Aer Lingus keeps eye on bigger seats for larger passengers
EXTRA large seats for extra large passengers could be on the cards for Aer Lingus, the Sunday Independent has learned.
The airline says it is keeping "under review" the possible introduction of wider seating as a number of international airlines take account of rising obesity levels.
But low-cost airline Ryanair all but ruled out installing extra large seats on its aircraft, only saying it would not "engage in speculation" when asked to comment.
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus is offering airlines the option of installing extra-wide seats on A320 jets to cope with what it describes as "trends in demographics".
They will be installed as aisle seats to accommodate larger passengers who have difficulty squeezing into standard seats
The A320 is the backbone of the Aer Lingus short-haul fleet and operates between Ireland and European destinations.
The larger seats will be 20 inches across -- instead of 18, which has been the standard width, but passengers will have to pay for the extra space.
An Aer Lingus spokeswoman told the Sunday Independent: "We'll be watching innovation that comes on stream in terms of new seating options that arrive on the market," she said.
"We will also gauge the level of demand. We review matters such as this on a case by case basis.
"We have no current plans to introduce larger seats -- but as with all product innovation we will watch developments and keep matters under review."
Ireland is second only to Britain when it comes to European obesity levels, according to the UN Food and Agriculture league table.
It is estimated that about 60 per cent of adults, and about 20 per cent of children and teens in this country, are either overweight or obese.
Window and middle seats will each lose an inch of width to generate the extra space under the new design. Airbus is selling the idea as an innovative way to 'meet passenger needs', even though two-thirds of passengers would have to make do with less space.
Some airline analysts have suggested imposing a 'fat tax' on passengers above a certain weight.
Samoa Air recently became the world's first airline to institute a 'pay-by-weight' system, where the weight of a passenger and their luggage determines fare price.
Chief executive Chris Langton said this was the "fairest" way to charge travellers in light of the growing obesity crisis -- an acute problem in Samoa's Pacific region.
Another carrier, Southwest Airlines, under its 'Customers of Size' guidelines, requires passengers who do not fit between the standard airline armrests to purchase another seat.