Man sues airline after sitting next to overweight passenger

A QUEENSLAND judge has ordered an airline to pay a man's travel costs for a medical exam after he suffered a back injury from sitting next to an overweight person on a plane.

James Andres Bassos took Etihad Airways to court, claiming he was forced to twist and contort his body to avoid touching the large man sitting next to him whose body was encroaching into his seat, on a flight between Sydney and Dubai in October 2011.

In a judgment delivered this week, Brisbane District Court Judge Fleur Kingham said Mr Bassos asked cabin crew to change seats and was given limited access to a crew seat, but was required to spend "long stretches of time" in a position which caused him a back injury and aggravated an existing condition.

He is suing the airline for damages but Etihad is fighting this, claiming cramped conditions from overweight passengers was not "unexpected" or "unusual" and therefore had no legal weight.

But Mr Bassos submitted it was unusual to be required to sit in a seat that another person partly occupied and contort his body to avoid contact with the other passenger.

Judge Kingham said Mr Bassos complained to cabin crew about five hours into the flight, asking for another seat, but this was refused.

Half an hour later he complained again and was allowed to use a crew seat for 30 minutes but had to return to his seat.

Judge Kingham said cramped conditions on a flight were "usual and to be expected" but she found in favour of Mr Bassos.

Etihad has been ordered to pay for Mr Bassos's travelling costs for a scheduled doctor's visit in December this year.

Judge Kingham dismissed Etihad's application to strike out the case and said Mr Bassos had prospects to take the case further in court.

When APN contacted Etihad Airways for a statement, a spokesperson replied the airline would continue to oppose the legal action.

"It would be inappropriate to comment in detail on this case as legal proceedings are underway.

"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.

The safety and comfort of Etihad Airways' passengers and crew is of paramount importance and the airline has a zero tolerance policy towards unruly behavior."


What do you think? Should overweight people pay for two seats on a plane if they take up extra room? Join our Watercooler discussion by leaving a comment below.

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