Man Sues Airline — Says Fat Seatmate Caused Back Injury

Leah Ginsberg
·Lead Editor
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Photo: Thinkstock 

We’ve all been there — sitting on a plane anxiously awaiting the person who will sit down in the empty seat next to us. If we’re honest, there are some people who make us cringe a little at the prospect: maybe it’s a mom with a screaming baby, or a passenger wearing way too much perfume or body odor, or maybe it’s someone who’s overweight and may spill over into our seat.

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Now one man has taken this chubby-seatmate anxiety to a new level. Australian traveler James Bassos claims he had such a harrowing experience sitting next to a coughing, obese passenger that he is suing Etihad Airlines.

According to Yahoo News Australia, Bassos is claiming he suffered a permanent back injury after being seated next to the man on a flight from Abu Dhabi to Sydney, during which he was forced to spend hours twisting and contorting to avoid touching his hefty, hacking fellow passenger. 

During the approximately 14-hour flight, Bassos says he began to feel severe back pain about five hours in and asked to move. The crew reportedly told him the plane was full. When Basso complained again a half-hour later, he was allowed to sit in a crew seat. However, Bassos says he had to return to his original seat twice for security reasons; once for an hour, and again for 90 minutes before the plane landed.

According to Yahoo News Australia, Bassos claims that since then, he still suffers back pain, which has disrupted his sleep, as well as his ability to work. In the lawsuit, which Basso, 38, filed in Queensland, he is asking for more than $165,000 ($227,000 AU) in compensation for medical expenses and lost earnings, among other things.

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Etihad’s lawyers have tried to have the case thrown out, arguing, “It is not unexpected or unusual for a passenger to be seated next to an overweight passenger on a fully booked flight.” But the Australian judge didn’t buy the argument and has allowed the case to move forward.

An Etihad spokesperson had this to say on the matter: “Etihad Airways will continue to oppose the action and now that Mr. Bassos will finally face a medical assessment in December 2015, as directed by court, we believe that the matter will proceed to an early conclusion.

“The safety and comfort of Etihad Airways’ passengers and crew is of paramount importance and the airline has a zero tolerance policy towards unruly behavior.”

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