Here’s an interesting issue I want to approach in a very sensitize way. When does a passenger of size (a large or overweight passenger) on an airplane become a danger such that transport itself places the safety of others in danger?
Should A Passenger Of Size Be Permitted To Block The Aisle On A Flight?
A Live and Let’s Fly reader sent me the following note:
I was on a United flight recently and the passenger across the aisle from me was so huge that he took up not only his seat and the seat next to him, but the entire aisle as well. Flight attendants were unable to move their cart past him and passengers struggled to navigate around him in order to use the lavatory in the front of the economy class cabin. I was scared not only for the passenger, but for those around him. He literally blocked the aisle. What would have happened in the case of an emergency?
The reader sent two pictures as well, which I’ve included above and below because it does not show the gentleman’s face. I post this with caution, because he is a human being and the point of this post is not to mock or denigrate him in any way.
As you can see, the man is indeed blocking the aisle:
I’ve long defended the right of passengers with disabilities, especially young children, to enjoy special accommodations onboard, including exceptions to the mask mandate. In many of these cases, people cannot take care of themselves, which renders them a potential hazard in case of an emergency.
But the only correct answer for those passengers is that they be welcomed onboard with the same dignity as other passengers. So often the trope is that overweight people simply are undisciplined and cannot control themselves. I personally think that is a rather simplistic way to look at the situation and ultimately not helpful in determining who should be allowed or banned from commercial flights.
Regulatory issues of accommodation aside, there is no doubt that this man posed a threat to others by being so large, unable to move easily, and thus created a risk.
But I don’t see any other solution than to let the man fly and accept the risk, just like so many other exceptions we make…
This is a twist on the usual passenger of size issue because the man was blocking the aisle. Without debating personal responsibility versus genetics, I simply don’t see any other path forward except for letting the man travel as he did. Banning him ushers in a whole host of problems…
What are your thoughts on this issue? Insensitive or crude comments will be deleted.