Monday 22 January 2018

Britain could introduce airline ‘fat tax’ after new legal ruling

Oliver Smith

A BRITISH court ruling could pave the way for the introduction of a "fat tax" for obese fliers, a leading barrister has claimed.

The introduction of a “fat tax” has been mooted by Ryanair in the past, following a survey conducted by the airline which suggested around a third of passengers supported it.

A number of carriers already insist that obese customers buy an extra seat if they are unable to comfortably fit into one.

The judgement, made by the Court of Appeal, could also prevent passengers with a disability from seeking compensation from their airline if they receive unsatisfactory or inconsistent treatment during a flight.

Judges decided that key elements of Britain’s disability and discrimination laws do not apply once passengers have boarded an aircraft.

They made the judgement after considering two cases involving wheelchair users who sued their airlines after they were unable to sit next to their carers on board a flight. Both subsequently suffered “embarrassing” incidents.

But both cases were dismissed after the court ruled that the Montreal Convention, a framework of international rules and regulations on air travel, should take precedence over British law.

Daniel Barnett, a barrister at Outer Temple Chambers, says the ruling would give airlines “laissez-faire to disregard seat allocation promises” made prior to boarding, and meant that passengers could not sue airlines for “hurt feelings” or emotional distress.

“The ruling confirms that disabled passengers have no right to dignity once the wheels leave the runway,” said Mr Barnett. “It also means that airlines are immune if they choose to embarrass overweight passengers by demanding a fat tax.”

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