In the United States, finding ways to accommodate oversized passengers may be the subject of uneven enforcement, but in Australia, it’s uncharted territory. In fact, this in-flight service problem is so ignored that the terminology isn’t even standard. According to Virgin Blue, being too grande for the seat is considered an impairment, while Tiger Airways isn’t sure if it’s a “comfort” issue or a “medical” issue. And last year, Jetstar demonstrated the genius of making one large passenger by two seats: both of them on the aisle. A spokesman for Jetstar, by the way, says, “Obesity is not a disability.”
Then, pray tell, what is it? Distinction from does not equate to definition of. And an inability to define imperils the formulation and enforcement of any policy … not that that’s a problem for Jetstar, whose spokesman added, “There’s no rules around what requirements we should do for somebody if they’re above a certain height or weight.” Virgin Blue also doesn’t have a policy for this.
Qantas has received complaints, too, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, but it punts responsibility back to the passengers: “”The only way for a customer to guarantee extra space is to purchase two economy tickets or fly business- or first-class.”
Needless to say, the majority of Australians support a formal system for addressing obese passengers, according to a study by companytravel.com.au. In fact, 70 percent of survey respondents weighed in favorably believed that “obese or largely overweight people should have to purchase two economy-class seat tickets when travelling by plane.” Only two years ago, 53 percent felt this way.
Clearly, this is a growing problem for Australian airlines. The county’s Department of Health and Ageing puts 41 percent of men and 25 percent o women in the “obese” category. Twenty years ago, the rates were only half as large.
[photo by didbygraham via Flickr]