An Emirates passenger is suing the airline after having sat for nine hours next to an obese man.
Giorgio Destro, an Italian lawyer, claims his flight from Cape Town to Dubai was “ruined” by an obese South African man sitting next to him. Mr Destro said the man was so obese that he endured hours of smothering “spillover” sitting in between a window and the large passenger.
Reports from Italian newspaper Mattino Padova, state that Mr Destro, a gold member flyer, asked the Emirates aircraft staff to move him but they would not comply as the plane was fully booked. The Emirates staff also refused to offer him an apology or compensation. A spokesperson for Emirates said: “Emirates is unable to comment on Giorgio Destro’s case as it is an ongoing legal matter.”
The irate passenger told the newspaper: “For nine hours, I had to stand in the aisle, sit on seats reserved for the cabin crew when they were free, and in the final phase of flight resign myself to suffer the spillover of the passenger at my side.” Mr Destro, gathered evidence of his ordeal by taking a selfie. He is now suing Emirates airlines for €2,759 (which includes €759 (about $847) in compensation for his fare and €2000 (about $2,232) in damages.
Stephensons Solicitors’ Andrew Leakey believes that Mr Destro does have a case because the airline “must perform the flight with reasonable care and skill.” He stated that: “I would argue it is not reasonable to lose a large portion of your seat, leaving you in discomfort. The airline must meet any description of the flight that a consumer has relied upon. Interestingly the Emirates website says ‘Sit back in comfortable seats and enjoy the attention to detail that makes our flights unique’. ‘If a consumer can show they’ve relied on this, then I would argue the standard has not been met where they are left in discomfort or indeed unable to sit for most of the flight.”
The National Obesity Forum asserted that: “In the short term, passengers must unfortunately be required to accept the risk that they may be seated next to an obese individual. The ultimate solution – towards which airline construction companies are already working – is flexy seating, whereby passengers can pay for additional space.”
There have been similar cases in the past of obese passengers causing others discomfort. In one case in 2013, an interior designer, James Bassos, boarded a flight with the Australian airline Jetstar and ended up wedged in his aisle seat next to an obese passenger who he described as “a fleshy boulder.” Mr Bassos wrote a letter in response, which went viral. Jetstar responded by offering a $100 AUD voucher in compensation.