Airline Seat Saga Continues

Regular readers of these pages will recall my previous comments on the recent Canada Supreme Court ruling on the accommodation of severely obese passengers on Canadian airlines (for previous comments click here and here).

This policy resulted in Air Canada now requiring obese patients to present a doctor’s note 48-72 hrs before travel if they wish to be accommodated on two seats (click here for the forms Air Canada requires passengers to fill out – see page 5 of the form). 

While creating more work for doctor’s who have to fill out the form (with rather simple measurements that almost anyone can take) and creating embarrassment for all involved, at least this policy does ensure that large patients are accommodated without extra charge: one passenger – one fair – it’s only fair!

Yesterday, United Airlines took the other view and announced that it would begin charging large individuals for two seats. In doing so, United now joins the other four major airlines (Delta, US Airways, Continental, and Southwest), which have already been charging large travelers for an extra seat.

As expected, there are a host of people who think that this is only fair (which is probably why the airlines can get away with this policy). I have previously made my views on this clear: this policy is discriminating and feeds into the widespread notion that obesity is simply a self-inflicted condition resulting from poor choice, completely avoidable by eating less and moving more.

As long as this simplistic view of obesity prevails, we are still a long way off from treating obesity for what it is – just another complex chronic condition (like diabetes, asthma or heart disease) that results from complex interactions between sociocultural, biomedical, genetic and/or iatrogenic factors in our obesogenic environment.

I have yet to meet someone who “chooses” to be fat.

Edmonton, Alberta