The Sup reme Court ruling that Air Canada, Jazz and WestJet must provide an extra airline seat free of charge to persons requiring an attendant or who do not fit in a single seat has engendered a lot of discussion, even in other countries. Most public comment I have seen agrees with the concession for an attendant, but has been incredulous or mocking over accommodating the obese. The latter part of the decision is unique.
In a way I have no opinion on this. (So why am I blogging about it, eh?) I can see plenty of arguments both ways and don't pretend to know more about the laws of the land than the judges who rendered this decision. I see some odd issues in application though. Will there be a box to check on the online booking form if you need to be accommodated in this way? If you're not big enough to require two seats, what happens if you say you are? Is Air Canada going to look at you and say, "I'm sorry sir, but you're not fat enough to have an extra seat without paying for it"? Are non-obese people going to claim that they are being discriminated against because they can't get extra hip and shoulder room for free? I don't think anyone in the "almost" category is crazy enough to gain twenty pounds in order to make the grade for an extra seat, but I just don't know, do I?
The reason I'm blogging on this issue at all is to pass on a comment made on the Airline Biz Blog by someone identified as Jenny. She says:
To say that you should not accommodate a disabled obese person because they got that way themselves is ignorant. Would you then not accommodate someone with cancer if they got cancer from smoking? Would you not make concessions for a quadriplegic because they took known risks in a dangerous sport and got injured? What if they were paralyzed while driving drunk? Where do you draw the line? Many disabilities are the result of poor judgement. Disabled is disabled.
This MSN article outlines four options the airlines could take to determine eligibility for an extra seat under the policy. They include from self-declaration (but the author seems confused about the benefit, because suggests that skinny people would declare to be obese in order to save money), a doctor's note, body mass index, and actual measurement by the airlines. They've had those baggage-sizing devices for years; I'm sure I'm not the only one who has joked about putting a butt-sizing device next to it. On January 10th it might be reality.
But please don't eat too much over the holidays. I don't think the extra seat is worth it.