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'Fat Surcharge' Does Not Fly


Airline refunds passenger charged for being overweight

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Gulf News  Apr 14, 2008

Abu Dhabi/Dubai - An overweight passenger who was required to pay an additional Dh800 by an airline to allow him to board his flight has been refunded the extra amount.

The Arab passenger filed a complaint after he returned to the UAE against a European carrier which forced him to pay the extra charge before boarding the plane from Zurich, reported WAM.

The passenger booked a Dubai-Zurich-Dubai ticket via Belgrade at the airline's office in Dubai, said a statement by the Ministry of Economy's Consumer Protection Department.

He faced no problems boarding the plane from Dubai, but the passenger next to him complained that he was not comfortable. A stewardess moved the passenger to business class.

On the way back from Zurich, the complainant was asked to pay an extra Dh1,400 to buy an adjoining seat in line with the regulations of the airline, because his weight exceeds the set limit for passenger weight.

He was denied boarding until he paid Dh800 but the passenger next to him suffered no inconvenience, which he brought to the attention of the flight's pilot and hosts, according to the ministry's statement.

He asked the airline to reimburse him the extra amount but his request was rejected as it was against the airline's policy.

The passenger then filed a complaint at the Consumer Protection Department asking for his rights according to Federal Law No. 24 for 2006, which states that the department can represent complainants. The department addressed the European carrier to enquire about the complaint and verify that there were extra charges for overweight passengers. A representative from the airline was invited to contact the ministry to clarify the issue.

The department verified that UAE laws do not stipulate any extra charges for overweight people, and negotiated with the regional manager of the airline, who in turn consulted his head office.

A verdict was issued to refund the Dh800, in the presence of the complainant and the airline representative.

The ministry stressed that the procedures reaffirm its keenness to protect the rights of consumers and create a state of balance between consumers and traders in the UAE.

The airline's spokesperson told Gulf News the case was closed nine months ago. He said they did not overcharge the passenger but he was asked to transfer to business class for his own comfort and to pay the price variation. The spokesperson stressed that the passenger was moved not because of his weight but his large size, as business class seats are broader than economy class seats.

The passenger argued that the airline did not inform him in advance and he was only told about the extra amount when checking in, to which the airline replied that their staff have been instructed to assess the size of passengers upon check-in to see if their size would cause a problem.

The spokesperson claimed that the airline decided to reach an amicable settlement. He said the case was closed by mutual agreement and the passenger was refunded and issued a written statement to this effect.

Passenger had to pay a European carrier Dh800 to be able to board his flight and was initially asked to pay an extra Dh1,400 to buy an adjoining seat.

Airline refunds passenger charged for being overweight
A passenger seen waiting at Heathrow Airport/ Image via Reuters



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