The issue of how to approach a POS (passenger of size) is always a delicate one. As the debate rages over how much personal control some obese people really have over their weight, it is important to approach this topic in a respectful tone. How an airline should deal with an obese person is not easy ascertainable–especially when the plane is full. One thing is clear, though: by ignoring the problem it does not go away. US Airways should keep that in mind.
Arthur Berkowitz, 57, was forced to stand during the entire U.S. Airways flight from Anchorage to Philadelphia, one of the longest domestic flights offered by the airline, because of the size of an obese fellow passenger…The incident happened back in July 2011, but Berkowitz has only recently decided to speak out, upset after receiving only a $200 voucher from U.S. Airways.
I could turn this into a post bashing US Airways for their cheap compensation, but I will save that for another time. Instead, the key here is that a passenger was unable to sit in his seat without being subjected to severe discomfort (though flying in economy class on US Airways even with an open seat next to you is tough enough already…) and the airline did nothing about it.
Berkowitz was already seated on the aircraft when his fellow passenger, a late arrival, sat down next to him. The man was over 400 pounds, and Berkowitz says he spilled over into the adjacent seat, filling half of it. “His size required both armrests to be raised up and allowed for his body to cover half of my seat,” he said…
All the seats on the airplane were full, and he was barred from the flight attendants’ jump seats, which were vacant, because of U.S. Airways regulations.
Berkowitz was forced to stand in the aisle and galley area for the duration of the seven hour flight. He didn’t have a seat belt on from the moment the U.S. Airways plane took off in Anchorage, Alas. to when it landed in Philadelphia, Penn.
If true, this incident is not only a safety violation, but cruel and unusual punishment. Here is how I would approach dealing with POS:
1.) If the flight is not full, give them two seats
2.) If the flight is full, offer them two seats on the next available flight or the chance to immediately confirm an extra seat on the next flight (should space be available) at the same price the POS paid for his other ticket
I am certainly open to suggestions on how best to deal with POS, but just letting them board and take up 1.5 seats while essentially telling the passenger “tough luck” who is left with half a seat is just not fair. From an equity perspective, giving anyone a second seat on a complimentary basis may not be fair, but let’s be reasonable–think of yourself in the shoes of a POS. Let’s not forget it was not the POS who was at fault:
But Berkowitz, who has been flying U.S. Airways for 50 years, places almost no blame with the passenger, who he says behaved like a gentleman and was very sorry for inconveniencing him.
“The first thing he said to me was: ‘I want to apologize. I’m your worst nightmare,'” Berkowitz said.
Worst nightmare indeed.
We probably would not have heard about this story had US Airways been a bit more generous in compensating Mr. Berkowitz, but I am glad this story has surfaced–while dealing with POS is not easy, there are much better ways to dealing with these passengers then by ignoring them.