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Chub class: Wider airline seat for fat flyers who will get an extra two inches…but slimmer travellers lose space
Airbus gives obese passengers an extra two inches as complaints soar from fellow travellersAisle seat will increase to 20in wide, but economy class seats will reduce by one inchAirlines could charge for premium seat, with an estimated 2m generated over 15 years for each aircraft
Squeezing into a “cattle class” airline seat is about to get a lot easier for the overweight traveller – but at the expense of more slimline passengers.
The growing girth of flyers has prompted aircraft manufacturer Airbus to design extra-wide seats for its popular A320 jets.
But it will shrink the size of ordinary economy-class seats so that each flight can still carry the same number of people.
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Rather than have rows of three seats, each 18in wide, Airbus proposes making the aisle seat 20in wide and reducing the width of the two others by an inch each.
The new configuration would also allow airlines to impose an extra charge for the premium seats, with Airbus estimating that a 6.50 fee could generate an extra 2?million for each aircraft over 15 years.
That could help offset the extra fuel cost required to carry overweight passengers.
Airbus came up with the new design in response to requests from airlines who say travellers” expanding size has become a major headache.
Carriers say the most frequent complaint is from passengers forced to sit next to an overweight person who is encroaching into their space.
A recent survey found half of British flyers said overweight travellers should pay more for their ticket.
Budget airline Ryanair even mooted such a “fat tax”, to cover the extra cost of transporting obese people.
Nicolas Tschechne, who conducts research at Airbus, said the rising weight of flyers was “quite dramatic”.
Heavy price: EasyJet currently asks obese passengers to buy an adjacent seat at a discounted price before they board the plane
“Passenger size has emerged as a core issue we need to deal with,” he said. “And sitting next to obese passengers is the number one complaint.”
John Leahy, chief operating officer for customers at the French-based manufacturer, said: “Airlines are improving their margins by charging for bags, window seats and food.
“But what most people really want is space and that’s what we can offer.”
Air transport campaigner Sean Curtis-Ward said he had “no problem” with slimmer passengers having narrower seats.
Mr Curtis-Ward, a spokesman for the Air Travel Advisory Bureau, said: “I suppose some customers would complain that they are having to sit in smaller seats.
“I personally would not have a problem with that, as it”s better than sitting next a very fat person who comes into your own space.
“But this could be good news for customers overall as they should be charged less – perhaps as much as 100 on a long-haul flight – because they are sitting in smaller seats.
“Let”s face it, airlines will charge more for anyone booking the bigger seats. If airlines do not charge others less, we would have an issue with that.”
The manufacturer of this British Airways Airbus A320 has designed extra-wide seats for larger passengers
It is believed that the first A320 with the super-sized seats will be bought by an American airline, as the country has the largest proportion of overweight people.
About 30 per cent of US adults are classed as obese, which for a 5ft 9in person means they weigh more than 14st 7lb.
Some American carriers, including Delta, have tried getting passengers to buy an extra seat if they are obese.
The issue became very public in 2009, when an image circulated on the internet of an overweight passenger on an American Airlines flight from San Francisco.
After the photograph was taken, showing the man spilling into the aisle, he was reportedly given a full row of seats, which he did not have to pay for, so the plane could safely take off.
In the UK, easyJet asks obese passengers to buy an adjacent seat at a discounted price – sometimes at 50 per cent – before they board the plane.
Those who refuse are not allowed to board.
Similarly, Virgin Atlantic says that passengers who are too large are asked to purchase an additional seat.
Ryanair has reportedly even told its cabin crew to keep slim to keep the aircraft’s weight down.
It has also reduced the size of its in-flight magazine, and serves passengers less ice in their drinks.
British Airways prefers not to discuss the problem, saying only that ground staff deal with the matter in a sensitive way.
Industry insiders say the issue is so delicate that cabin crew of any airline are careful not to use the “f-word” – fat – in earshot of passengers.