An Australian man is suing American airlines after spending 14 hours on a flight seated next to two obese passengers, which allegedly caused him permanent neck and back injuries.
Michael Anthony Taylor, 67 years old, spent most of the 14-hour flight from Sydney to Los Angeles, "crouching, kneeling, bracing or standing" because he was seated next to large passengers and the airline didn't allow him to move seats.
Taylor already had scoliosis and claims that spending such a long flight in an uncomfortable position made everything worse, bruising his neck and causing upper and lower back injuries.
The man says he doesn't hold anything against the obese passengers seated next to him since they paid for their seats as well, but American Airlines should have done something.
"The airline could have put me in a crew seat or moved people around but they did nothing," Taylor told Sydney's Daily Telegraph [subscription], as cited by the UK's Telegraph.
Taylor had the window seat but says the two obese passengers occupied some of his space as well. The Boeing 777 flight Taylor was on had 310 seats, but apparently, they were all taken.
More Comfort In Economy Class?
According to Taylor's attorney, Thomas Janson from Shine Lawyers, the lawsuit could prompt airlines to make their economy class or equivalent more comfortable in order to avoid such ordeals.
Janson notes that if Taylor wins the lawsuit, it could pave the way to many more cases against airlines over how they seat passengers and design seating.
"There will be a huge outcry against the way airlines furnish their cabins, particularly in economy," says Janson.
News of this lawsuit comes shortly after American Airlines announced plans to shrink legroom in economy class so it could add more seats.
An American Airlines spokesperson told The Telegraph that the airline is currently reviewing the lawsuit's allegations, but offered no additional comment at this point.
Taylor brought the lawsuit against American Airlines in Australia's Federal Court. The lawsuit follows a similar case last year when an Italian lawyer filed a case against Emirates after going through a nine-hour ordeal seated next to an obese man on a flight. Other cases made similar allegations in the past, yet airlines have yet to take adequate measures to handle such situations.
Your Move, Airlines: Something's Got To Give
Obviously, airlines can't accept or reject passengers based on their weight, but they could design their seating to be more spacious so that obese passengers can fit into their seat without encroaching on the next one as well.
At the same time, this lawsuit comes amid brewing frustration over airline's treatment of passengers in the United States. Recent cases of lousy passenger treatment include United Airlines dragging and bloodying a passenger to remove him off an overbooked flight, and Delta Airlines kicking an entire family off a flight because they refused to give up their toddler's seat. In both cases, the passengers had paid for their tickets and boarded their respective flight accordingly.
In fact, airlines' treatment of passengers has even angered U.S. members of Congress, who threatened to take measures if things don't dramatically improve.