Overweight man sues Air France over seat row

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by crazydave98, Dec 22, 2006.

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  1. crazydave98

    crazydave98 Active Member

    Oct 25, 2005
    Some of you may have seen this article about an overweight man suing Air France for humiliating him by measuring him in public. Leaving aside the shamefull treatment of the fellow, what caught my eye was "Air France's website urges overweight passengers to reserve a second seat, adding that failure to do so might mean they are refused access to an aircraft if it is fully booked."

    Southwest have a policy that requires passengers to buy the number of seats they occupy, but they refund the fare for the second seat if the aircraft departs with less than 100% load factor. I've read that this works quite well in that most larger Americans will buy the second seat for their comfort and the consideration of others, knowing that relatively few flights leave 100% full.

    Given our waistlines are expanding faster than America's, the issue of accommodating people who can't fit within a standard seat will become increasingly prevalent here. I'm curious as to what members think about how to handle the issue (other than the obvious such as wider seats, or the impractical such as charging tickets based on weight, and bearing in mind that many routes don't have business class seats available)? What do you think of Southwest's policy? Would Air France's work if they were more discreet and considerate about how they enforce it?

    I should make it clear that this is my own personal research - I'm not trying to road test any Virgin Blue plans. If anyone wants to link this topic to other forums feel free, but thought I'd try to keep the discussion in one place.

    cheers CrazyDave

    Overweight man sues Air France over seat row

    December 21, 2006

    An overweight passenger has sued Air France after being told he was too fat and had to pay for a second seat to accommodate his bulk.
    Jean-Jacques Jauffret, a French scriptwriter, told Reuters on Wednesday he had felt humiliated by Air France staff who had measured his waist in public at New Dehli airport in 2005 and decided he was too big for a single seat.

    A lawyer representing Air France told a court on Tuesday the company had a clear policy of asking obese passengers to pay for two seats.

    "Let's be objective. This man is fat," lawyer Fernand Gamault told the court in Bobigny, according to Le Parisien newspaper. "He barely fits on the courtroom chair. How could he sit in an airplane?"

    Gamault was not available for comment but Jauffret confirmed the lawyer's comments and said he was denounced as "fat" and "enormous" on countless occasions during the hearing.

    "I felt shocked and humiliated by what he said," Jauffret added.
    Jauffret said he weighed more than 160 kilos (352.7 lb) and said he had flown numerous times, including on other Air France flights, without ever being asked to pay more.

    Air France's website urges overweight passengers to reserve a second seat, adding that failure to do so might mean they are refused access to an aircraft if it is fully booked.

    Jauffret has asked for 8,000 euros ($10,580) in damages and 500 euros reimbursement for the cost of the additional ticket. A verdict in the case is due on Feb. 20.


  2. Soundguy

    Soundguy Member

    Jun 15, 2006
    Rudd's Banana Republic
    I think the Southwest policy is a great idea; Virgin & Qantas should follow suit (but please don't follow their dreadful excuse for of inflight food).

    I once bought an extra seat from Qantas simply because I needed some extra SC's & this was cheaper than buying a more expensive ticket class. But the exercise was a hassle & could only be done over the phone with the extra cost of a phone booking incurred.

    It would be great if you could book an extra seat on-line; to me more space is like 'premium economy class' in a sense, helpfull if you are working with a laptop etc. Qantas charge the exta seat free of taxes and fuel fines & the passenger gets the additional SC's and FFP's. I would book it more often if it could be done easily on line.
  3. oz_mark

    oz_mark Enthusiast

    Jun 30, 2002
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    It already seems to me to be a growing problem, and I seem to have witnessed more passangers requiring additional seasts in the last year than previously. It is obviously a touchy situation for many of the affected passengers and I think that airlines need to be respectful of that. Having said that, I think it is quite reasonable that airlines ask for extra payment for an additional seat.

    As for Air France, the reported situation could have been handled more diplomatically.

