Airline seating rights

This also happens on long haul bus trips. I have been squashed in to a small portion of my bus seat due to an obese and odourific person who fell asleep slumped on me. No amount of joggling by the bus or prodding by me would wake him either. AND he snored! Happened years ago. My nasal passages still contract at the memory.


I agree lets just keep travel for the slim and the young, To heck with all the overweight people in the world whether it be due to ill health or other problems lets just assume they all stuff themselves day and night. As we can no longer insult or ridicule people for their sexual preferences, their religion, their race or their colour I guess the only ones left are the overweight. It seems we can ridicule and insult them as much as we like and they can’t fight back. Nobody has mentioned the fact that airlines have reduced the size of their seating over the years and perhaps if they weren’t so greedy they would make seating that would suit us all. I felt very sad reading all the comments insulting other humans because they are different and made us uncomfortable. same old story I guess.


My understanding that the seat size hasn’t been reduced, but the space between the seats which is referred to as the pitch. A smaller pitch makes one feel more cramped (especially if you are tall) even though the seat may be the same size.

It is also the manufacturer of the aeroplanes (Airbus, Boeing, ATR, Bombardier, Embraer-Empresa etc) that make the seats. It is the airlines that specify the seat model and the pitches.

Generally a reduced pitch can lead to more seating on a plane…which is why some airlines reduce the seat pitch when ordering/refurbishing aircraft. More seats means potentially more paying passengers or ability to marginally reduce ticket cost per seat (cheaper flights for passengers).


Hi @Teaspoon, thanks for sharing your thoughts and sincere apologies if the comments made you feel in any way sad or uncomfortable. To my reading, I don’t think that bullying was the intent of any of the remarks, and I understand the conversation is more directed at personal experiences and things we as consumers may look to improve. If anyone reading this thread feels personally targeted or offended, please feel free to get in touch.

There has been some comment on how the airlines handle seating, and to be fair to those companies and their staff, it’s perhaps not always realistically possible to manage all factors involved when it comes to air travel at this time. Air travel comes with some risk, and that may include being put into uncomfortable situations. However, the question to my mind is whether consumers are being put into unacceptable or avoidable situations and whether that’s one area where we as consumers should be asking airlines to improve. For example, if the same situations were to happen in a taxi, would we stand for it? While there is some disparity allowed with luggage weights and sizes on airlines, we also set limits to better handle the administration of the flights. Would it be possible, both financially and administravly to reserve a set number of seats or a small free space on each long haul flight as empty in cases like this or say to accommodate passengers who fall ill?

I would also like to address your concerns that it’s the ‘same old story’. To my observation, generally there are a lot of examples where regular people are not putting up with the same type of shaming or insults that would have once been commonplace. We can observe this in what we consider acceptable in our comedies, or even this recent story showing people standing up to bullying.

Until improvements are made at an airline or policy level, we sincerely hope that all travellers do their best to be kind and to accommodate each other while travelling.



and a few less obvious bits


No simple answer? As one who flew often for work I so wish there was one.

Despite our desire to avoid discrimination while giving all customers equal outcomes, airlines do discriminate! They do it through fare types, club memberships and status points.

More than once B Joyce and W Truss boarded my flight. There was no special business class. I held a high tier as a regular and always had the best seat up front. Still certain others and I never sat next to each other. There was always separation!

It’s nothing to do with God’s choice of your waste size! I am just greatful they knew it would be a poor option to put us too close. So they could do it for all of us and offer more room for wider people. And perhaps as we pay for excess baggage and for air freight on weight, a small fee for a wider seat would be fair to all.

For a public bus - one answer, but for a paid booked seat on a plane you have paid for the whole seat, not less to share with your wonderful co-passenger who deserves more space.

And like others flying 24 hrs to Rome economy in a window seat you paid for in full with two much broader passengers in the adjacent seats reminds me that first class may be the only way to fly. If B Joyce were to join your flight it might also no longer matter.


This is not discrimination but a loyalty program.

A similar program was tested a few years ago (Woolworths one where customers with their loyalty cards received special in store discounts). Someone challenged this practice saying it discriminated agsinst thise not in their loyalty program. It was found that it was not discrimination and the practice was lawful.

When I find the link to this case, will post it.

At the end of the day, if one makes specifically makes a purchases to gain the points/benefits of a loyalty program, it is likely to cost one more than the benefit gained.


It will be interesting to read the legal argument. I don’t doubt the outcome.

Of course by dictionary definition “discrimination” is not a term exclusive to legal outcomes. You could also suggest alternately that some business favour certain customers for various reasons including loyalty programs, locals rates or trade discounts. And these are all perfectly legal too! Morally some may be less correct?

If it is ok for an airline to choose to treat some customers differently irrrespective of the reasoning, then it should be ok to offer different seating to accommodate different body shapes.

How this is financially accommodated is perhaps most challenging given our current legislation and antique legal system.

While we can defend our current system and seek explanation, it’s equally valuable to seek better outcomes, despite what our politicians and lawyers determine for us.


A customer can choose to join one of these loyalty programs…some airlines it is even free so there is no financial impediment to joining (even Qantas FF which is normally around $90 to join is also free from time to time if one keeps an eye on the offers - it is currently free if one joins using this link.)

If a business offering a loyalty program did not allow a particular customer to join a program due to their race, religion, size etc, then that would be discrimination.

