A ‘fat tax’ on obese airline passengers could be a step closer after a Court of Appeal ruling that fliers cannot sue for embarrassment caused when on board a plane.
The tax could be implemented following a victory for travel giants Thomas Cook and British Airways in a case against two passengers who sued them over their treatment on two flights.
The court cited the Montreal Convention as the reason for the firms’ victory, which overrules international law and is a set of rules that govern air travel. The decision could lead to airlines introducing a tax against obese passengers without fear of the consequences, a leading barrister has claimed.
Daniel Barnett, of the Outer Temple Chambers in London, said the decision means passengers could not sue if crew cause distress to passengers on board. This means that they could therefore embarrass obese fliers into paying a ‘fat tax’ when they board.
He also said that disabled passengers would have no right to dignity once they leave the ground.
Mr Barnett told the Daily Mail: ‘Today’s court ruling makes it clear that airlines will never be liable for hurt feelings.
‘Anything cabin crew say to passengers when they are on board will be done without fear of the consequences.’
Mr Barnett explained that currently airlines can do what they want with regards to an obese person before a flight leaves the ground and they are legally allowed to do so. This could include forcing them to buy a second seat if they are unable to fit comfortably into one alone.
However for disabled people airlines are not allowed to charge a passenger more unless they can prove a good business case. Mr Barnett’s comments came following the conclusion of the case, which involved two disabled men.
Christopher Stott, from south east London and Tony Hook, of Leicester, sued the companies after they were unable to sit next to carers on a flight. Both subsequently suffered ‘embarrassing’ incidents with Mr Stott being tipped from his wheelchair in front of other passengers.
Both men argued that their treatment meant they should be entitled to compensation as a result of their ruined holidays and hurt feelings. However, with fears of countless similar claims, the Court of Appeal sided with the operators, citing the Montreal Convention.
The three appeal judges added that while they had sympathy with the men they rejected their claim. The judges also rejected permission to take the case to the Supreme Court.
The rejection by the judges comes after a number of industry experts suggested that a ‘fat tax’ should be introduced. In January a former economist for the Qantas airlines suggested a tax because of the need for additional fuel to carry overweight passengers.
And in January 2010, Air France revealed it was to charge passengers for extra tickets if they could not fit into a single seat.
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