Airline denies plans for obesity surcharge

PARIS Wed Jan 20, 2010 9:06pm EST

A new Airbus A380 aircraft of Air France KLM takes off following a hand-over ceremony at the manufacturer's site in Finkenwerder near Hamburg October 30, 2009. REUTERS/Christian Charisius

A new Airbus A380 aircraft of Air France KLM takes off following a hand-over ceremony at the manufacturer's site in Finkenwerder near Hamburg October 30, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Christian Charisius

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PARIS (Reuters) - Air France KLM denied media reports on Wednesday that it planned an extra charge for overweight passengers if they were unable to fit into a single seat.

Instead, the national carrier said that from Feb 1. overweight passengers who had freely chosen to buy an extra seat for comfort would get their money back on flights that were not fully booked.

"Contrary to reports in the press this morning, Air France is not planning to force corpulent passengers to pay for a second seat," the statement said.

Air France said that since 2005 it had offered overweight passengers an option to buy a second seat at a 25 percent discount.

"It is not an obligation; we suggest to such passengers they buy a second seat for their own comfort and in order to be sure the seats are adapted to their needs. If the plane is not full, they can get a refund," Air France spokesman Jean-Pierre Lefebvre said.

Several newspapers had reported that obese passengers flying Air France-KLM would have to pay 75 per cent of the cost of a second seat on top of the full price for the first seat, and that the measure was introduced for safety reasons.

Southwest Airlines and United Airlines have a policy where "oversize" people need to buy a second seat and can claim a refund if the plane is not full. This followed complaints from adjacent passengers.

In 2006 Air France was sued by a French passenger after the airline told him he was too big to fit in one seat and would have to buy an additional seat if he wanted to fly from New Delhi to Paris.

The passenger, who sued on the ground he was deeply humiliated by the situation because he was measured in a public area of the airport, won the case.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, editing by Will Waterman)

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