Julie found that only about half of her seat was available due to the size of the passenger next to her. The passenger was apologetic, but obviously couldn’t magically shrink her body mass and make more room. Julie asked if she could purchase a seat in first class but was told they were sold out, and there were no more seats available. “A flight attendant suggested that the only way to change my seat was to ‘find a cute boy or girl’ and sit on their lap.” Instead, she spent the flight half in her seat and half in the aisle. When she emailed a complaint to Delta and asked for a refund, they thanked her for her feedback.
Julie asked Christopher Elliott, ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler, for advice. His suggestion will sound familiar to Consumerist readers: escalate it! “You could have—and should have—appealed this to someone higher up.” When Julie took his advice, Delta apologized and gave her a $250 voucher.
As far as plus-sized passengers go,
Delta, and most of the other network airlines, tends to look the other way when someone unusually tall or wide boards their aircraft. At least one carrier, Southwest Airlines, doesn’t. It requires that plus-sized passengers buy an extra seat (but they get their money back if there are empty seats). I could find no policy regarding these above-average travelers on Delta’s Web site, which says to me that your seatmate wasn’t out of line in booking only one seat.
(Thanks to Jim!)