One can’t argue that they are discriminated against because they chose not to join a loyalty program.


If you want to experience really cramped seating, fly in a Hercules C130 with a full pax load. I can’t recall the number, but it’s “lots”. For even more fun, try joining in when everyone down the back is intending to jump out, and has all the required gear strapped to him, including weapons. It is often said that troops are so keen to get out of the aircraft that no-one ever “refuses”.

I recall a flight from Katherine to Sydney with every seat taken, by our mixed sex troops. Peeing is via a urinal every so often round the aircraft. We had stood on the tarmac for 6 hours before boarding and drunk our water bottles dry. To get to a urinal you had to walk on the knees of your comrades. Once you got there you inevitably found two lovely girl soldiers on either side of the device…

If it was uncomfortable for the blokes I guess the girls just had to hold it.

And by the way I feel that now I’m paying for the seat it should be large enough for everyone, and oversize pax should pay the freight, but I’m not holding my breath.


I used Woolies everyday rewards to get all my kids on QFF - they don’t use the rewards, but they use the QFF … which is to say, you are right, just look for the offer or cheapest path. I think you can still do the Woolies trick … ??


It’s great to drift off topic

I read this as a suggestion that Qantas et al should pay us to put up with being cramped on a long distance flight? On a second read I note that it might be suggesting some of us might still complain despite not having to pay? Or perhaps on third read that we should all stop complaining and just put up with poor service?

It’s great to hear others experiences and advice.

On topic though!
Have we solved the mystery behind why airlines don’t currently provide better ways to ensure all passengers have a level of comfort that respects our basic needs for personal space? There is only so much we can do once a flight has boarded.

It’s self evident that airlines can and do respect some passengers differently to others. Whether this be in the concealed top tier lounges (that you get access to because of who you are IE Public figures, politicians or exceptional frequent flyer) or in seating and ticketing preferences based on how often you fly etc.

Notably one observation is that they do all try hard to assist passengers who have mobility or other recognised needs.
And you can if taller than most opt for an increased leg room seat. At a cost that may or may not be reasonable.

So why don’t airlines offer a wider seat for some of us? And why don’t they insist on their right to seat passengers according to the overall needs of the flight? If the relevant legislation needs some amendment to facilitate this so be it? The cost for a proportionally wider seat should be just that. No more than the extra width increase. In reality less because of the benefits of per passenger costs on each flight being less.

My guess is that until we demand it - probably through legislation, the current airline business model will prevail unabated. The encouragement of profitable upgrade options will remain. This is despite the airlines discriminating against many passengers by seating those of us with needs for wider seating where we cannot sit comfortably. Taking away from others the seat space they have paid for is no better in moral values. A modest increase in seat choice of 20% or 30% or 50% wider seats is totally possible. Some over wing two seats where there are threes or mid set threes where there are fours. I hope this does not defy Irish Logic?


I’m not entirely sure whether you’re being sarcastic or not. I suspect you are. If it was “off topic” it wasn’t far off and my intention was for pampered civvie travellers to realise there’s worse things than a Qantas economy seat.

Your three “readings” (praise the Lord!) all seem to miss the mark. I meant to convey that servicemen put up with much airborne discomfort, as I have done, but I now believe that as I’m paying for my seat it should be comfortable and of an appropriate size.

I trust this is sufficiently near the topic not to offend thee.


I totally agree. The seat I pay for is mine. And not to be shared with the passenger next to me. And if I need more room then I’d pay for that too, but not for someone else to share.

It’s our airlines that need to change.


I really like the idea of airlines offering ‘extra width’ seats as well as extra leg room seats for an extra charge. This seems an equitable solution as well as a practical, workable one.


I agree I pay for a seat it’s my space not to be shared. Luggage gets weighed maybe it’s time people had to submit a weight when they buy a ticket.


The airlines think they offer that (at least on some routes). They call it premium economy. There is certainly a premium on the price!


A few people have said “the seat I pay for is the space I should have without encroachment” or similar

  • I agree.
    Whether it is a plane seat, train set, bus seat, theatre/cinema seat
    Whatever price band it is in (economy, premium economy, business class, first class)
    And the “without encroachment” no encroachment from the sides (which seems to be about the company selling a seat narrower than the person) and no encroachment from the rear (grrr at the people who push their toes or knees through the back of my seat, grrr at the children who kick rhythmically or not at the seat in front of them).

Lots of people have mentioned weighing people (in addition to luggage) and some have mentioned height.
Suggestion - airlines change ticket purchase procedure so that it asks seat buyer what their height & weight is. No need to have weighing of people done at the airport - get them to nominate their weight at time of ticket purchase.
It doesn’t have to be “tell us your exact kilograms” but seat purchasers simply to tick which range your weight is in and which range your height is in. Much like we are all used to ticking “what age range are you in?” type of questions for other purposes.

Different airlines with different size seat spaces on different planes could tailor the weight ranges and height ranges that the ticket purchase procedure asks about. They already ask other questions, these 2 questions would be really useful for the airline to allocate seats and manage passenger comfort as well as manage weight distribution.

I agree with the people who have said:-

  1. airlines stop shrinking seat sizes - in all dimensions
  2. very large people buy second seat and ask airline to remove armrest in between (for example sumo wrestlers already do this)

Fine as long as you put their days food in the cockpit…chuckle .:smile: