Passenger Charges Obese Seatmate $150 for Taking Up Too Much Space

A passenger on a cross country flight was seated next to a large passenger and found himself in an unusual situation.

The large passenger sits down and “is easily seeping into about 1/3” of the next seat. And he confronted the man, “Sir, I’m sorry but this situation is not working for me, you’re taking up quite a bit of my seat” and the man tried to squeeze himself into his own seat as much as possible.

The passenger sharing the experience asked a flight attendant for help, but there were no empty seats on the flight. At this point the larger passenger is embarrassed, apologizing that he can’t just take a later flight. And the flight attendant “tells him that unless someone on the flight agrees to let him take up part of their seat, he’ll need to book another flight.”

That’s when our anti-hero proposes a Coasian bargain,

I told the guy, “Look, I’ll put up with this if you give me $150 — that’s half the cost of this flight and that would compensate me enough for the circumstances.”

He instantly agrees, pulls out cash and pays me. He even told me he appreciated it.

Reports are – unsurprisingly – that other passengers didn’t approve of this one bit. But was there anything wrong with this?

I gave the guy a valid option to stay on the flight and I was compensated for literally having only 75% of my seat max (let alone the feeling of a person’s body pressed against you involuntarily). A win-win. He wasn’t angry at all, if anything he seemed quite relieved we could work it out privately.

The awkward thing here from my perspective is that he reports creating the situation where the man is being asked to pay for a second seat in the first place. He’s offering a solution to a problem that in some sense he’s created. On the other hand, he’s getting less comfort than even coach provides on a long haul flight, shouldn’t he be compensation by the passenger taking away that comfort? And isn’t this a more reasonable solution than suing the airline?

It sucks to have to sit next to someone who limits your space. It’s not comfortable for them either. It’s tough to say they ought to spend more money to travel, but the scarce resource on a plane is space and it doesn’t seem unfair for each person to pay for the space they occupy.

Of course the number one thing that leads to passenger satisfaction with air traval is having an empty seat next to you — and you can guarantee it when booking your tickets.

Most people don’t know it but you can actually buy yourself two seats in coach if you wish. Southwest Airlines actually has the most favorable policy because passengers of size are supposed to, but as long as there are empty seats left on the flight the second seat cost will be refunded to them. They don’t define passengers of size so this is a trick anyone in theory could use.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *