Another day, another airline dispute which has left customers dissatisfied with the service.
A retired holiday tour manager claims TUI put her safety at risk on a long-haul flight by refusing to move an overweight woman who was seated next to her in case it ’embarrassed her’ – despite being offered alternate seating herself.
Margaret Burton, 72, claims a ‘very obese’ passenger’s body blocked her armrest from being lowered and left her unable to follow the safety regulations resulting in pain and discomfort.
All this unpleasantness and unwillingness to play nice, in spite of the fact Margaret, who said the other passenger took up a third of the septuagenarian’s seat, was offered another spot elsewhere on the plane. Sigh.
Margaret said she had asked the overweight woman to move but said she had declined the suggestion.
The grandmother also spoke to cabin crew ‘several times’ and was offered another seat with more room, while the cabin crew, she claims, didn’t speak directly to the other woman.
But Margaret chose to stay sitting near her husband, she said:
They did offer for me to move seats but why should I? I was travelling on my 55th wedding anniversary. Why should I move seats and travel for 11 hours away from my husband?
I had pre-booked that seat so that we could sit together.
Margaret and her 75-year-old husband William Burton had paid £2,000 on the TUI holiday in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary in March last year.
The couple had pre-booked seats together for the 11-hour flight, with Margaret seated at the end of the row of seats and William on the other side of the aisle.
But the retiree was dismayed when she was seated next to a passenger she estimated – presumably without weighing scales handy to corroborate – to be ‘at least 24 stone’, who had reserved a seat in the middle of the row of seats.
After the passenger confirmed she would be on the same flight back to Gatwick, Margaret claims she felt ‘forced’ to pay £90 to be upgraded and avoid sitting next to her again.
Despite being refunded the £90 after complaining Margaret is ‘still really angry’ and is claiming the holiday company compromised passenger safety.
Tui informed Margaret by letter that their ‘voluntary position’ was not to discriminate against any passenger and they would not have moved the woman to ‘protect the dignity and respect of that guest’.
It’s just one of many unpleasant incidences which has left passengers on budget airlines – notorious for small seats and cramped amounts of legroom – dissatisfied.
No doubt the other passenger, who remains unidentified, also had an unpleasant or uncomfortable flight sitting next to Margaret.
But, with skinny privilege prevailing, no one seems too fussed about holding airlines to account for the comfort of their overweight passengers – whether they are overweight by choice or not.
Margaret, from Sittingbourne, Kent, displayed incredible cognitive dissonance when she said:
I didn’t want to embarrass her. That would be the last thing I would do. But hey, this is my holiday as well that I paid two grand for. I paid for a full seat, I didn’t pay for half of your seat.
It’s TUI’s problem to sort this out and do something about this. I’m still really angry about it. I’m really, really annoyed.
Margaret, who told the reporter she is a size 14/16 as though it was relevant, claimed to have ‘all sympathy with people that have obesity for medical reasons’ but added she felt she shouldn’t ‘pay for it’.
Margaret continued to detail the apparent safety risk the airline inflicted upon both passengers:
What concerns me is the armrest couldn’t be lowered, highered or moved at all during any time in the flight – including takeoff and landing.
They put so much on it normally that all seatbelts and armrests must be in the proper position. It is a safety regulation.
I’ve looked into this and Newton’s law, to quote something, says that it can cause serious bodily damage if there is an emergency landing and the armrest isn’t down.
But when I mentioned this to the cabin crew they couldn’t – or wouldn’t – do anything to embarrass her. My safety, as well as hers, was put at risk because of this.
Plus the fact that I couldn’t get my table down properly to eat off because the tops of her legs and stomach came out and interfered with my space.
I know it’s a sensitive issue but I’m sorry, embarrassment doesn’t come more important than my safety. That’s my main gripe. I would like for them to put passengers’ safety above passengers’ embarrassment.
Despite getting up to walk around during the flight, Margaret said she ‘had pains in [her] shoulder and neck’ for the next two or three days and experienced discomfort.
Although she did say the ‘pain didn’t limit [her] on the holiday’.
She also claims a subsequent blood clot with which she was in hospital for five days could have been ’caused by the armrest’ according to her doctor, adding, ‘but we will never know’.
Margaret concluded this whole sorry story by saying:
I don’t see why I should give up my seat for someone who might get embarrassed. My contract with TUI was for a certain size of seat. A 29-inch seat pitch I think it was, with a 16-inch width. That’s what I didn’t get.
Even though she was offered alternative seating arrangements Margaret pursued her complaint, and TUI refunded her the £90 for upgrade.
However she is still unhappy that she only got ‘two thirds’ of the seat she paid for on the outbound flight and says the company have not addressed her concerns for passenger safety.
A TUI UK spokesperson said:
We were sorry to hear about this case. When we were first contacted about it we issued a refund to the customer.
As new information has now been provided, we’d like to investigate the matter further and will be in direct contact with Mrs Burton.
The Civil Aviation Authority declined to comment.
If you have a story you want to tell, share it with UNILAD via [email protected]