Scene and Heard

A Firsthand Look at Seating a 'Jumbo' Passenger

By Scene And Heard
Monday, June 29, 2009

An awkward situation is made worse by an airline worker ill-prepared for it.

I was in the passenger lounge waiting to board a flight that was supposed to be on a Boeing 737, a quite comfortable aircraft. I noticed parked at the gate, however, one of the smaller jets a number of carriers added to their fleets in response to escalating fuel costs.

These planes can comfortably accommodate 20 passengers. Unfortunately, they're configured to seat 48.

This particular airline is one that has begun requiring "larger" passengers to pay 150 percent of the normal fare so they can have a vacant seat next to them. I had often wondered how such a sensitive matter could be handled.

I shortly got to witness firsthand this delicate procedure.

A somewhat portly gentleman went up to get his boarding pass.

Despite his ample bulk and girth, the man did not appear self-conscious about his size. He walked with an agile gait and carried himself, as my mother used to say, "with aristocratic dignity."

Furthermore, he wore an impeccably tailored suit of the finest wool and silk blend. His crisp white shirt was very tastefully accessorized with a perfectly Windsor-knotted tie that surely was of Armani design.

When the gate agent looked up from her computer screen, her face assumed a cordial yet sternly professional expression.

"Sir, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to buy a companion fare, as well."

"But I'm not traveling with a companion," he replied.

She leaned forward and grinned coquettishly while giving him a head-to-toe scan.

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