Man Sues American Airlines for Being Squished by Obese Passengers

May 5, 2017

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An Australian man is suing American Airlines for being squished by two “grossly obese” passengers on a long-haul flight. Michael Anthony Taylor, 67, is seeking more than AUD 100,000 (~$74,000) in damages from AA, claiming he suffered injuries when he was forced to contort his body in order to sit next to two overweight passengers.

On the December 2015 American Airlines flight from Sydney (SYD) to Los Angeles (LAX), Taylor was sitting in a window seat in economy on the Boeing 777-300ER. According to court documents, two overweight passengers were sitting in the other two seats of his row. (The 77W is arranged in a 3-4-3 configuration.) According to the lawsuit, the body of the passenger in the middle seat “spilt over and encroached” upon Taylor’s seat. As a result, Taylor was forced to “contort his body into a series of positions including standing up, crouching, keeling and leaning forward.”

Taylor had a pre-existing spinal condition, but he claims that the situation on the 14-hour journey from SYD to LAX only made his situation worse. According to Taylor’s lawyer, Taylor asked flight crew to change seats but was denied on multiple occasions.

The flight attendants passed through the cabin frequently, but were not very friendly.
The economy cabin on AA’s 777-300ER.

“Mr. Taylor asked the cabin crew on numerous occasions if he could sit in another passenger’s seat, or sit on one of the crew seats, or sit in the aisle or even to sit on the toilet seat to alleviate the pain and discomfort that he was suffering from,” Taylor’s lawyer, Thomas Jansen, told News.com.au. “On each occasion, he was refused and rebuffed.” It’s worth noting that FAA regulations do not allow passengers to sit in crew jumpseats, and all of the other seats in the economy cabin were full.

Taylor says that he suffered back injuries, neck pain and injuries, ongoing discomfort and the aggravation of his pre-existing scoliosis as a result of contorting his body to fit in the row with his seatmates. This lawsuit comes on the heels of news from AA saying that it’ll be shrinking the seat pitch from 31 inches to 29 inches on some of its new 737 MAX aircraft in an effort to fit more seats in the cabin.

American told Fox News that it’s aware of Taylor’s lawsuit and added, “We just received the lawsuit and we are reviewing the allegations.”

If you find yourself sitting next to a passenger of size, consider following these tips from TPG flight attendant insider Carrie A. Trey.

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