Three women said they were “utterly humiliated” when Thai Airways staff kicked them out of their paid-for business class seats for being “too big”.
Huhana Iripa, 59, and her two daughters Renell, 28, and Tere, 37, were flying from Bangkok to Auckland following weight loss surgery when the incident occurred, reports the New Zealand Herald.
The trio had booked economy seats for the outbound flight, but following the surgery they’d wanted to ensure they were comfortable, and had paid NZ$2,650 (£1,328) each for business class seats as a result.
However, when they approached the business class check-in desk, they were accosted by staff trying to assess them with a tape measure.
“We were utterly humiliated in front of all the other passengers,” Ms Iripa told the NZ Herald.
“The next thing, there were about five members of staff all around talking in their native language, shaking their heads and looking at us as if we’d committed a crime.
“A staff member then came forward and started saying ‘no, you’re too big, you’re too big’.”
Ms Iripa said she broke into tears, adding: “The whole thing was disgusting.”
The three women were told they would have to sit in economy instead.
After they complained, the family was offered a refund of the price difference between the two seats, plus NZ$450 (£225) in compensation, but they felt they should be refunded the full ticket price.
”I’ve never felt discriminated against before because of my size, so this experience left me completely in shock,“ said Ms Iripa.
The family was eventually refunded in full by Flight Centre, the travel agency they’d originally booked through.
Thai Airways’ Dreamliner 787-900 business class seats have seatbelts with airbags in them, which means they can’t be extended, according to the airline.
Passengers with waists measuring more than 56 inches are therefore excluded from flying in business class.
However, Ms Iripa was at no point informed of the size restrictions during the booking process.
”The new 787-900 Dreamliner aircraft used on flights between New Zealand and Thailand is fitted with integrated airbag seatbelts in business class,” a Thai Airways spokesperson told the Herald.
“The extension seatbelt normally used to accommodate oversize passengers cannot be fitted to the airbag seatbelts; therefore passengers not able to fit the standard airbag seatbelt cannot be carried in business class.
”As this issue involves passenger safety, I am sure you will understand that we cannot compromise on this.“
The Independent has contacted Thai Airways for further comment.