The entire affair turned out to be overblown, though, because the flight crew fixed the situation right after the picture was taken. One rowmate was offered compensation and a later flight, which he accepted. This allowed the crew to clear the row, which in turn allowed the passenger to sit in the middle seat and buckle up. The safety issues thus resolved, the flight proceeded. See? Snoozefest. Except the NY Post wanted to write it up, and that's where things get interesting.
Some of the stories they uncovered about the background of the debateeven if they're probably exaggeratedare genuinely disturbing. Usually we think that the safety issues are a bit overblown, not because they're wrong but because the scenarios are so infrequent. Yes, obese passengers are problems when there are evacuations, but as a matter of brute statistics there aren't. Civilian aviation is just too safe and so we should devote our time to solving other concerns. And yet:
In the last decade, several pilots and airline crews have anonymously reported to the FAA their concerns with fat passengers, and in 2003 a captain was replaced by his airline after he refused to take off with a 600-pound paraplegic passenger he feared couldn't be safely evacuated from the plane. Two fat people in an airline's emergency-exit row rendered the exit 'useless,' reported a pilot in another anonymous FAA report that also doesn't name the airline. 'One of the ladies was so large that she physically wouldn't be able to exit the aircraft through the emergency exit,' wrote the pilot, who was a passenger on the 2004 flight.
And on that note we'll open up the comments. Have at it: does someone who can't fit through an emergency exit just not get to fly anymore, on account of the dangers they pose to other passengers? What about statistics that show that the elderly and children actually hamper evacuations more than overweight passengers? Do they not get to fly any more either?
· Passenger creates big debate at American - I mean big! [FlightGlobal]
· Airline Safety [Jaunted]
· Overweight Passengers [Jaunted]