 PM
Ombudsman Ombudsman is offline
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 136

Here is ALaska Airlines' policy posted on their website -

Customers of Size

Second Seat Policy

We strive to best serve our customers' unique needs by providing a comfortable and safe flight for all passengers.
Alaska Airlines requires the purchase of an additional seat for any customer who cannot comfortably fit within one seat with the armrests in the down position. We are unable to guarantee travel for those who require additional seat space on a given flight unless a second seat is purchased in advance.
If all flight segments between origin and destination depart with an empty seat, customers who have purchased a second seat can receive a refund of the second seat charge for that portion of their trip.

Was the person sitting in 28A able to do so with the armerst between you and her completely down? If not then Alaska will most likely not do anything about it especially since you found another vacant seat on the plane. Had you been forced to sit there for the full duration of the flight then you would definitely be due some compensation but fortunately you were able to move.
Contributing editor to one of the largest travel blogs on the internet.
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Old Jan 16, 2012, 10:46 PM
Travel-Guy Travel-Guy is offline
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 3

The morbidly obese passenger was able to sit in the seat with the armrest down... but, the rolls of fat extended over the armrest onto my side, and the rolls of fat at hip-level extended across from below the armrest into my seat and against my hip. Her arm fat extended across into my space and against my shoulder. The armrest provided no barrier whatsoever - it was litterally burried in adipose.
The policy states, "if the passenger can sit comfortably in one seat with the armrests down...", but what morbidly obese passenger will admit that they are uncomfortable? There is no way that that morbidly obese lady was comfortable with the armrests digging into her from both sides... but I'm sure she didn't want to pay for a second seat.
I still haven't received a reply from Alaska Air.
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Old Jan 17, 2012, 9:19 AM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Shropshire, England
Posts: 3,197

I am a fat guy.... and here is my take. I think both Southwest and Alaska have an entirely fair policy. If the obese person takes up too much room, you can book two seats. If the airline flies with another empty seat, the payment for the second seat is refunded. That is transparent and fair. It would be a good idea too for the airport to have a rack of three standard seats that people can try out, perhaps in a quiet area.

The issue here is how this is handled. More than 40% of the population in the US is now obese and Europe is rapidly catching up. The people we are talking about here are with the higher ends of that. It is not beyond the wit of airlines to have a standard approach. I suggest the following standard policy for all airlines:

1. The passenger can purchase two tickets at the time of booking. If the flight goes with any empty seats, the second seat is refunded.

2. If an obese passenger arrives as part of a party of travellers, seat them next to their own family members or other members of the same party. This increases the chance that they can work out between themselves who sits where. I generally sit next to my daughter, who is slim and 12 and so I pose no inconvenience next to her, or next to my partner.

3. If they are travelling alone and the flight is sold out, or close to selling out, the desk clerk should explain the situation to the passenger and offer to switch them to a later flight or book two seats if there are any available. This could be at the same price as the original fare. The passenger would not be issued with a boarding pass until the gate. If everyone turns up and two seats are not available, they should be refused boarding and placed on a later flight.

4. If the flight is not sold out and unlikely to do so, the check in clerk should block the seat next to the passenger.

This avoids the situation that this passenger was placed in. The airline is passing on the difficulty to the passenger, by placing them in the position of having to ask to be relocated. No sensitive passenger wants to go to a FA and ask to be reseated, because the person next to them is too fat. The fat person probably doesn't want it either. It is the fat person's responsibility to handle this, along with the airline.... not other passengers problem.
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Old Jan 27, 2012, 4:47 AM
playmaker playmaker is offline
Alaska Air Employee (NOT OFFICIAL REP)
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 8

Well sorry you got stuck with a fat person next to you. Next time tell them sorry your taking over my bubble. If they don't move ask for the Flight attendant to move you or the passenger. Its not fair to get stuck by a fat person. Its unsafe for one. Let be heard that fat people should automatically have 2 seats booked!
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morbidly obese, morbidly obese passenger, obese, obese passenger

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