Friday, April 17, 2009

Two Tickets or One?

Overweight passengers hoping to travel on United Airlines may have to buy two tickets to fly the friendly skies.

The third largest U.S. airline announced Wednesday that it will join other carriers and start charging passengers for two seats if they can’t properly fit into one.

United made the change as a result of the hundreds of complaints it receives each year from customers who “had to share their seat with the oversized guest,” United Spokeswoman Robin Urbansky told

According to the airline, the policy will be enforced only in the event that the passenger can’t be relocated next to an empty seat. If the flight is full, the passenger will have to change their ticket to the next available flight and purchase a second seat for that flight.

United is the fifth major airline to adopt a policy of this kind.

A few weeks back, I flew to Dallas for a meeting. I flew the orangish, brown airplanes, the ones where the attendants actually try to make the trip fun. Anyway, I was in group A. That meant I was entitled to board in the first group to board. I was actually number 16 to enter the plane--yes, I counted. As I entered the cabin, I immediately noticed that the first seat, on the right, was empty! I thought, what a lucky day! Then, I looked at the person sitting next to the window. Let's say that he would, if flying American Airlines, be asked to buy two tickets.

I made a very quick decision--to take that empty seat, leaving the middle seat empty. I have to admit that my motives weren't completely pure. You see, I knew that no one, in their right mind, was going to sit in the middle seat--even if they could have sat there. The window passenger was more than spilling over into the middle seat.

Sure enough. I was right. No one sat there. Gave me plenty of arm space and leg room. The only problem. The window passenger snored worse than a sailor. Or, my father-in-law! That's bad. Plenty of space. Just no sleep for me.

I watched as the rest of the 120 or so passengers boarded the plane. The vast majority of them immediately spied the empty seat next to me and their eyes brightened. And, then, to the person, the also spied the window seat man. They kept on moving toward the back. Not their lucky day.

If American keeps this policy, I don’t know about you, but I smell a lawsuit coming. Where’s the ACLU on this one?

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