Portly passengers may pay twice on United

This week United Airlines joined Southwest and several other airlines in formalizing and posting a  “seatmates of size” policy on its website.

seatmates-of-size

(From a 2007  Well-Mannered Traveler column on this topic, courtesy MSNBC.com)

Although the policy was quietly posted on the airline’s Web site some time ago, it went into effect just this past Wednesday, April 15th.

The policy will please passengers who find themselves squeezed in next to someone who doesn’t really fit in their own seat and will disappoint travelers who feel that, rather than charging large passengers for more space, airlines should just be putting larger seats on all airplanes.

You can read the current policy here but, in a nutshell, the policy states that if you don’t fit into your seat with the armrests down, if you need more than one seat belt extender to buckle your seat belt, or if you simply do not fit into a single seat in your ticketed cabin, then you may end up having to purchase a second seat and fly on a later flight.

The key word here is may.  Which is not what the policy first stated.

Last Wednesday, the policy United posted on its Website stated that passengers falling into certain categories MUST by an extra seat.  By the end of the day, however, the wording had been changed to better reflect the policy an airline spokesperson  said was the “real” policy: that before charging anyone for a second seat, United flight crews would try to find two adjacent seats for the large passenger at no extra charge

I think that’s a big  difference.  And I’m glad they changed the wording. Read about how the wording got changed in my Well-Mannered Traveler column, The Skinny on United’s seatmates of size”, on MSNBC.com.

And tell me what you think….