A friend had a rough experience from Honolulu to Auckland, as she describes below:

I was under the impression that they are required to purchase two (economy) seats on flights or is that an old wives(sic) tale? I was subjected to sitting next to a lady on a packed flight from Honolulu to Auckland overnight. I'm not judging her personally for her size but more for it's(sic) affect(sic) on my experience. Her stomach extended right to the seat in front, the armrest couldn't go down between my seat and hers, consequently she was spilling into my seat which only got worse when she fell asleep. I sat all kinked to one side over my partner, missed my second meal as the first had been a farce to try and negotiate, didn't get any sleep and spent 6hrs out of the 9.5hr flight crying (as silently as I could so the lady wasn't aware, hopefully).

The poor flight crew were lovely and apologetic but could do nothing. I would like to know who I can contact to at least give me information on wheather this is just tough bikkies or if this should've been handled differently when that lady came to checking in? I paid a good fare to be on that flight and even though it sounds horrible I think she should have been told she couldn't fly until two seats together were available on a later flight.

I've been looking but can't find anything about a policy on this, if they even have one. Anyone else have better resource knowledge of this area?

  • 3
    I'd suggest your friend make a formal complaint to Air New Zealand, and ask for a partial refund / hefty number of airmiles, then keep escalating it until she gets it
    – Gagravarr
    Oct 21, 2011 at 15:09

3 Answers 3


So far I've only found the conditions of carriage, which sort of, kind of describe this situation:


7.1.3 your conduct, age or mental or physical state including your impairment from alcohol or drugs, is such as to require special assistance, cause discomfort or make yourself objectionable to other passengers or involve any hazard or risk to yourself or to other persons or to property;


11.1 GENERAL If in our opinion you conduct yourself on board the aircraft so as to endanger the aircraft or any person or property on board, or obstruct the crew in the performance of their duties, or fail to comply with any instructions of the crew, including but not limited to those with respect to smoking, alcohol or drug consumption, or behave in a manner which causes or is likely to cause discomfort, inconvenience, damage or injury to other passengers, the crew or any property, including the aircraft, we may take such measures as we deem necessary to prevent continuation of such conduct, including restraint. You may be off-loaded at any point, prosecuted for offences committed on board the aircraft and we may decide to refuse to carry you at any time in the future.

but others may be able to improve on this...

  • 8
    Am I the only one who finds the clause ".. you may be off-loaded at any point.. " a little disturbing? I do hope it's not their official policy to throw out people sans chute in the middle of the flight.. Oct 21, 2011 at 18:08
  • 7
    @mindcorrosive Of course they provide a parachute. That said, it's only rated for 140kg ;)
    – Polynomial
    Jul 13, 2015 at 9:31

Most American airlines have policies requiring people who are "obese," however defined, to buy a second seat, so they don't "unreasonably" infringe on another passenger's rights. That may be because the United States probably has the largest concentration in the world of "obese" people. Not every non-U.S. airline has similar policies, perhaps because it is less of a problem for say, Air New Zealand in the Pacific. The New Zealand airline actually had a "stated" policy similar to those of American airlines, but didn't interpret it as an American airline might.

In general, your "rights" abroad are defined by "local" custom. You had the experience of flying in a part of the world where the airline don't see things the way you (or other Americans) would.


Southwest Airlines in the US is well-known for requiring larger passengers to purchase two seats. There was a reality show focusing on Southwest, and this act was filmed several times. Here's a general article that states that most US airlines have an 'obesity' policy.

  • 2
    Not really Air NZ though...and it's not a US airline.
    – Mark Mayo
    Nov 8, 2011 at 19:05

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