An announcement by Thai Airways that oversize passengers and parents travelling with newborns could be banned from business class has sparked outrage from both passengers and the Thai public. Prominent Thai activist Srisuwan Janya has this week threatened to take the national carrier to court over the matter, calling the new policy “unconstitutional” and “discriminatory.”
But according to Thai Airways’ director of security and flight standards, Flight Lieutenant Prathana Patthanasiri, the policy is “due to safety regulations” on the airline’s new Boeing 787-9 planes.
The seat design in business class on the “Dreamliner” planes, it seems, can’t fit anyone with a waist larger than 56 inches (142 centimetres). This is because the seat belts would interfere with the placement of the airbag and pose a threat during emergencies, if extended any further, according to the Bangkok Post.
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Unfortunately, travellers flying with Thai Airways who don't fit the restrictions will have no choice but to choose Economy class. The two Dreamliner aircrafts operate on Bangkok to Auckland and Tapei routes.
Thai Airways isn't the first airline to grapple with how to deal with passengers who don't fit in standard seats. Last year, Jetstar began to charge parents an additional $30 to $50 for babies to sit on their lap on domestic and international flights. But for Thai, the backlash comes at a tricky time, with the airline announcing a 30 percent decline in profits last month. The shortfall, it said, was due to fuel costs and an increase in passenger traffic.
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This article originally appeared on VICE AU.