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alexa35 Mar 29th, 2008 07:56 AM

Help - need advice on horrid flight experience
I travel frequently to Alaska for work. In fact, have been on hundreds of flights and have experienced large people sitting next to me, which makes things tighter but not unbearable.
Until the other day - my return from Anchorage. A 6 hour overnight flight.
Was seated next to an extremely obese person seated in the middle seat with armrest up. I could barely fit into my window seat. I'm average - 5'8 and 138 pounds.
The woman's legs, shoulders and torso area took up probably more than 1/3 of my seat.
I didn't want to be rude in front of her and tried to ask the flight attendant for a new seat, that I was feeling claustrophobic from the window seat. They said they would move me after take-off.

10 minutes after take-off my neck and back were killing from sitting sideways. Talked to the FA in charge and he said it was an overbooked flight by 20 seats!!! No place to go but STAND the entire OVERNIGHT flight.
Had to sit the 15 minutes before landing and passenger was sound asleep with head on window, sprawled out between the 2 seats. I woke her up to ask for my window seat back and she goes, "oh, that makes it easier for me". ????
No comment.

Complained when I landed at MSP and have NEVER been spoken so rudely before to 2 passengers.
They told me to think of how the obese woman must have felt.

Got to NYC and finally a nicer manager who told me to fight it with customer care.
So far, they offered a $100 voucher.
I told them no - since I will NEVER fly NorthWest again.

At this point, my neck and back still kill. I lost a full night of sleep and the next day was a work day. And I am withholding the full $500 charge from my credit card and have them fight it out.
I was also burned (badly) on my entire wrist by hot water/turbulence on the flight over.

NorthWest plain and simple sucks.

joesorce Mar 29th, 2008 08:23 AM

Do you know if First Class was full too? Or could they have moved you up there?

The problem with your complaint is that you haven't much answer to their obvious question "what would you have liked us to do for you?" There were no more seats. Should they have asked another, smaller passenger to sit there?

You'll probably get a refund if they see you were a frequent flier with them. The main complaint that you have is that they TOLD you they would move you after takeoff, and they lied. If you'd known that you wouldn't be able to change seats, you would have gotten off the plane.

joesorce Mar 29th, 2008 08:32 AM

You probably won't get too far by telling them that you will never fly Northwest again. They have no incentive to pacify you if they have already lost your business forever.

Your credit card might require proof or statement from witnesses, and will tell you to just accept the $100 offer. NWA got you from Point A to Point B on time so the credit card probably can't withhold payment. There is nothing in the contract that says they will transport you COMFORTABLY, which most passengers these days have come to realize. Seems I'm always sitting next to a coughing hacker with the flu, a drooling sneezing toddler, or someone who's odor makes me hold my breath for six hours.

I'm not saying that you didn't have an awful flight, just be realistic about what you can now demand. Focus on the lie, I've heard flight attendants tell whoppers just to get the plane moving. But proving that someone told you that you could move is a different feat.

Orlando_Vic Mar 29th, 2008 08:53 AM

I have had some success writing a letter of complaint to the president & CEO (by name) of a corporation I had problems with. You may wish to try the same approach. You'll find the name of the NWA President/CEO here as well as the names of each member of the corporate board <>.

To make sure it gets to the Predident/CEO's office, you may want to send it by Certified Mail with restricted delivery and return receipt <>. You'll probably help your cause further by suggesting a way or ways they can make you happy (or happier).

For future trips, would you consider taking a short jog down to ORD and then taking Alaska Airlines nonstop to Anchorage? I am quite sure you'll get better customer service on Alaska Air.

Bill_H Mar 29th, 2008 08:55 AM

<b>Was seated next to an extremely obese person seated in the middle seat with armrest up</b>

Had the same thing happen to me once on a long flight, the guy probably weighed 350 lbs and overflowed into about 1/3 my seat ... luckily there was an open seat and I was moved but it got me thinking and from now on I would NOT let them lift the armrest.

Should be an airline regulation that if you can't fit in the seat with the armrests down then you need to buy a second ticket, unless the airline knows in advance there are empty seats.

Sorry for your experience, I wouldn't blame it just on NW, the same thing happens pretty much everywhere you fly.


suze Mar 29th, 2008 09:05 AM

Sound like a horrible flight, no doubt, but I don't see how boycotting Northwest will make any difference. That could have happened on any airline on a full flight it seems to me.

nytraveler Mar 29th, 2008 10:43 AM

I don't wish to be cruel - and I know the seats in coach are VERY small - so that some people who are merely large - not obese have trouble fitting in them. (I'm normal weight but have long legs - ad I'm NEVER comfortable in coach - esp if the person in front puts their seat back - squashing my knees.

But - you should have asked the FA to have the other person put the armrest down. That way you have your seat - and their problem stays their problem. If someone is so large they can't fit in a regular coach seat they should have the sense - and the airline should require - that they either buy 2 seats - or buy a seat in business.

I've never had it that bad - but have several times been seated next to large men that spread their legs apart - taking my leg and foot space. One even tried to put one foot under the seat in front of ME. I said - sorry - that's my space - and put my purse on the floor on the armrest line. (He was doing the same thing to the woman on the other side - and also had both armrests.) He glared at me - but what could he say?

djkbooks Mar 29th, 2008 10:51 AM

&lt;&lt;If someone is so large they can't fit in a regular coach seat they should have the sense - and the airline should require - that they either buy 2 seats - or buy a seat in business. &gt;&gt;

I agree.

Myer Mar 29th, 2008 10:59 AM

I don't understand why you just didn't lower the arm rest. The other person obviously raised it so that they could overflow onto your seat.

I once had that happend to me but there were other empty seats on the flight.

