Too Fat to Fly

A French family traveled to the United States for their son’s medical treatment, yet when they were ready to return home, British Airways determined their son was too fat to fly.

british airways

Kevin Chenais, 22, was diagnosed with a hormone disorder that caused him to gain weight rapidly, tipping the scales at 500 pounds. He spent a year and a half at the Mayo Clinic for treatment.

British Airways representative Caroline Titmuss said, “We will always try to accommodate someone if it’s possible and safe to do so. Unfortunately, it is not possible to safely accommodate the customer on any of our aircraft and the family has been offered a full refund.”

The family was stranded in Chicago for a week, staying in a hotel.

Chenais’s mother, Christina, stated, “We blame British Airways because now they just leave us, and they brought us here. If they could bring him here with that problem in economy, there was a way to take him back by economy but just get him back home for his medical treatments to continue.”

Kevin Chenais requires round-the-clock oxygen and medical attention, yet even with those obstacles the family decided their only option was to take a train to New York and cross the Atlantic Ocean on the Queen Mary.


A spokeswoman for the French consulate told AFP it “attempted a mediation with British Airways, but the position of the airline is firm on the security issue.”

It has provided the family with the names of two lawyers who may be able to help.

Does this strengthen or weaken your perception of British Airways? Why? Would this affect your airline choice when flying?

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5 Responses to Too Fat to Fly

  1. Marcela Palefsky says:

    I disagree with the way British Airways acted in regards to the boy and his family. On one hand, the family is very aware that their son has a unique health condition that causes him to be extremely overweight. I am certain they have run into many other problems due to his condition. I think if British Airways had relayed their policy and security concerns to the family before flying them to the United States, this would not have turned into a big issue. The reason this has harmed their reputation is their inconsistency. As the family stated, British Airways flew their son to the U.S. without bringing up security concerns so there should not be any on the way back. Because they failed to remain consistent on both flights, they have harmed the brand’s reputation and have brought up questions about their safety policies. If this was such a large safety concern on the way back, so much so that they left a family stranded, why wasn’t it one on the way there? And, if it was, did they fail to address it, putting all the people on the flight to the U.S. in danger? These are the types of questions that rise in this situation. I think this might affect travelers’ decisions when considering which airline to fly for these very reasons.

  2. Marlee Bever says:

    I can’t believe they wouldn’t allow him on the airplane because he was overweight. This definitely changes my perception of British Airways. Although it was not the company as a whole that made this statement, it still places the company in a bad light. I have never been put in a situation where I would need to fly British Airways, however, I do not think I would chose to fly with them in the future.

  3. Mackenzie Keller says:

    I think that the general public would see this case as an isolated incident, perceived to the public as something that wouldn’t alter your opinion of the airline. For example, I think it is common knowledge for someone too large to fit in one seat sometimes is forced to buy another seat to fit. But on the other hand, you have to wonder how Japan Airlines manages to seat sumo wrestlers, some as heavy as said person in this article.

    My personal opinion of British Airways doesn’t change because of this incident. Due to their set-in-place safety restrictions, they told them they couldn’t fly and refunded them their money. I think they handled the situation well.

  4. Katlyn Orton says:

    I personally think that this is an unfortunate situation for everyone involved. I completely understand the family’s point of view and how inconvenient this must have been. At the same time, I also understand British Airway’s commitment to safety and simply having to deny the son for security reasons. It is a situation where they had to choose the lesser of two evils. Airlines are known for their dedication to safety and British Airways would probably face scrutiny as well if it let the overweight boy on. Furthermore, I am interested to see if any statements were made by BA? Or if it took any further actions? From a PR perspective, I think that it could have offered the family more than just a refund as well as explained itself more. Overall, I don’t think that this situation makes British Airways a bad company and it wouldn’t stop me from flying it. Finally, I don’t feel that it should be punished for following rules.

  5. Charlotte Das says:

    What I don’t understand is how the airline was able to fly him out if they couldn’t fly him back? That is the only part that weakens my perception of British Airways. If they had a consistent message that stated they weren’t able to take the passenger in the first place due to safety/security issues, then this would have seemed more reasonable. But the fact that they changed their tune on the family’s way back is bad. It shows that they aren’t very customer accommodating and aren’t consistent with their rules and regulations. I think this situation definitely hurts the reputation of BA.

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