Retired Marine Removed from AA Flight for being too Fat


Oct 29, 2003
Shelley said his nightmare began after he boarded an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Orange County on Friday, when an elderly petite woman sat in the aisle seat next to him.  “She was clearly not particularly happy, got up and left and went towards the front of the aircraft,” Shelley said.
The retired marine did not think anything of it until “a young gentleman in a vest with an American Airlines emblem on it turns to me and says: ‘Sir! You need to take your things and deplane immediately. Come with me. I was in shock,” Shelley said.
He said the employee told him the woman seated next to him complained he was too big for his seat. “They told me anyone over two inches in the seat cannot sit on the aircraft.”
Shelley said he was shocked when the airline did not offer a solution.
He said after begging the employee to ask the woman, who complained about him, to just switch seats. She agreed. He was able re-board the plane.
American Airlines sent him two apology emails.  A spokesperson said the company has launched an investigation.
Too bad it's UsAir management that makes the call. Customer service complaints have been up since AA has been making changes in customer service. Customer satisfaction is down, employee confidence of the new AA is troubling.
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How many passengers buy their tickets based on the rate of complaints an airline has? I would hazard to guess it is a very small percentage.
Company's in general are wrong to treat their customers poorly, just another example of societal disintegration and mistreatment of the citizenry,  with corporate interests ruling the day.
It is terrible this man who was a marine is also so obese he can't fit in a seat. I have been the passenger next to him and it is very discomforting.
I'm on AA's side here.  I'm sympathetic to people who struggle with weight, as I have my whole life.  However, encroaching more than two inches into an adjancent seat is too much.  It's not fair to the person sitting in the adjacent seat.  If that's the case, one should buy a first class seat or be offered by the airline to purchase two adjacent coach seats.
Perhaps the only thing I would fault AA for is making sure agents are trained to effectively deal with this.  But, I would hesitate to pass judgment based on press reports given I didn't personally see this myself.  Some agents are very sensitive to this and handle it quite well.  We don't know specifically how this was handled unless one of us witnessed it first hand.
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I'm a veteran.  For the life of me I can't figure out how the fact that this passenger was a U.S. Marine is germane to the situation.  Do retired military get a pass on AA company policy?  Is this a veteran-as-perennial victim story?
And the other puzzling piece is how switching seats with the woman made the situation all better?
Somehow I think the reporter is missing a lot of what really happened.  How surprising is that?
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I wish our management had the intestinal fortitude to do as Southwest does.  When an oversize person presents themselves at the counter, they are told (with no apologies) that they will have to buy two seats if they wish to travel.  (They would do it beforehand, but passengers rarely reveal during booking a flight that "By the way.  I'm ginormous so I need a row to myself.)  Then if the flight is not sold out and the seat is not needed, Southwest refunds them the cost of the second seat.
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