When I returned from the back of the plane after having spoken to the flight attendant, the person said &quot;so you moved&quot;. My response was that I was in the wrong seat.

aloha Mar 29th, 2008 11:32 AM

I agree the FA should have required the woman to put the armrest down. If she can't fit in the seat that way, it is her problem, not yours. I say that as a person who has no trouble fitting in between the armrests, but there is precious little extra room in the seat itself. No way could I fit into 2/3 of the seat that was left over after the woman took up 1/3 of your seat.

I thought airlines did require those who don't fit in one seat to buy 2 tickets? I remember there was a flap about it when it was publicized that Southwest required that, and i thought all airlines did. But I guess that doesn't happen until they actually see the person, and if the flight was overbooked, they couldn't sell her a second seat.

And I'm sorry to hear you got burned. Seems like the water they are serving should not be hot enough to cause injury! Turbulence can happen any time.

Andrew Mar 29th, 2008 11:46 AM

Another reason I like Southwest airlines (although you can't fly them to Alaska): they have a policy of making people who weigh over a certain weight buy two seats. So this sort of thing shouldn't happen on Southwest.

dusty56438 Mar 29th, 2008 12:06 PM

Maybe it was my ex-wife sitting next to you.

easytraveler Mar 29th, 2008 12:12 PM

I think both the airline and the overweight person EXPECT the other passengers to give in and move or just sit and deal with it.

The margin of profit is so small on the economy seats that it just doesn't pay the airlines to try and make things comfortable for every passenger.

Just as with ambulance gurneys which are have to be bigger and stronger for the increasingly overweight people, so airlines should design their seats to accommodate larger passengers.

ncounty Mar 29th, 2008 12:29 PM

Hi Alexa- It seems you had the worst case scenario happen to you. It happened to me as well on a recent flight on Southwest. The plane as full so I didn't ask to be moved. I actually felt sorry for this woman....a lot has to do with how nasty or entitled that obese person is. She kept the arm rests down and she was so big that she couldn't sit in the chair so she sort of stayed perched on the arm rests trying to not spread on to us. As bad as it was for me, I felt even worse for must have been so uncomfortable. Sadly, they really do need to buy two seats but economic realities are a challenge. Don't know a good solution to it. I am not a fan of Northwest in particular but I would say that this happens with all the airlines.

Andrew Mar 29th, 2008 01:30 PM

ncounty, I'm surprised you had this experience on Southwest. I just re-read their policy, which you all may find interesting to read (whether you fly Southwest or not):

Apparently, they don't care about weight, only whether the &quot;customer of size&quot; can put the armrests down or not. If you can't put the armrests down, Southwest considers you a &quot;passenger of size.&quot; So in your case, ncounty, since you said the woman did manage to get the armrests down (even if you were still uncomfortable) they didn't count as a &quot;customer of size.&quot; In Alexa's case the passenger had the armrests up.

I was also surprised to read that, if the Southwest flight isn't full, the &quot;customer of size&quot; will get a refund for the second seat. And in some cases they'll sell the 2nd seat at a child's rate.

Do you think the other airlines should follow Southwest's policy? I do.

Bill_H Mar 29th, 2008 01:45 PM

The Southwest policy (if you can't fit in the seat with the armrests down you have to buy a second ticket) makes sense to me.

I'm sure some will scream 'discrimination' but the other customers have rights too.

ncounty Mar 29th, 2008 01:55 PM

Hi Andrew- that sounds like a very reasonable compromise policy. This customer of size did not fit with the arm rests down, that is why she perched on top of them. They probably didn't enforce it because I didn't complain....I mean how would this really work anyway? People past a certain visual threshold are tested to see if they fit in their seat with arm rests down? I think not. And if someone who doesn't buy 2 tickets is caught overflowing their arm rests on a full flight, are they kicked off the flight? That could be a nightmare for that poor person. It is a great policy in general and in theory; how to execute it can be challenging. It is a good start however....more work is needed.

alexa35 Mar 29th, 2008 01:59 PM

Wow...a lot of responses and my thanks to everybody for your advice. I've been given some very good tips.
Believe me, I am normal weight and a bit taller for a girl - 5'8 and feel cramped in Coach section of 747's! I can imagine how this lady felt but have to admit seeing her sleep soundly between the 2 seats and her head against the window did get the anger going in me!!
I've flown in middle seat between 2 VERY large men all the way to Australia (yes, I have bad luck), but this experience tops the list.

The fact that when I got to my row she had the armrest up was a hint to me. When I got in the seat I saw she was so far into my seat as well that she physically could not fit into the seat if the armrest were to go down. So I didn't even ask or attempt it because I didn't want to make her feel bad.

It's the fact my request wasn't taken care of before take-off. I assume First Class was full, as that's what I was told. NorthWest had a plane break down before this flight so my flight was way overbooked.

The head FA did document everything in a letter for me. I wanted to take a picture for proof but that just seemed too rude.
I think the fact that it was a 6 hour red-eye of standing like a weirdo on a plane while 300 other passengers slept soundly is what ticks me off most!

I am going to write the CEO as well as Customer Care.
I'll still have my Amex dispute this charge, as I simply refuse to pay!

I guess it can happen on any airline but this was only my 2nd time flying NWest and have flown others hundreds of times so sorry, I still think NWest sucks. :)

aloha Mar 29th, 2008 02:44 PM

ncounty, this person who perched on the armrests: was she able at all to fasten the seatbelt?

alexa35 Mar 29th, 2008 03:36 PM

I am not sure but do remember her looking for her seat belt before landing...Don't know if it clicked.
Is the rule - if seat belt clicks, then passenger does not need to pay for a second seat?

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