Delta Airlines wins right to appeal ruling in complaint involving obese passengers
'We are talking about fundamental human rights here,' says airline passengers advocate
The Supreme Court of Canada has allowed Delta Airlines to appeal a ruling involving a complaint by a Nova Scotia man alleging the airline discriminates against obese passengers.
The court granted the company's appeal request Thursday.
In 2014, Gabor Lukacs complained to the Canadian Transportation Agency that Delta was in the habit of bumping larger passengers from full flights in the hopes they would buy a second seat.
Lukacs, an airline passenger advocate based in Nova Scotia, filed the complaint after obtaining an email in which a Delta representative responded to a customer concerned about a fellow passenger who needed additional space on the plane.
The transportation agency refused to investigate the complaint because Lukacs is not obese, saying he was not affected by the allegations.
Last September, the Federal Court of Appeal overruled the agency and said it had not followed the Canadian Transportation Act when it dismissed Lukacs's complaint.
"Can you imagine the Canadian Food Inspection Agency turning away a complaint because you are vegetarian?" Lukacs said Thursday.
"I just cannot accept from a legal point of view and a values point of view that someone could be discriminated against because of the shape of their body. That is intolerable. We are not cattle. We are not flying based on our weight.
"We are human beings, and that has to be respected by the airlines."
A statement from Delta said the company is pleased the court has accepted the appeal.
'Fundamental human rights'
The case should provide certainty about this section of transportation law, Lukacs said.
"We are talking about fundamental human rights here."
Bumping obese or disabled passengers is "inhumane," and contradicts Canada's one-person-one-fare policy introduced in 2008, he claims.
The rule requires airlines to cover costs on domestic flights for people with disabilities who are accompanied by an attendant or need additional seating.
"What the airlines are trying to do — Delta in particular — is pitting passengers against passengers instead of just accommodating … passengers who need that, which is what is supposed to happen in Canada," Lukacs said.
He says the Supreme Court's decision to allow Delta to appeal reflects how important this issue is to all Canadians.
With files from the CBC's Angela MacIvor