    Overall, I think that Southwest has the better policy with regard to this. However, the process for doing this would need to be relatively streamlined (easy to book the extra seat, easy and quick to get the refund)
  4. TonyB

    TonyB Intern

    Mar 20, 2006
    I think the Southwest approach is fair and reasonable to all concerned although it is still open to dispute if infrequent travellers are not aware of whether they will require an extra seat or not. I would be a little annoyed if I purchased a spare seat because I thought I might be borderline and then found that I didn't actually need it and then found that the flight was full so no refund:( Where I am heading with this is perhaps an objective standard is required? Knowing the size of a seat, perhaps state that any passenger with a waist measurement that exceeds X inches is required to purchase the extra seat or some other form of objective assessment (before the pax buys their tickets, rather than at the airport) so there is little room for confusion and dispute down the track.
  5. Bolman

    Bolman Junior Member

    Oct 24, 2006
    I think bigger customers should definately have to buy a bigger or a second seat. Because it is their neighbours that are affected. I don't like having to lean into the isle because the big person next to me is taking up more than our shared armrest, or having my legs squashed sideways because their leg is in my personal space.

    How about THIS? Have little steal boxes at the check in gate (similar to the carry on bag guide) where questionable sized people should get into before boarding... if they don't fit - sorry sir, you can't bring that onboard. :D
  6. 160kg? By any standard, that's fat. Let's face it - at that size, you really have to buy a second seat if you wish to fly whY. C, even...

    There is no really politically correct way of telling people that they need to buy a second seat, although AF could probably have done better than bringing out the measuring tape at checkin :)eek: LOL!).

    But there is no reason why other passengers have to be uncomfortable for hours on end just because someone is in denial about having to shoe-horn themselves into an 18" wide chair. Airlines could empower their staff to say "Sorry, Sir/Madam, company policy states that you have to buy a second seat, or you won't be able to fly in our economy cabin today". The onus is then on the passenger - buy another seat or don't fly. Airlines would have to widely advertise their new policy before it was instituted, so that no-one could claim ignorance of the rule.

    Before you pay for your ticket on-line, on the phone, or at the TA, you should have to tell the airline how much you weigh! And if you lie, your ticket should be cancelled and a penalty applied to the fare refund.
  7. Tooner

    Tooner Active Member

    Nov 7, 2006
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    I think a mixture of common sense and public statement of policy would be useful. I work with someone who is fairly senior and was employed on the basis that all domestic flight would be in J (which is against policy) as they can't fit in a Y seat.

    The key here is whether the person is in denial. I must admit, I find the DJ seats quite cosy!

    Cheers & happy Christmas
  8. jazzamcc

    jazzamcc Junior Member

    Jun 22, 2006
    My mum and I are 'larger' people, and after having an uncomfotable trip in a 2 seater on Air Canada, we decided that from now on we would buy an extra seat.
    When we flew United last year, we purchased an extra seat through to JFK for $1450. If you divide that by 2 and 2 again for each way, that works out to be $362.50 each for each direction. On a 20 hour flight, that is money well spent!!
    From SYD-SFO the plane was about 50% full, and we didn't have to have buy that extra seat. But the SFO-JFK-SFO-SYD flights were 100% full. There wasn't one spare seat, except the one between us!!:D
    We did the same again this year on NZ to LAX. Though these seats were wider, and were quite comfortable. Again the load factor wasn't a problem, except LAX-AKL, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
    My two cents worth.
  9. Reggie

    Reggie Established Member

    Mar 20, 2006

    I am 6'2" and am carrying more weight than I should, I do fit into the seats and dont normally steal other peoples space (except maybe for the crash 8's). I have however taken the same/similar step as your collegue and taken a smaller cash component in my salary and made it a condition of my contract that domestic flights are business class. Unfortunately that doesn't help on flights without any J ie SYD-DUB or PER-PBO or ZNE.

  10. clifford

    clifford Established Member

    Jul 6, 2004
    Canberra / London
    Well, it's an interesting idea, but it probably wouldn't fly.

    What I also find interesting is that if you are 1 Kg overweight with your bags, you are charged an excess baggage fee.

    So why not charge an excess weight fee if the passenger is over a published maximum weight? (you could make it quite generous, really, and still have a nice little revenue stream).

    After all, excess weight is excess weight, which affects airlines' bottom lines.
  11. straitman


    Apr 27, 2003
    SE Oz (Sale)
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    Thanks for your honest, refreshing and realistic comments. There are a lot of others who could benefit from this type of honesty. :cool:
  12. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    There is a reason why try to fly longhaul business/first wherever possible. Not always possible though :( This explanation also helps with immigration questioning - why did you book a short stay trip in business if you aren't a drug smuggler (or words to that effect)?

