Woman Given Refund After Uncomfortable Flight With Obese Passenger

Posted Oct 27th 2010 02:23 PMUpdated Oct 27th 2010 03:40 PM


A Canadian regional airline has given a full refund to a passenger after she complained she was forced to sit next to an obese passenger who took up half her seat.

Janet Ogilvie, a Canadian government worker who was flying home to Ottawa from Halifax on Porter Airlines, says she essentially sat on her fellow passenger during the one hour and forty-five minute flight in September.

She tells the Ottawa Citizen she got on the small plane to find the obese woman – who needed a seat belt extension – spilling onto her aisle seat. Ogilvie says she would have been willing to move, but there were no empty seats on the flight.

"I couldn't put my left shoulder back because she was there... I was pressed up tight against her for the whole flight," Ogilvie says.

While she was very uncomfortable, Ogilvie says she didn't say anything to the woman for fear of embarrassing her.

But after the flight, Ogilvie complained to Porter Airlines about the awkward situation. The carrier initially offered her $100 off her next flight, but eventually agreed to refund her full fare, which was more than $200.

Ogilvie says the airline also promised to overhaul its staff training when it comes to seating overweight passengers.

"Porter, will ... if given sufficient notice and medical confirmation, offer obese passengers a second seat gratis in an effort to mitigate a situation as the one experienced by you," the carrier's president and CEO, Robert Deluce, wrote Ogilvie in an email.

"I don't think it's my problem that I paid for a seat and Porter gave it away to this other person," Ogilvie says.

There has been much debate on how obese people should be seated on planes. There are no standard rules, though airlines have been addressing the issue including Southwest Airlines which now requires "passengers of size" purchase a second seat.

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Claudia Wheatley

Please note that I am not making any moral judgements, or value judgements, or condemning anyone. Nor am I speculating on how we as a nation have arrived at a point where it is not uncommon to see 300-lb teenagers out shopping with their 350-lb moms and 400-lb dads. If that's how they want to do their lives it's fine with me. I just want airlines, theme parks and so on to stop pretending that their morbidly obese customers are the same as anyone else--they're not, and refusing to acknowledge that so as to spare their feelings puts the rest of us in uncomfortable and even dangerous positions (remember that tourist boat that sank awhile back because the company insisted on counting each obese customer as one passenger, even if s/he weighed the same as two or even three?). As a member of this society, I have a right to ask that the rules be changed to account for the fact that people have changed. I'm sorry your life is going badly, Don--if it makes you feel better, mine is quite a bit less than perfect.

October 30 2010 at 9:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Claudia who are you to make up rules for obese people or anyone else?Not all the world lives in your rose garden or lives your perfect life so get over yourself and leave others alone.No one makes as much fuss over people who are so skinny they look like death but you seem to think that its fun talking down about others . The are more then 1 reasons some people are obese and i just hope that you never have a problem in your life where people try to poke their nose into your buiseness and make judgements about you without knowing you .

October 30 2010 at 8:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Claudia Wheatley

Folks, there is a fine line between discrimination and physics, but people who spill over into a second seat have crossed it by a mile. Asking a person whose bulk requires two seats is not discrimination, it's simple math. We aren't doing anyone any favors when we pretend that the morbidly obese aren't harming anyone but themselves--my daughter and I almost got launched out of the Tower of Terror at Disney World once because an enormous man was sharing our bench and with his belly in the way, the lap bar didn't come within a foot of our laps. Pretending the obese woman in this story wasn't bothering anyone but herself is absurd. By being polite and acting as if everyone is beautiful, we are enabling our fellow Americans to eat themselves to death. I once read that the owner of the Olive Garden got a letter from an irate customer who said his chair was too small and broke when he sat down. The owner immediately ordered bigger, stronger chairs. A few months later the same customer wrote back, sheepishly, to say that the chair was his wake-up call: he lost a lot of weight and felt much better. Bet that doesn't happen anymore. We're protecting feelings at the risk of people's health.

