Airlines might soon be able to introduce a so-called "fat tax" if the U.K. Court of Appeals has anything to do with it.
According to a court ruling, passengers cannot sue for embarrassment caused when on board a plane. This precedent came after Thomas Cook and British Airways won a case against two disabled passengers who sued them for their poor treatment on their flights, the Daily Mail reports.
The two men who sued the airlines were disabled, and were forced to sit apart from their caretakers during their flight, according to the Herald Sun. Both suffered "embarrassments" in flight, with one man being tipped from his wheelchair.
The court cited the Montreal Convention in the case, which governs air travel rules. English lawyer Daniel Barnett explains that the ruling could prevent overweight passengers from suing airlines over their treatment on flights and could introduce, essentially, a "fat tax." "The ruling confirms that disabled passengers have no right to dignity once the wheels leave the runway," he told the Telegraph. "It also means that airlines are immune if they choose to embarrass overweight passengers by demanding a fat tax."
"Today's court ruling makes it clear that airlines will never be liable for hurt feelings," said Barnett to the Daily Mail. "Anything cabin crew say to passengers when they are on board will be done without fear of the consequences."
Airlines and even ferry systems have come under fire for the idea of introducing a fat tax in America. In 2009, United Airlines dealt with a PR nightmare for forcing passengers who were too fat to fit in one economy seat to buy another. Air Canada is facing a lawsuit from obese passengers who claim they were mistreated on flights in 2008. And, the ferry system in Washington state announced it would have to restructure capacity loads on boats to reflect the growing obesity rate in the area.
Southwest Airlines came under fire last fall for announcing that, starting in March 2012, its subsidiary AirTran would require overweight passengers to purchase a second seat if they could not sit in one seat with the armrest lowered. Last summer, Kenlie Tiggeman was told she was "too fat to fly" on Southwest. And who could forget director Kevin Smith's Southwest debacle in 2010?