Thai Airways Downgrades 3 Women Saying They Were Too Big To Fly Business Class

A mother and two daughters were returning from Thailand, after the two younger women had gotten weight loss surgery. They booked business class home to New Zealand but were refused the seats they’d booked because of their size. They’re complaining that they were humiliated and discriminated against.

“We were utterly humiliated in front of all the other passengers. We went up to business class check-in and the member of staff on the desk looked at us and said ‘sorry you can’t’.

“The next thing, there were about five members of staff all around talking in their native language, shaking their heads and looking at us as if we’d committed a crime.

“A staff member then came forward and started saying ‘no, you’re too big, you’re too big’.

“She then pulled out a measuring tape and wrapped it around my daughter Renell, moving her arms outstretched, before trying to do the same to me and Tere.

“At this point, I broke down in tears.

bangkok suvarnabhumi airport
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

The three women were downgraded to economy for the 11 hour flight. They were offered a NZ$1250 partial refund on their NZ$2650 tickets. After pushing further, the airline also gave them a NZ$450 credit. The travel agency they used to book the tickets, however, came through with a full refund.

Business class seats on Thai Airways Boeing 787-9 aircraft can’t accommodate passengers with greater than a 56 inch waist (and also can’t accommodate lap infants). The seat belts contain airbags and a seat belt extender can’t be used (without misaligning the air bag).

(HT: Loyalty Lobby)

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 »

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  1. So everyone. To confirm, before you all get up in arms: this was not about “fat shaming”. It was about “passenger safety”. Putting aside the issue of why the seatbelts are the way they are, the women were refused boarding for their own safety.

  2. The headline is a bit misleading since one of your hot links explains that Thai Air has only two planes where business class has a size-limit for passengers.

  3. They should have been offered upgrades to First, or moved to another airline (NZ?) that could support them, rather than downgrading them…unless this is somewhere in TGs documentation.

  4. If you are so big that the seat belt won’t go round you then you are too fat, other people have got to fly beside these obese passengers and its about time they introduced a new section on planes called cattle class for the obese, and it’s not fat shaming it’s just telling the truth.

  5. @JoelFreak – alright genius. NZ doesn’t fly to BKK so that’s not an option. only TG flies BKK-AKL. And there is no F seats on the 789.

  6. @Joelfreak: “They should have been offered upgrades to First, or moved to another airline (NZ?) that could support them, rather than downgrading them…unless this is somewhere in TGs documentation.”

    TG doesn’t have First class in their 787. Also, I don’t think NZ business class or any other airlines would fit them either – the only possible way to transport their size is either 1). Etihad First apartment, or 2). 3-economy in row, or 3). cargo.

  7. Thai Airways sucks for more reasons. It’s the KLM of Thailand with the same high horse attitude and terrible service. They can’t even stand on their own feet because funded by Thai govt. Bangkok Airways is so much better.

  8. How are they too big for business class seats, but just fine for smaller economy seats? Shame on Thai airlines.

  9. You are a horrible parent, lady. You have passed your horrible life choices down to your kids. You are abusing your children by forcing them to go through life as morbidly obese. Eat healthier and less quantity, and exercise. You don’t need to travel to Thailand for weight loss surgery. Surgery without lifestyle changes are a temporary fix. Airlines, and the rest of society, have no need to indulge your self delusions…especially outside the USA where the PC robots haven’t taken over.

  10. WR2,

    Some people are morbidly obese for primarily or exclusively genetic/epigenetic reasons; and once a person is on the obese side as a child (for any reason) the likelihood of remaining or returning to be obese throughout life jumps up. [Cycling repeatedly between major weight losses and gains has its own dangers.]

    A growing part of the obesity problem that exists in the world is due to low-quality, processed food and artificial beverages being cheaper per calorie than high-quality non-processed food. Perhaps you would support a high tax for distributing/selling processed foods and sugary beverage as part of a way to subsidize and otherwise encourage the sales of non-processed, non-frozen foods? Or is it that you don’t want to be part of a meaningful solution to a public health crisis but want to point fingers without offering any solution to an already existing problem? At least Thai found a solution: economy class with seatbelt extenders.

    I do wonder how these women flew from NZ to Thailand. Was it in Thai business class in a different plane type or up in economy class?

  11. Bunch of nasty commenters. Disgusting. These women booked business class specifically because of their size, but because the seat belts have air bags (which is bizarre) the seats don’t allow use a seat belt extender. They were actually downgraded to the tiny seats of economy because they could use seat belt extenders. Dumb. Two conclusions: 1. I’ve flown BKK-AKL in Thai business class (on UA miles) and it’s the most unpleasant longhaul business class I’ve experienced in the last decade. Maybe tied with Air Caribes which had better seats but worse service. So I’m not surprised by this story. 2. Too many people commenting here are awful people.

  12. Unfortunate but a safety issue nonetheless. My only question is was this policy adequately disclosed when the tickets were purchased?

  13. Entirely possible that their seats were required in order to upgrade ‘hiso’ freeloaders. If not, then the problem here is the way it was done : tape measures, public humiliation, gabbling in Thai, pointing, etc.
    It should be remembered that this is the country that declined to restrict ‘ Darkie’ brand toothpaste until about 10 years ago ( and then only to change the name to “ Darlie” ( still with the image of the black man with flashing teeth).

  14. @Ms in Bk- get a clue. Economy seatbelts can use the extenders, business class seatbelts cannot because they have the airbag installed in them.

  15. Steve,

    TDS got you with your lame attempt at a pre-emptive strike to defend your named individual from any and all criticism, whenever and wherever? Seems so. TDS in its true form is really nothing but a case of being deranged by any critical mention of your Dear Leader whose name you mentioned above.

  16. Sorry, really a sidetrack related to weight.

    Last night Tokushoryu won Grand Sumo January tournament. He was the lowest ranked player in the elite makuuchi division (Grand Sumo). The lowest ranked player has never won before. In fact, in the past, he was barely good enough to be in the makuuchi division, have spent 12 of the last 13 tournaments in the lower juryo division. He was 34, the third oldest champion. It was amazing, I watched the last match three times.

    However, back to weight, Tokushoryu weighs 188-kg (414 pounds). I always wonder how Sumo Wrestlers fit into seats to fly. Just wondering.

    Now you can go back to arguing about Thai Airways and virtue signaling. To be honest, I live in New York, so I do not care so much. In older planes, Thai business and first class seats are antiquated. In newer planes, they are world class, go figure. Service is average, not sure why. Nobody knows why the Thais do things. In disputes with Thais, farangs (White foriegners) always lose. After all, it is their country.

  17. Gary should work for CNN or FOX the way he spins a story to make as inflammatory as possible.

  18. 56 ” ROUND? My table is 36″ do you know how big that person Is to be 20″ wider? that is over 4 1/2 feet round. How much did the plane have to off set luggage to balance out the plane so it can take off?

  19. “We were utterly humiliated in front of all the other passengers”

    I think they humiliated themselves by eating a ginormous amount of food for an extended period. It is not healthy to overeat.

Comments are closed.