October 29 2010 at 3:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Charge by the pound

October 29 2010 at 2:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Tony, trash mouth. I am a large man. I'm 6 ft. 7 in. tall and weight 251 pounds but I am not fat. I am proportional for my height. I did play sports in my youth and was tall even than, but at about 25 years old I stopped growing up and started filling out. I am 34 inches from shoulder to shoulder, I have to turn sideways to walk down the hall at work per chance I pass one of my coworkers. In an aircraft I must stoop so as not to hit the overhead lights. I tell the airline up front about my size. I ask to be seated in a bulkhead seat so my legs will not push into the back of the person seated in front of me, I have to pay extra because I requested that seat. As for the seat, they only come in one size of which my hip bones (not fat, bones) exceed so I am forced to pay for a second seat at regular price ( not discounted, see Delta Airlines). Lets do the math, $280.00 for my seat, $50.00 to request a bulkhead seat and $435.00 for my second seat ( in all fairness I booked my first seat months in advance and did not discover I needed a second seat till I was on the plane). Thats a total of $765.00 for the same seat you get for $280.00 all because I was honest and did not want crush my fellow travelers. Also Continintal Airline will some times move me to an open aisle if the plane is not full at no charge, but most of the time as of late it is full so I'm stuck. Some airlines have offered to let me take the next flight and will plan 2 seats for me on that plane but I will have to wait for the next flight which could be hours later. So you see Tony, not all large people are fat, not all fat people stink and some large fat stinky people do care about other people..... just not you. Please let me know the next time you fly, I want to book the seat next to you and CRUSH the Hell out of you, and if you open that trash can of a mouth of yours, this big fat stinky guy will shut it for you. Oh and yes.... Have a nice flight. Douche.

October 29 2010 at 12:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Tough guy tony behind his computer.

October 28 2010 at 10:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

personally I'm for the way Southwest Airlines does it. If you are obese, need a seatbelt extender, don't fit into just one seat, you pay for a second seat. However, if the plane is not full, then they reimburse your second ticket.

A good friend of my husband's is morbidly obese. He flies on average once a month. He said he averages actually having to pay for the second seat about once a year. The other eleven times he simply has a free seat next to himself.

The drawback is I've seen people attempt to scam the system claiming to be obese, unless there is not any spare seats just so they can try and get a free seat next to themselves (a certain chunky director comes to mind.....) Once it's clear they would actually have to pay for that second seat they start screaming they are not obese, when earlier they'd requested two seats due to size .... assuming the plane would not be full and they'd get an empty spot next to them

October 28 2010 at 10:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think that is kind of mean and very rude to say about all obsese people. That is very cruel to talk about them like that. A lot of them cant help it that they are like that. And that is very mean to call them cows. How would you like it if you were obese like that and someone called you a cow, you would not like it and probably get upset and mad and have your feelings hurt. That is not a way to talk like that about someone that is obsese. As I mentioned they cant help that sometimes, and you should show love and support towards the person instead of making fun of them or calling them names.
I think Janet should of handled the situation differently then getting her money back. She has no respect either for obsese people and must not care for them. If you or her were a follower of god then you would not say those things about people like that. Obese people dont smell. You dont have a kind heart. I feel bad for those people that are obese.
Tony you need to grow up and learn respect for people. Shame on you for saying something like that about that lady. Maybe you will gain 500 pounds and then see what people say about you, then see how you feel.
I am reporting your posting on here as abuse

October 28 2010 at 10:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I fly regulary for my job and get very frustrated when an obese person spills over into my seat. i am all for the rights of obese people but what about the rights for normal sized people. should they have to be subjected to very uncomfortable flights? i don't think so. airlines need to make obese passengers purchase an additional seat so that everyone can be comfortable. obese people and normal sized people.

October 28 2010 at 10:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am a large person who had to sit next to a skinny asshole on an airplane once. She smelled like a chimney, and was totally disgusting to sit next to. I'd rather sit next to a fat person, that to sit next to a stinking smoker. She must've smoked 100 cigarettes before she boarded the plane.

October 28 2010 at 8:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply