It’s obvious Jetstar don’t want Fat travellers so why don’t they just say so?
I am an International and domestic air traveller and I have been doing it for a long time.
I was a Qantas frequent flyer when you needed to travel extensively each year to qualify.
Over the years I have flown on scores of different airlines so I am a seasoned traveller and I still go to North China 3 times a year.
Over time I have accumulated some (a lot) of extra weight and I would now definitely be classed as Fat. Realising this I make the appropriate arrangements like traveling in the larger seats in business or first class.
Recently I needed to go to Melbourne for a few hours on business and I am currently based in the lower hunter valley so my first thought was to drive 2 hours to Sydney Airport where I could have a huge selection of flights with the option of business class seats and airport lounges available to me.
There are only so called budget carriers operating out of Newcastle and they do not have any seat business or first class seat options available.
My wife suggested that driving to Sydney was a silly idea and that adding an extra 4 hours driving on to the day was a bit much and she suggested that if I bought 2 seats out of Newcastle the problem would be solved. How wrong she was!
I usually book my flights on Line.
Having more than a few Qantas frequent Flyer points available I started out at the frequent flyer log in and tried to book the flights on line. It transferred me to the Jetstar site where the option to pay using FF points was removed but no matter I continued. I selected 2 passengers travelling as I needed 2 seats but eventually the system refused to operate as it told me I could not have 2 seats in the same name.
OK so let’s call customer service and get this sorted. I got through within a few minutes to an operator who had a limited grasp of the English language and even less ability to comprehend.
I tried to explain that I was Fat and needed 2 seats but he insisted the problem would be solved by my paying more money for a seat at a higher price. I insisted he tell me the difference in the actual seat and he came back and started to tell me about the pitch of the seat, I challenged him and asked directly what the difference in the width of the seat was. After being placed on hold for a while he came back and said that the seats were all the same only the price was different. So I say to someone who can’t really comprehend the English language” this is why I need 2 seats booked in the same name”. he repeated his offer to sell me a higher priced seat. At this point I hung up.
Never being one to run from a challenge I looked frantically on line for a telephone number that might connect me to someone in Australia but alas I could not find one. So next I thought I would book through an agent as misguided old me thought surely they will have access to someone in Australia and in a more senior position and who could solve this problem. After 2 days I eventually got my emailed booking from Flight Centre but it only showed 1 seat booked. I then spoke rather harshly to the lady at Flight Centre and told her in as clear a fashion as I could that that she had failed to solve my problem and I wanted my money back. ( at this point I wanted to return to my original plan and drive to Sydney ) She told me the money was non-refundable so I requested in strong terms that she should resolve the issue and get me some paperwork that showed two seats and two seats side by side with an arm rest that retracted between them. At this time I visualised my left buttock being in row 4 and my right being in row 26. She eventually sent me some paperwork with the 2 seats nominated on it row 4 on the way down and row 12 with extra leg room on the way back.
So at 515 am on last Saturday I checked in at the airport and went through security and sat down to look at boarding pass where to my horror it only showed one seat. I had visions of some over zealous flight attendant challenging my right to have 2 seats so I proceeded back out through security to challenge the young man at the desk who told me that “its against company rules to issue 2 boarding passes to one person” so I said well just put the 2 seats on the one boarding pass. He insisted that the 2 seats were reserved for me and so I went back through security.
The rest of the flight down to Melbourne was uneventful apart from a hostess insisting that I dropped the arm rest between the two seats which was defeating the point of paying for 2 seats in the first place.
On my return I checked in at the Jetstar desk where I was issued with 2 boarding passes so I said to the chap I was told this morning that 2 boarding passes could not be issued to one person to which he said he had no knowledge of any rule.
On boarding the air craft I asked the flight attendant for a seat belt extension and she became very patronising and told it was against company rules for a seat belt extension in row 12 an exit row and that I would not be allowed to sit there. I displayed more than a little annoyance pointing out that Jetstar had accepted the booking for 2 seats with extra leg room and that is what I had paid for. At which time the lady asked me in a very pointed fashion If I still wanted to fly with Jetstar today. Realising that I was in danger of being off loaded I refrained but was made to stand at the front of the aircraft in full view of all the other passengers while they called ground staff on audible devices to find 2 other seats side by side. Eventually they moved a very elderly couple probably in their 70s or 80s in to the exit row and the extra leg room seats that I had paid for. At a later time in the flight the gentleman became very confused as to where he had left his hat and was walking up and down the aisle looking for it.
Now I have reviewed the rules for the extra leg room seats and it does say not require a seatbelt extension but it also says not be elderly
• Be at least 15 years or older
• Be able to understand and carry out instructions
• Not be travelling with someone that requires your assistance in an emergency
• Not have any permanent or temporary impairment (e.g. deaf, hearing impaired, blind, vision impaired, any strength or mobility limitation, intellectual impairment or travelling with a service dog)
• Be able to check outside conditions and react to crew commands
• Be able to reach, open, lift and throw out the 15kg (approx 33lbs) exit door in an emergency
• Acknowledge the exit row briefing given by Cabin Crew once onboard the aircraft
• Be willing to assist in the unlikely event of an emergency
• Not be seated with an infant
• Not require the use of an extension seat belt
• Not be elderly
No one had told me at any time that this rule applied and I looked it up on the Internet after the experience but given there is no reason to book 2 seats for one person unless you are Large (FAT ) and whilst I realise now that the flight attendant was quoting an actual rule she exposed me to considerable annoyance and embarrassment and then gave my seats to some other people who also according to the same rules were not eligible to sit in those seats.
The arbitrary application of the rule is also a bit stupid as I on the one hand overweight but I also hold many qualifications which might mean you would want me in that seat in the case of emergency. A seasoned traveller who is qualified in First Aid a scuba diving Instructor and holds a current qualified commercial marine masters and engineers certificate. Add to this for the first 10 years of my working life I was an aircraft engineer in the fleet air arm. Now I ask you who would you prefer in the case of an emergency an overweight but experienced person or an elderly person who can’t find his hat.
The heart of the problem here lies with Jetstar. I can understand that there would be problems with overweight people sitting in one seat as this would pose problems for other passengers and I certainly would not want to sit next to someone else my size. It would not be comfortable for the fat person or the unfortunate person in the next seat. But this is not the issue here as I was willing from the outset to pay for 2 seats. The problem lies with Jetstar themselves and it is painfully obvious that they don’t want fat people on their aircraft. There is no procedure in place for people willing to pay for 2 seats Instead they prefer to make the experience so difficult and upsetting that fat people will only travel with them once. In my case they have succeeded I won’t be flying with them again but would it not be simpler for all concerned to just hang up a sign saying No Fat People