Obesity can be a disability: air travel ruling

The Canadian Transportation Agency has ruled that some obese people could be considered disabled. The ruling will have an effect on whether some travellers can get a second seat on an airplane for free.

The CTA says any complaint by a person should be decided on an individual basis.

The ruling follows a complaint filed by Calgarian Linda McKay-Panos. McKay-Panos was upset she was charged for one-and-a-half seats in 1997 when she flew with Air Canada.

Air Canada allows obese passengers to purchase a second seat for 50 per cent of the economy fare on flights within North America. It offers the same deal to parents travelling with children under two years old or incapacitated people travelling with a companion.

"This decision recognizes that being obese can impact on a person's activities and their ability to participate in Canadian society," said McKay-Panos.

McKay-Panos has 30 days to send a letter to the agency outlining her case, likely with a doctor's letter or other proof of her problem.

"I think it is excellent because human rights legislation and the whole spirit of it is to look at every person as an individual."

Air Canada officials say they are satisfied with the verdict.

"It actually supports...the position which we've taken that obesity of itself is not a disability," said Air Canada spokesperson Laura Cooke.

"If it had taken the position that obesity is a disability, it would have been very costly to the air carrier community."

Cooke says the airline will abide by any CTA decisions if it rules the person is disabled.