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Canada: One Person, One Airline Fare

The good news? Canada has passed a law declaring "One Person, One Fare" for airlines. That means no more "maybe two seats maybe not!" hopscotch for Canadian domestic airlines. Awesome!

The bad news? They consider "severely" fat people to be disabled and thus covered, but people who are "not disabled as a result of their obesity" are not. Not exactly sure how that's determined - but neither is the Canadian Transportation Agency, so they're leaving it up to the airlines.

For persons disabled by obesity, the Agency cites the practical experience of Southwest Airlines, which screens for entitlement to an additional seat by determining whether a person can lower the seat's armrests.

Not being able to put an armrest down doesn't equal a disability. A common criteria will be determined, per the Agency.

So this is kind of a half-win. Thankfully, the ever-eloquent peggynature tackles the subject well:

...I am not a scholar of disability by any means, so be please feel free to enlighten me, but I think body size (height, weight, shape, etc.) deserves its own category, because while it often intersects with disability in a society that refuses to recognize physical diversity, its main function in our culture seems to be as a class identifier.


In any case, halfway is better than.. uh... none-way. It's great to see progress being made in this area for sure, and big kudos to the CTA for making progress. A step in the right direction for sure! [Thanks, vidyapriya, Michelle, and Cecily!]

New Anti-Weight Watchers Flyers | Think Tank II: Chicago, February 23rd!

GiniLiz January 10th, 2008 | Link | So this is basically saying

So this is basically saying that those fat people whose fatness does not lead to a functional limitation (inability to sit in one seat) won't receive additional seats? And those for whom the physical structures (the size of the seat) combined with their size do lead to a disability will be accommodated? That seems good to me. Why wouldn't not being able to lower the armrest be a good measure of that particular functional limitation? Am I missing something here?

levye January 11th, 2008 | Link | practical negotiations

I have a couple of reactions. Although I agree that we should have express anti-discrimination laws that include size as a category, I have no problem with this negotiation. It does seem to me that Canada is simply trying to set down the rules of when an airline should provide the passenger with two seats. It seems to me that they are using the category, "disability" in a social sense -- in the sense in which I am disabled because my environment (the small seats) make me disabled. I embrace the category in this sense and recognize that all sorts of bodily conditions can become disability in our mass produced and difference-phobic society.

On a somewhat separate note, people might be interested to note that the United States government is becoming aware of such arguments. Last Spring, I was treated terribly by an airline employee when I asked to sit in the exit row. Although they had seated me in the exit row on the trip over, the man at the counter offered the very inarticulate explanation: "How can I expect to sit in the exit row with the size thing." He said a few other things like this, all that suggested that he was engaging in what I would call fat discrimination. When I wrote some government bureaucracy (I wish I could remember offhand which one), they wrote back saying quite directly that "fat discrimination" was not recognized. In essence, they said that although I was treated terribly, I couldn't be discriminated against because "fat" (or size) is not recognized as a protected class.

Relatedly (and finally), I simply want to note that, although most car rental services will allow me to rent an infant or child seat, they do not offer seatbelt extenders. When I wrote one rental company about this years ago, they said that it would open them up to liability. Sigh. All of this indicates to me that we do need to have a social movement because corporations will only step in and accomodate if they are forced to and pappa, that is the government, is not going to force them unless fat people and their allies begin to demand it.

MichMurphy January 11th, 2008 | Link | I'm actually a little

I'm actually a little confused by the wording, too, GiniLiz. I can't tell if they mean "two seats for fat people who are otherwise disabled (ie experience comorbidities popularly attributed to "obesity") AND cannot fit into just one seat with the armrests down" or "two seats for any fat person who can't fit into just one seat with the armrests down, rendering them effectively disabled."

I want to believe it's the latter, and in that case, I would agree with the "disability" label, because the disability is externally imposed by an inaccessible environment. But I can't trust with impunity that that is what they intend with this policy. It's almost too good to be believed.

BabySeal January 12th, 2008 | Link | Count me among those who are

Count me among those who are confused by the wording. The idea is very good, but there needs to be more clarity in expressing the detail of this policy.
As MichMurphy said, it's almost too good to believe, but I'll keep hoping.

Charlottery January 17th, 2008 | Link | I love Canada. That is all.

I love Canada. That is all.

richie79's picture
January 18th, 2008 | Link | Don't love them too much

Don't love them too much Charlottery. I don't live there but from what I can gather the Canadian government's line on obesity is every bit as interventionist as those taken by the respective regimes in the US, UK, Asutralia, NZ etc. This recent Canadian government paper highlights the extent to which they've fully bought into the 'obesity epidemic' theory and like everyone else are desperately scrabbling round trying to appear 'tough' on the causes. And I remain to be convinced that obtaining fat equality on the back of the disability rights movement (who are as far as I can see dealing with a different, though not unrelated, set of obstacles) constitutes a 'win', though as others have pointed out the article is not exactly clear on who the new law applies to and in what circumstances.

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