As we are entering the busiest travel days of the year, everyone has their own horror stories while flying that come to mind, but few could relate to what Arthur Berkowitz had to endure. Due to a full flight and 400lb neighbor who “spilled over into Mr. Berkowitz’s personal space,” the 57-year-old had to stand for the entire seven hour duration of US Airways Flight 901 from Anchorage to Philadelphia. Berkowitz tells the Daily Mail about the nightmare flight this past July:
“‘He said the obese man was very sorry. ‘The first thing he said to me was: ‘I want to apologize – I’m your worst nightmare’,’ he told MailOnline.
Mr Berkowitz added that his ordeal in July presented a safety risk because he could not use his seatbelt for take-off and landing.”
A safety risk that apparently has happened before. Consumer advocate Christopher Elliot writes in his blog that “Telling an airline passenger who can’t fit into a seat to stand is pretty unusual. But it happens.” Elliot notes that the Federal Aviation Administration rules require passengers to be seated with their seat belts fastened during takeoff and landing, but the agency strongly suggests passengers remain seated for their entire flight because of the possibility of turbulence.
The flight from Anchorage to Philadelphia is one of the longest non-stop U.S. domestic flights. Berkowitz claims that flight attendants admitted their gate agent had made an error in allowing the obese passenger to board without having bought two seats. The Daily Mail reports that US Airways has since apologized for the ‘regrettable incident.’
“Our intention is to offer the best travel experience possible,” the airline wrote in a statement. “The details you have provided indicate that we have failed to meet our intentions.”
US Airways offered Berkowitz a $200 voucher in compensation which Berkowitz says is “inappropriate” considering he paid more than $800 for the ticket. Berkowitz says though that he is primary concerned that the airline has done nothing to fix the safety issue.
“It did not allow me to use my seatbelt during takeoff and landing as well as required me to stand in the aisle and galley area for most of the seven-hour plus flight,” says Berkowitz. Elliot agrees with Berkowitz’s safety concerns and compensation frustration:
“I reviewed his case and agreed with him that US Airways might want to take another look at his complaint. I mean, leaving a passenger with no alternative but to stand for almost seven hours — if that’s true, then this might be one of those rare cases when a full refund is in order.”
A representative for the airline told Berkowitz that US Airways has made its last, best offer.