This story just make me shake my head in disbelief.
Thai Airways Denies Business Class Seats To Three Passengers After Humiliating Them
Huhana Iripa travelled with her two daughters, Renell and Tere, from Auckland to Bangkok so that the two ladies could have weight loss surgery. They flew economy class on the outbound journey, but splurged (~$1700USD) for business class on the return.
Or so they thought…
Upon checking in for their return flight at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, the quickly realized there was going to be a problem.
Here is how Huhana described what happened to the New Zealand Herald:
“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. Everyone was just standing staring at us. The whole thing was disgusting.”
Why would Thai Airways do this?
Thai Airways On The Defensive
Thai claims that the business class seatbelts on the 787-9 have airbags and cannot be extended for safety reasons. These reverse herringbone seats are not unique to Thai Airways and there is no physical limitation against adding an extender. I’ve also not heard of such a restriction on other airlines.
But Thai Airways aggressively defended its action:
“The new 787-900 Dreamliner aircraft used on flights between New Zealand and Thailand is fitted with integrated airbag seatbelts in business class.
“The extension seatbelt normally used to accommodate oversize passengers cannot be fitted to the airbag seatbelts; therefore passengers not able to fit the standard airbag seatbelt cannot be carried in business class.
“As this issue involves passenger safety, I am sure you will understand that we cannot compromise on this.”
First, it’s the 787-9, not -900.
Second, fine. Let’s assume that this was a legitimate concern. Why oh why would Thai Airways publicly shame and disgrace these ladies at the check-in counter? They became a spectacle. Ironically, they were shamed during a trip they took to address the weight issue. That should never have happened, even if their size prohibited them from flying in business class.
Compensation + Full-Refund
The Iripas requested a full refund of their ticket.
Instead, Thai Airways refunded them the difference between between economy and business class, about $800, and also offered them about $300 in compensation. They flew home in economy class.
They also found the compensation offer offensive.
“For their rudeness, their disrespect and the trauma of what they put us through, how could they identify that price as compensation?”
But Flight Centre, the online travel agency they booked their tickets through, did offer them a full refund when they were made aware of what happened.
I’m not sure that was warranted as much as a sincere apology for humiliating them, if that did indeed occur.
I’ve never heard of such a safety requirement, but we cannot fault Thai Airways if this was indeed a legitimate safety concern. But I absolutely will fault Thai Airways…and call them shameful…for making a spectacle out of the whole incident and making three passengers feel very bad. Not only was it unnecessary, it was just mean.
image: Huhana Iripa