Paru le lundi 8 décembre 2008 sur The Gazette
No free airplane seats for obese passengers
Disabled Canadians scored a welcome victory last month when the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a regulation requiring airlines to provide free domestic flights for attendants travelling with the severely disabled.
Airlines insist that certain special-needs Canadians travel with attendants, to help them with inflight essentials such as trips to the bathroom. The disabled are not that way by choice; it is a legitimate charge on the rest of society that essential aides of such passengers travel at no charge.
However, the decision to treat obese passengers the same way, also part of the Supreme Court ruling, is a whole different bag of groceries.
Except for the small percentage of obese people who suffer from glandular problems or rare medical conditions, overweight is controllable. Classifying severely fat passengers as disabled – the regulations would require airlines to give them two seats for the price of one, or a free upgrade to first-class – seems to us to be almost an insult to the truly disabled.
And then there’s the extra cost. The Canadian Transportation Agency, which drafted the regulations upheld by the Supreme Court last month, estimates that extra seats for attendants and for the severely obese would have cost Canadian airlines $7.1 million in 2005. And the cost to the troubled airline industry is certain to be greater now, three years later. The severely obese – as measured by body-mass index – are a rapidly-increasing sector of Canada’s population. Specialists estimate there are now 1.5 million severely obese Canadians. Is it fair that all airline passengers be required to pay more to subsidize obese fellow passengers?
Let’s look at this another way: If the Canadian Transportation Agency and the courts are determined to grant special status to obese people, why shouldn’t they also require the airlines to provide the same sort of consideration to others who don’t fit into typical airline seats. We’re thinking here of extra-tall passengers – whose “condition” is not controllable. They are more likely than the rest of us to bang their heads getting aboard and deplaning, and in between they must shoehorn themselves into the typical 34-inch-legroom seats.
Reasonable accommodation for airline passengers should be at least as long as it is wide.