WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A family of three said they were utterly humiliated after an airline denied them the business-class seats they paid for, saying they were ‘too big.’
- Huhana Iripa told New Zealand Herald that she and her daughters were told by airline staff to sit in economy class after measuring their waistlines in front of other passengers.
- Although the airline offered them a refund, Iripa declined, saying it was not enough to make up for the trauma her family had gone through.
A Thai Airways passenger is speaking out about the humiliating ordeal she and her daughters experienced when the airline forced them to transfer seats because they were too overweight to fly in the business class.
Huhana Iripa, 59, told New Zealand Herald that the incident happened while she and daughters Renell, 28, and Tere, 37, were waiting to board their Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to Auckland, New Zealand. She added that all three of them bought business class tickets worth $1,727 ($2,650 NZD) each so they could travel comfortably.
However, when the three women went to the business class check-in, they were refused by an airline staff member who looked at them and said, “Sorry, you can’t.” This was followed by other staff members who came to the counter talking in their native language while shaking their heads at them as if they committed a crime.
A staff member eventually told them, “No, you’re too big.”
Eventually, a stewardess went to them and pulled out a measuring tape. After measuring their waistlines in front of other passengers, she told them to transfer to economy seats for the 11-hour flight home.
“We were utterly humiliated in front of all the other passengers. Everyone was just standing [and] staring at us. The whole thing was disgusting,” said Iripa.
The outlet also reported that when Iripa asked for a refund, she was only offered about $815 ($1,250 NZD) each, the difference between the economy and business-class tickets. Later, Thai Airways apologized and offered a further $293 ($450 NZD), but Iripa refused, saying it wasn’t enough compensation for how they were treated.
“For their rudeness, their disrespect and the trauma of what they put us through, how could they identify that price as compensation?” Iripa said.
Ultimately, Flight Centre, the travel agency that booked their tickets, offered a full refund to the family saying they were shocked to learn about the incident.
Spokesman for the airline, Wayne Cochrane, explained to the outlet that Iripa and her daughters were asked to move seats because the type of plane (Boeing 787 Dreamliner) they were on, have airbag seatbelts in business class that could not fit oversized passengers.
“As this issue involves passenger safety, I am sure you will understand that we cannot compromise on this,” added Cochrane.
Thai Airways faced criticisms for similar policies in 2018. Due to reported airbag restrictions, passengers with waistlines larger of 56 inches or larger are barred from sitting in business-class seats on the Boeing 787-9 model.