Thai Airways’ Dreamliner 787’s Business Class Will Be a Bit Safer…But It’s Not for Overweight Passengers Nor Little Kids

Thai Airways recently installed new seatbelt airbags in the business class section of its new 787 Dreamliner jets. Sounds great for safety, but bad for those with a bit too much weight around their bellies as well as parents travelling with little kids. According to the rules, passengers whose waistline exceeds 56 inches would not be able to fasten the new seatbelt and still meet safety standards. The airbag mechanism does not allow for seatbelt extension, so that excludes parents with child-on-lap. Thus, those who do not meet these criteria will have to stick to economy class, like the rest of us plebs.

As it is, being the “fat person” or “parent with the noisy kid” on the plane garners little sympathy. Whilst this move by Thai Airways is seemingly for the sake of safety—though some would see it as discrimination towards certain types of passengers—there have been other instances when the airlines have made it incredibly embarrassing for overweight passengers.

In 2013, Samoa Air started charging passengers based on the weight of their luggage and their bodies—the airline has since gone out of business (karma?). In 2016, Hawaiian Airlines got permission to seat passengers according to their perceived weight (in other words, the airline staff looks you up and down) to distribute weight evenly on the plane. Last year, Finnair also mooted a similar idea, and wanted to weigh and distribute passengers evenly across the plane to reduce fuel cost.

Safety, of course, must always come first. Lower operating costs to maintain a viable profit is also important—otherwise, there would be no business operating flights for us to take. On the other hand, there has to be more delicate ways to handle the situation, without embarrassing the passenger.

The one thing this writer realised, though, is that the “special” seatbelt was installed only in business class. So, does safety come with a price? If so, should it?

What do you think? Share with us your thoughts and experiences. 

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