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2-for-1 airfare for obese flyers

Friday, November 21, 2008 Posted by Travis Saunders

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled yesterday that airlines must provide obese individuals with an extra seat free of charge on flights within Canada. The ruling also applies to individuals with physical disabilities who require an extra seat for an inflight attendant, and is expected to add 44 cents to each ticket sold by Westjet, and 77 cents for Air Canada.

This ruling is understandably causing some concerns for airlines. One major problem appears to be the ruling's subjectivity - only those who are "disabled" by their obesity qualify for the free extra seat. The airlines themselves are responsible for establishing criteria for those who qualify, and will be applying these criteria on a per-person basis. The airlines are also claiming that this ruling could be easily exploited, which could increase costs far beyond those listed above. As Kevin Libin at the National Post points out "Suddenly, airlines are put in the complicated and touchy position of having to size up the legitimacy of your too-fat-for-my-seat claim, while preventing the kind of abuse of this policy that is surely inevitable."

This is a situation where everyone loses - the airlines and other passengers have to spend more so that other people can have more room. The airlines claim that this could even put some smaller carriers out of business. At the same time, I don't think for one second that anyone with 'disabling' obesity is excited that they require an extra seat. Unfortunately this situation is emblematic of the problems we are going to face if the obesity epidemic continues unchecked.

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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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