Air Canada Accommodates Obesity as a Medical Condition

November 24, 2012 — In an airline industry full of inconsistent policies that sometimes humiliate people with obesity, it’s encouraging to hear that Air Canada will now accommodate obesity as a medical condition.

Flying requires people with obesity to navigate a wide range of different airline policies. Many airlines now have rules for "passenger of size" that require large passengers to buy a second seat, and in some cases, passengers are called out and prevented from boarding at the gate. Some major airlines, like American Airlines, insist that passengers purchase an extra seat if they cannot fit comfortably in a single seat. Other airlines (like Delta) reserve the right to ask passengers to board the next available flight if more space is necessary.

Southwest Airlines’ Customer of Size policy mandates that passengers who "encroach upon any part of the neighboring seat(s)" pay for an additional ticket. If the flight is not overbooked, Southwest will reimburse the passenger for the extra cost.

Similar to American Airlines, AirTran requires passengers to pay for a second seat if they are unable to lower their armrests, but the airline ensures the extra seat will be offered at the lowest rate possible. US Airways, on the other hand, assesses each situation separately and, if applicable, may ask a flyer to wait for the next flight. Should a passenger refuse to switch his or her flight, US Airways insists that he or she buy a second seat at the gate.

So it is refreshing for an international airline like Air Canada to have a policy that simply states, "Because the airline considers obesity a medical condition, it provides overweight passengers with a free extra seat as long as they present a doctor’s note."

Read The Economist Gulliver Business Travel article by clicking here.