    There are some where it is not necessary - eg LH intra-europe I always get middle seat blocked thanks to my status, on certain a/c there is only 1 seat on one or both sides of the aisle, etc.
  13. tassiedude

    tassiedude Intern

    Dec 22, 2006
    Wouldn't people that large (and come on let's face it 160+ KG is not just fat it is Morbidly Obese) know that they are they large and not fit into 1 aircraft seat.

    I think both Virgin, Jetstar and Qantas should bring in the Southwest policy regarding COS it seems to work very well for them.

    I always thought that 1 ticket entitled you to one seat on the aircraft, it really isn't fair to take up half of the seat next to you that someone else has paid for.
  14. anat0l

    anat0l Enthusiast

    Dec 30, 2006
    Hi everyone. I'm new here and this is my first post. Just to give you an idea, I'm a Uni Student/Researcher who just recently started flying Qantas again after scoring free travel to and from Perth and Gladstone as part of my research projects. The points (relatively for a youngish student) are racking up quickly! Of course, I'm probably the "baby" here, since I'm nowhere near attaining Gold or Plat, but I love flying - and posting long posts (if you see my name, get coffee)...but enough introduction...

    Here's to an interesting point, especially in a country where the obesity figures only lag America. Firstly, the "humiliation" suffered by the man is rather odd. He is a Frenchman, and culturally speaking the French are not really afraid of dishing out that level of...for lack of a better word..."insult" if it is so...demanded...

    The man is fat and requires an extra seat - that's a fair call. Whatever the airline has to do to verify this is perfectly fine; perhaps they should cement a certain procedure or policy in their business processes so that the means of verification wouldn't be so unorthodox (e.g. take said person into office and use supplied tape measure). Not because this man could be occupying weight that could otherwise be awarded as hidden allowances for passengers carrying excess bags :D, but his girth and weight constitutes a serious safety issue (N.B. not critical, but serious). Now what would you rather have - a few score kilos of lard left on the ground bawling to his lawyers, or a plane crashing?

    The cheese though is - what is acceptable and not acceptable? I'll admit that I am fat - my BMI is 28, which is considered fat. But I still fit in a seat without causing my flab to spill over to my neighbours or the aisle - and I'm talking about those tiny Economy seats on the A330-200 series! (Oh alright, I have to slightly tuck my arm in when the food trolleys come past but that's not serious). I wonder how many passengers will pay the "fat tax" or extra seat if they are pbese by BMI (> 30). Don't look dumbfounded...that's quite a few people (although, let's face it, quite a few of them will just tell their Expenses departments, who will just have to "deal")...

    I feel sorry for the engineers that design planes. What kind of payloads do they design for? What assumption about passengers do they make?
  15. pauly7

    pauly7 Established Member

    Dec 8, 2004
    OK, this is kind of related and pissed me off a little...

    Virgin Blue flight a couple of weeks ago. Guy ahead of me in the queue was huge, we are talking 130kg plus EASILY. So he checks in his bags - just on the limit - 19kg, gets his boarding pass and is on his way.

    I walk up, and get merrily fined $80 for excess baggage fine by the check in agent (sigh - budget airlines! - and I thought I would be flying Qantas - but they were sold out). No matter how annoying Virgin are with their restrictions it is their right to fine us so I didn't dispute being charged this.

    So me weighing 72, with my 36kg bag - about 108 right, Mr Big ahead of me gets about 150kg aboard. So I asked politely after paying how was that fair that I have to pay extra for bringing less weight onboard the plane...

    The check in agent got really flustered and started talking crap about how it probably wasn't his fault he was overweight (!) and it was because he was carrying the weight on his body (!!). My parting comment was that I would strap my baggage to my body next time. I must say, that Virgin staff are normally much better than this I think I lucked out and got a complete bimbo, it happens.

    But the core of the situation could happen on any airline I guess

    (PS This is the first time I've really had a go at airport staff - was a little stressed that day!)
  16. anat0l

    anat0l Enthusiast

    Dec 30, 2006
    #16 anat0l, Dec 30, 2006
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2006
    There's a slight difference here. The incident you describe happened in Australia.

