By Waheeda Harris
In July, a US Airways passenger was forced to stand during a seven-hour flight from Anchorage to Philadelphia because a 400-pound passenger took up half of his seat. US Airways acknowledged that the obese passenger should have been made to pay for two seats—but is that fair?
Historically, some obese travellers in Canada were forced to purchase two seats, but in 2008 the practice was banned by the Canadian Transportation Agency as discriminatory for people who are “functionally disabled by obesity for purposes of air travel”.
The “one person, one fare” policy also applies to other types of disabilities, including passengers who require a medical attendant to accompany them.
A Quebec judge has now authorized a class-action lawsuit against Air Canada to reclaim fees paid to the airline prior to 2008 by obese passengers for a second seat or a medical attendant seat.
A technicality prevented a lawsuit going ahead against WestJet, but the Montreal law firm of BGA Barristers & Solicitors LLP will have 30 days to pursue another case, as they pursue the lawsuit against Air Canada.
The Canadian Transportation Agency estimates it costs Air Canada $7 million and WestJet $1.5 million per year to cover the costs of a second seat or a seat for a medical attendant for obese travellers.
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