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US Airways Safety a Question as Passenger Stands in Takeoff due to Obese Seatmate

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US Airways is under scrutiny again after a passenger claims he was forced to stand in an airline flight aisle for seven hours because of the obese size of his seatmate--the airline failing to sell the larger traveler two seats or catch its error at boarding. But it's worse in a safety issue that should garner FAA attention and question after the airline allegedly allowed takeoff with a standing passenger.
Destined for Philadelphia from Alaska on Flight 901 flier Arthur Berkowitz is not pleased with US Airways -- claiming an overweight passenger's size meant both seat armrests were forced to an upright position, and that an obese seatmate's size meant he had to stand in the plane's aisle for the flight's duration because half of his own seat was taken. Berkowitz says he wasn't even able to use his seatbelt. But that was probably the least of problems. The fact that US Airways staff or flight attendants allowed a passenger to stand, considering safety precautions, obviously means the problem was immense.
Berkowitz claims he stood during the plane's takeoff, landing and most of the seven-hour flight. And that all raises question as to how or why U.S. Airways allowed the plane to even depart with the potentially dangerous scenario on-board that was allegedly occurring. It seems sagging pants are of much higher concern to US Airways than passenger safety.
Late summer on July 29 is when the problem reportedly occurred. And Berkowitz claims flight attendants were in fact aware of the problem, airline staff alerted to the issue but unable to accommodate the passenger because of the booked flight with no other available seats. Most likely due to other regulations, staff wouldn't allow him to sit in the flight attendant jump seats -- and reportedly acknowledge a gate agent error in allowing the passenger to board with the allotted seat rather than purchasing two for travel.
US Airways has been rocked by scandal and yet continues to put the same representative to the forefront. It may not be the representation the airline truly wants. Liz Landau is the same airline rep who put in two cents on the recent Deshon Marman scandal -- the college football player arrested in June by a US Airways pilot in the most intriguing citizen's arrest that the DA refused to prosecute. The University of New Mexico football player was never formally charged -- nor was there any complaint of obscenity or lewdness -- but Marman was forced to defend himself legally, despite no violation of an actual policy by the airline -- and spent some time in jail surrounding the incident. The cost: around eleven grand.
The sagging pants arrest and this safety-related incident ironically fell within just roughly six weeks of one another in 2010 -- in June and July.
While Liz Landau reportedly admits to the Berkowtiz issue occurring over the larger-sized passenger who ended in a seat displacement, the airline is yet again refusing responsibility: Landau actually issued statement to the press that “it was his [Berkowitz's] choice to stand.” Apparently he didn't have a lot of option. Perhaps the other scenario was to lie down in the aisle. But then he may have been arrested for impeding the flight crew.
It's all interesting stuff. While U.S. Airways actually has a policy that requires passengers of size to purchase two seats for a flight on its airline -- and clearly did not ensure that action was performed by the passenger, and additionally failed to note the error at boarding -- the airline actually claims in written statement that Berkowitz's “seatmate had the same right to his seat as Mr. Berkowitz did to his. So here’s where the diplomacy and cooperation of all passengers comes into play."
Well, now that is fascinating: After failing to uphold its own policy, the US Airways airline claims a passenger who only has part of his seat should be diplomatic (which, despite more than an inconvenience, apparently did occur) -- and that the larger passenger had an equal right to his seat. That right to a seat is true -- however a right to a second seat was not the entitlement, and that makes the airline's statement a very misleading one. More than any inconvenience, the potential safety issue alone should be deeming FAA investigation.
U.S. Airways issued Berkowitz a $200 flight voucher. It's not being deemed sufficient for obvious reason. Apparently the airline isn't even smart enough to have refunded the passenger's flight to avoid the potential of yet another problem being circulated through the media. The airline seems to think the two hundred buck voucher, to fly again using its services, should be sufficient -- claiming U.S. Airways "attempted" to address the customer's concerns. Among the best and most outrageous actions by U.S. Airways is its argument concerning fairness.
It's all a bit ironic: "We have attempted to address this customer’s service concerns," claims the US Airways airline, "but offering increasing amounts of compensation based on a threat of a safety violation isn’t really fair — especially when the passenger himself said he didn’t follow crew members’ instructions and fasten his seatbelt." That would be the seatbelt the passenger said he wasn't able to get fastened due to half his seat being taken up by the other man's body. Yeah.
It's a most interesting referral of blame. But, moreover, the safety concern is more than clear -- that an airline would actually allow a plane to take off with passengers, with one traveler actually standing in the aisle, seems outrageously unsafe. But U.S. Airways doesn't seem to be addressing that concern.
But don't think that -- regardless of good or bad media exposure -- U.S. Airways won't take the opportunity to potentially pimp out its "services": According to the airline, the "way to ensure you have space available next to you — whether you are a person of size, or you would simply like to ensure you have more personal space to relax on a long flight — is to purchase that additional seat, or First Class, in advance.” Apparently it's all Mr. Berkowitz's fault as a U.S. Airways passenger. If he'd flown First, maybe he'd have had a seat. Maybe. Of course that's not his obligation -- nor a guarantee he would've had a seat anyway. But it is a nice opportunity for the airline to throw out a way for it to make an extra buck.
Perhaps the lack of First Class seating is also the reason the airline has been accused of all sorts of customer problems over the past year or so -- including kicking a crying customer off a US Airways flight, yanking an airline passenger who used the on-board bathroom frequently, or incidents like maggots falling on US Airways plane passengers.

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