    Had Virgin Blue asked to pay extra 'cos of his extra (body) 'baggage', then the following would result:
    • The man would cry foul and discrimination, demanding to see the manager etc. etc. causing a scene at the check in
    • The scene would more than likely cause a hold up in the line, resulting in possible (albeit likely slight) flight delays and frustrated passengers
    • The man would take the case to an anti-discrimination tribunal which may end in court
    • Some politician would pick up on the case and ask Virgin Blue (which is internationally owned!) to give all passengers a "fair go"
    • All your shows like ACA and TT would harp onto the incident, making Virgin Blue look like big bullies insisting standards on their passengers
    • Net result:
      • Fat man: possibly unable to catch his plane, else out of pocket an extra seat plus possibly some tribunal/court costs. Total loss = $5000 max-ish.
      • Virgin Blue: loss of a possible return customer plus being made the butthead of the month in the media (aka ACA & TT), resulting in consumer backlash, significant loss of reputation, encouragement of more fat people to fly Virgin Blue (and get away with it) and possible legal fodder for other fat-related incidents (or excess baggage for that matter). Total loss = immeasurable
      • EDIT: Forgot to add 'the rational ones here': We'd all cringe with rage because, once again, our government, legal and media system have all demonstrated that they have the collective common sense not exceeding that of a thousand monkeys.
    So sometimes it pays to bite the bullet in this crazy country. Mind you, if the Government took reducing obesity as serious as they do protecting consumers rights (which are waaaayy too lenient as they are!), we wouldn't have this problem. But it seems the Government likes to see more people spend more dough and run up more credit card bills than seeing less people die annually of cardiovascular diseases.

    It wasn't his fault he was overweight??! OK maybe only one in a million cases that is true, but the millionth person should know to buy an extra seat anyway!

    On another side note, I wonder how fat people that are allowed to check in can possibly go through security? I mean, that metal detector arch that you have to walk through......
  17. pauly7

    pauly7 Established Member

    Dec 8, 2004
    I know I know.... I just posted it because it annoyed me and thought that some people might find it funny!

    Net-net when overweight people fly they get more bang for their buck ;)
    All other things being equal of course it works out below
    Person one: 50kg, pays $200 = $4 per kilo hauled
    Person two: 110kg, pays $200 = $1.82 per kilo hauled :p

    I would love to pay weight based tickets if they existed! haha, perhaps I shouldn't give the beancounters too many ideas, but id be interested to see from an airline what the approximate cost of 1kg of weight would be on a specific sector...!
  18. Dave Noble

    Dave Noble Senior Member

    Oct 10, 2005
    Just playing Debil's advocate here. When it comes to other issues with flights , the basis is that the airline enters into a contract to offer carriage from point A to point B; they are not selling seats so unless they make it clearly part of the Terms and Conditions that there is a designated size or weight limit per passenger, they should not be in a position to unilaterally renogotiate the contract without the passenger's agreement

  19. anat0l

    anat0l Enthusiast

    Dec 30, 2006
    There are many terms and conditions clauses to the effect of the airline reserving the right to remove a passenger, for various (explained or unexplained) reasons. Here's the one from QANTAS:

    Having said that, the fat person may well take the airline to legal proceedings, but if the airline can reasonably prove that the man is setting a bad example for safety then there's no case - and that's not particularly difficult to do. T&C of Carriage are always given before one completes a ticket transaction. (Just because 1 man being fat doesn't make a difference to the fly-ability of a plane doesn't mean it's OK.)

    Also, creating protocols as to what size (girth) and weight a passenger must be would be silly, mind-boggling and a seed bed for legal fodder. Thik of it... Imagine having to list the prescribed limits for girth & weight for all classes and aircraft across the entire airline. Then there would probably be a need for a "world best standards". Then airlines will need a tape measure and scales at the check in - and the scales would need to be recalibrated every so often (the ACCC will have a field day in this country if weighing scales for humans was introduced!) Then what do you do if someone is 1kg overweight? What of babies occupying no seat? Can you trade off baggage weight for human weight? Or the other way around?

    You get the idea.
  20. Dave Noble

    Dave Noble Senior Member

    Oct 10, 2005

    The girth of a passenger and the weight of the passenger cannot be a safety issue to the aircraft ( if it was , he would not be able to fly even paying extra ). Also, if it was for passenger comfort, it would make no issue since they are prepared to take him if he pays extra

    If the airline wants to be restrict passengers based on size ( which is a fair enough imo) then it should be an objective measure and not on the whims of airport staff. Can you imagine the chaos if QF did not specify a specific luggage allowance but just left the decision to what is ok to allow to staff at airports

    It does seem to me that the airline wants to have their cake and eat it. When it is conveniant for them, it is a contract of carriage, but they can swiftly move to suggest that they are selling seats when it comes to this


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