Sky High Price for Obese Airline Customers

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Overweight passengers hoping to travel on United Airlines may have to buy two tickets to fly the friendly skies.

The airline says it made the move in response to complaints from other passengers about being cramped.

United Airlines is the fifth major airline to adopt the policy of charging passengers extra if they can't fit into one seat.

Airline seats range in width from 16 to 21 inches. But for extra heavy passengers who cannot sit in the seat properly, and in some cases with both arm rests down, the airline will now require that they buy a second coach seat or pay for upgrading to business or first class.

United says the policy will be enforced only in the event that the passenger can't be relocated next to an empty seat.

If the flight is full the passenger will have to change their ticket to the next available flight and purchase a second seat for that flight.

Heavy fliers are a growing problem for U.S. airlines. The number of obese Americans has reached 34 percent and with fuel costs an increasing threat to the airline industry, airlines have looked for ways to discourage or eliminate excess weight on their aircraft.

Some have added extra charges for baggage while some have switched to lighter beverage carts.

Meanwhile, some say the airlines have gone too far arguing that the policy discriminates against people because of their weight.

The new rule at United applies to tickets purchased on or after March 4.

The other airlines that charge more for weight include Continental, Jet Blue, and Southwest.

*Originally aired April 17, 2009

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