South Bay News

Man misses flight to funeral because of his weight

Monday, November 23, 2009

Airlines flying only full flights these days is creating a predicament for overweight travelers. A 400-pound San Jose man found out buying a last-minute second seat isn't as easy as it used to be.

Okamoni Fa insists he can fit into an airline seat. He would even sit with his arms crossed if the person next to him was uncomfortable. But a Southwest Airlines ticket agent told him he was too big for one seat and he would have to buy another one. The flight was booked so there wasn't a seat for him to buy. He missed the flight and his uncle's funeral.

"I just wanted to be there for my family, that's all," said Fa.

Overweight people may have a tougher time now in this economy buying that last-minute second seat.

"There are fewer airplanes, so there are fewer seats for people, and airplanes are going out full. Especially in holiday periods like Thanksgiving," said ABC7 aviation analyst Ron Wilson.

Some overweight travelers say it's tough to plan ahead because they think the policy isn't consistently enforced. A man wrote in his blog that he travels twice a week on Southwest without any problems, until one day when an agent said he was too big to fly.

Fa says he has never had trouble before on another airline.

"I never had this on a flight, I fly all the time," said Fa.

Some passengers say they don't want it to be up to a ticket agent, they want it to be more definitive like with what they use to measure carry-on bags. If a passenger does not fit predescribed measurements they do not fly.

"If a customer cannot sit in a seat with the armrests in the down position without encroaching on the person next to them we ask that customer to purchase a second seat. We actually refund for the second seat if the flight isn't oversold," said Southwest Airlines spokesperson Chris Mainz.

But the key is if it isn't oversold. And these days that can be tough to find.

A spokesman for Southwest Airlines said the company will look into Okamoni Fa's situation. He said the company will be giving him a full refund.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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