Etihad Being Sued in Australia
So it is Friday night, which I see as the perfect time for this interesting story I came across. Yes I tend to write about award travel and manufactured spending and I know some of you don’t like when I write about some of the lighter stuff, but I like to share what interests me.
Today I came across a story on CNN about an Australian passenger suing Etihad because he was reportedly hurt after sitting next to an obese passenger on a flight from the UAE to Sydney in 2011. The man, James Bassos claims he had to “contort and twist” to avoid the obese neighbor who he says coughed and “expelled fluid from his mouth.”
CNN quotes the lawsuit, “After repeated requests of cabin crew, Mr Bassos was given limited access to a crew seat but was still required to spend long stretches of time in a position which he claims caused a back injury and aggravation of an existing back condition.”
Etihad tried to have the lawsuit thrown out, stating that obese passengers are normal and thus they aren’t responsible, but the judge decided to order a medical evaluation which will happen in December. According to the Brisbane Times Etihad responded, “Etihad Airways will continue to oppose the action and now that Mr Bassos will finally face a medical assessment in December 2015, as directed by court, we believe that the matter will proceed to an early conclusion.”
This is an interesting case, because I am sure situations like this are somewhat common. It appears from the articles that Etihad let James Bassos sit in a crew seat when they could, but for security and other reasons, he had to return to his seat for other periods of time like the final portions of the flight.
The truth is that flying in coach is uncomfortable. I am not a small person (I fill up my seat nicely) and I can’t imagine what it would be like if I was stuck next to someone in coach who overflowed their seat. With that said, I am not certain that the airline is responsible, given that they are selling a product and I know what I am buying before getting on the plane. Plus, the mention of coughing and drooling makes me think this guy had some sort of prejudice against the neighbor.
I spent one of the worst nights of my life last year in coach on a KLM 747 from Amsterdam to Hong Kong. My neighbors were loud and in my space, the seats were uncomfortable and I was getting sick. In short, I felt like I wanted to die. Did I ask to be moved? No, I sucked it up and when I needed a break, I walked around and stood by the stairs to the upper deck. I purchased a coach seat. That is what I get.
Conclusion & Your Thoughts
This court case is in Australia, so it may not have an effect on worldwide airline policies, but a ruling against Etihad may just mean that severely obese people could see further scrutiny in the future. What do you think? Is this just a cash grab or does this guy have a legitimate point? Should airlines enforce stricter seating policies for larger people? Be respectful, but I would love to hear your opinions.