Man Sues Airlines For Forcing Him To Sit Next To Fluffy Guy During Long Flight

An Italian lawyer who was forced to sit next to an obese passenger during a 9-hour airplane trip is suing Emirates airline for putting him through the uncomfortable situation. Giorgio Destro, a lawyer from the town of Padua in northern Italy, wants the airline to pay damages on top of reimbursing him the cost of his July 2nd flight.

Destro described his torment to newspaper Il Mattino di Padova: “For nine hours, I had to stand in the aisle, sit on seats reserved for flight attendants when they were empty, and, in the final phase of the flight, resign myself to suffer the ‘spillover’ of the passenger at my side,” he recalled.

When Destro complained about his predicament, the flight crew acknowledged the problem but told him that there was nothing they could do since the flight was full. They could provide no other alternative than to allow Destro to stand or to offer him the jump seat when it was vacant.

Naturally, the prominent lawyer – who previously worked as legal counsel to the Italian Consulate in Cape Town, South Africa – was unhappy with his treatment. The reputable airline frequently advertises the ultimate in comfort for all of its passengers, including Economy Class passengers like Destro. He argues that his flight was more akin to torture than anything else.

In order to get even with the airline, Destro wisely decided to document his experience with a selfie. The pic, seen above, shows Destro sporting a look of utter resignation as the obese man’s massive arm encroaches into his space. Although the man’s face cannot be seen, several of his chins are clearly visible.

Destro’s selfie accompanied the court summons that he sent to Emirates. “Shockingly, the middle seat was given to an obese passenger, as the photographic evidence shows,” the lawyer wrote. Civil proceedings in the case will begin on October 20 in Padua, where Destro will demand that the airline pay him $3,080: $848 for the cost of his flight plus $2,232 in damages.

While Emirates does not face a significant monetary threat from Destro’s lawsuit, the case could compel the world’s second largest airline to update its outdated regulations concerning “customers of size.” Of the top 10 largest airlines, Emirates is one of the few to not outline a policy for overweight customers on its website. The only concession Emirates offers to passengers that cannot fit into a single seat is to allow them to purchase an additional seat online.

Most airlines in the United States have contingencies in place for fliers who require more than one seat. Those flying with American Airlines or United Airlines might be forced to purchase an additional seat under certain conditions, while Delta Airlines will offer an oversized flier a complimentary extra seat if possible.

The problem of overweight fliers famously entered the spotlight thanks to filmmaker Kevin Smith’s 2010 meltdown after he was ejected from a Southwest flight. In July 2015, Australian interior designer James Andres Bassos sued Etihad Airways for $227,000 over a 2010 flight that allegedly gave him a back injury. Bassos claims that he was forced to contort his body for a long period of time in order to avoid contact with the “grossly overweight” passenger next to him, who also coughed incessantly.

Statistically, airlines will be forced to address the issue of “flying while fluffy” due to a rampant obesity epidemic that shows little sign of stopping. Nearly 40 percent of American adults are clinically obese, while an additional third are overweight – meaning that only about 30 percent of adults in the U.S. are considered to have a healthy body mass index.

Globally, the number of obese people has doubled since 1980 and the trend only continues to rise as health organizations across the world scramble to find a solution. Only a concerted effort across the world could hope to make a dent in the growing problem; until then, infrastructure may have to adapt to accommodate the distressing realities of the obesity epidemic.

What does this mean for air travel? While some airlines have begun to unveil more spacious seats that seem at least indirectly targeted to larger passengers, other airlines continue to double down on their existing policies, booting passengers who cannot or will not purchase an additional seat. If there comes a day where a majority of fliers cannot fit into their seats or require seat belt extenders, it’s difficult to imagine that the airlines could carry on without large policy changes.