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Q&A: Flier squeezed by a seatmate of size

When she flew from San Jose to Salt Lake City on one of Delta Air Lines’ regional jets recently, Jeanne Porter of Grafton, Ohio, said she ended up sitting “partially sideways for the complete flight” because her seatmate had raised the armrest and was taking up more than one seat.

Porter said that she didn’t complain during the approximately two-hour flight because “I knew if I complained I’d have a problem with my flight itinerary with the connecting flight.” But she’s still feeling squeezed and now wants to know: “How can the flight crew allow this to happen? They gave [my seatmate] a [seat belt] extension to use knowing that the person in the seat next to her would be uncomfortable.”

Overhead Bin shared Porter's experience with Delta Air Lines spokesperson Morgan Durrant, who noted that Porter didn’t say anything to the flight crew at the time. “If she had said something, it would have compelled the flight attendant to contact the gate agent — if the cabin door was still open — to address the situation with the customer of size,” he said.

He added that if a flight is not full, “either passenger may move to another available seat” and that “in the event of a full flight, the customer of size can be removed from the flight and rebooked,” with no extra fees. 

While many airlines — including Southwest, United and American — post customer of size of policies on their websites, Delta does not, preferring instead to deal with passengers and situations on a case by case basis.

But on Delta and any other airline, the advice to passengers of all sizes is the same: Check online or call ahead if you’re unsure of the passenger of size policy. And if you feel like you’re getting the squeeze when you’re asked to buckle up, don’t just sit there: Speak up.

Have a travel-related pet peeve or question you’d like answered? Overhead Bin will track it down. Send us your question.

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Find more by Harriet Baskas on Stuck at The Airport.com and follow her on Twitter.