Obese woman refused flights home, dies, family sues

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Mac'nCheese, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. Mac'nCheese macrumors 68030

    Mac'nCheese

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    #1
    http://www.nbcnews.com/travel/obese-flier-turned-away-airlines-dies-overseas-1C7277987

    "An ailing, 425-pound woman who was turned away by three airlines as she tried to return to the U.S. from Europe has died overseas, prompting legal action from her family."

    Some of the reasons this woman was denied a seat home by various airlines were: seat back was broken, seat belt extender would not have helped and the plastic wheelchair used to transport her to airplane would not have supported her weight. For some reason, she was able to purchase two seats on her flight out of the USA but couldn't do the same for the return. She had one seat originally for the return but couldn't be secured properly. Can't get off the fence on this one. Personal responsibility or major screw up by a business that should be able to handle this???
     
  2. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2003
    Location:
    the faraway towns
    #2
    Well, if KLM was able to get her to Hungary, they should be able to return her to the United States. We can talk about personal responsibility, but the woman was a double amputee with diabetes and they were able to carry her once. The simple reality is, no one in the airline took responsibility for her problem and overrode the orders of a captain or found a means of getting her aboard.

    At the very least, chart her a flight on a cargo carrier.
     
  3. 184550, Nov 27, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2012

    184550 Guest

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    #3
    I think that it's the responsibility of the passenger, especially one with a medical condition/ illness, to make sure that they have secured/ confirmed their ability to travel without hinderance and have planned appropriately for possible delays.

    It would seem that if KLM was able to get her to Hungary, it should have been able to get her back from Hungary.

    Why couldn't she have sought the appropriate care in Hungary? Or anywhere else in Europe for the matter? If my medical condition was such that I could not be treated by other physicians, then I would not travel anywhere to begin with. I would think some of the blame would be with her doctors for clearing her to fly/ travel in the first place.
     
  4. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2003
    Location:
    the faraway towns
    #4
    I can't tell from the stories, but I'm wondering if her medical conditions worsened during the trip?

    Yeah, I thought that was strange too. You think she could have been treated in Prague or Budapest, or was it simply a consequence of the travel? I'm not sure.
     
  5. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #5
    Or even Vienna by train.
     
  6. citizenzen macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2010
    #6
    Essentially this.

    However, in medical emergencies accommodations should be made above and beyond anything secured by the passenger.

    But I didn't read the OP's linked article. So I'm not aware of how much the airlines knew of her medical condition.
     
  7. mrkramer macrumors 603

    mrkramer

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2006
    Location:
    Somewhere
    #7
    I couldn't tell from the article if she had bought two seats for the way back, but since she did for going over there I'd assume she would be willing to pay for two seats to go back, in which case this could be the airline's fault.

    However it also doesn't make it clear what state her health was in before going, if it was poor then she shouldn't have been traveling to begin with. And if it got worse while she was over there I don't see why she didn't just get medical help there.
     
  8. citizenzen macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2010
    #8
    I'm wondering about that as well.

    The article doesn't do a good job of describing what she was suffering from, or why she didn't seek treatment overseas.

    I'm leaning against saying it's the airlines fault.
     
  9. likemyorbs macrumors 68000

    likemyorbs

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2008
    Location:
    NJ
    #9
    This is from another article...
    Basically, xenophobia killed this woman.

    LINK

    If you're an obese, diabetic double amputee and the only doctors you trust with your life are in the US, it's probably not the best idea to travel abroad...

    BOTTOM LINE: HER FAULT.
     
  10. splitpea macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2009
    Location:
    Among the starlings
    #10
    Well, if the airline couldn't buckle her in safely, they'd probably open themselves up to a boatload of liability. There's probably also additional liability if her condition worsens during the flight - they can't treat her on board a transatlantic flight, nor rush her to a hospital. Plus flying can be dangerous for some medical conditions, and how was the airline to be certain whether this was one of them?

    Not saying what they did was necessarily moral or ethical, but on the flip side, I can understand why the people on the front lines wouldn't have the authority to override those policies and why the airline would enforce them strictly.

    Plus what likemyorbs said about xenophobia.
     
  11. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2002
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    #11
    It looks like the whole thing started because the seat(s) she had booked for the return flight were damaged (faulty seat backs) and her size made securing alternate means of transportation on short notice extremely difficult. Delta in Prague had seats available but did not have a wheel chair sturdy enough to get her to the plane. Lufthansa in Turkey got her on the plane but seemingly did not have a seatbelt large enough to secure her. Just going by this info I don't think any of the airlines were negligent.

    And it's not like this was a short hop between SF and LA where there are a bunch of undersold flights a day going between the two cities. Airlines aren't in the habit of underselling transoceanic flights so if something happens to your original plans it can easily be days before you are placed on another flight (and that's for people that don't require special treatment). If traveling is very difficult for you, like it was for this woman, that's all the more reason to have contingency plans in place in case something goes wrong.
     
  12. likemyorbs macrumors 68000

    likemyorbs

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2008
    Location:
    NJ
    #12
    Actually my xenophobia claim can be put into question. Judging by the couples' names, it seems that they are Hungarian immigrants to the US. It's surprising they wouldn't trust doctors in their home country. Then again my parents are Ukrainian immigrants, and I've been to Ukraine and certainly wouldn't trust the doctors there.
     
  13. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #13
    If she didn't trust health care in Hungary, but was willing to drive to Prague to catch a flight, couldn't they have instead driven to Vienna which is about 2 hours closer to Budapest then Prague? I would imagine that doctors in Austria are at least as good as her doctors in the US. Hell, I bet the health care in Prague is pretty good too.

    And then what happens if the plane crashes? Who's responsible for helping her evacuate? What if she gets stuck in the aisle and blocks emergency exits? In the event of an emergency, would you want to be sitting near her?
     
  14. angelneo macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2004
    Location:
    afk
    #14
    Seems like the airlines are stuck between a rock and a very hard place. Bringing her onboard open them up a host of liabilities if they cannot guarantee the safety, and they ended up being sued for not carrying her home. I feel that she should at least get some emergency care if she is in a dire condition. At least it's better than dying.
     
  15. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2008
    Location:
    On tenterhooks
    #15
    Once they got her there I feel that they were on the hook to get her back.

    I doubt she ballooned during her stay.

    If they needed a special medical jet to get her home, they should have sprung for one.

    JMO.
     
  16. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2003
    Location:
    the faraway towns
    #16
    Good catch. That's unfortunate and very strange considering that doctors in Hungary certainly should be able to stabilize her. I'd still argue that the airline could have found a way to get her home, though I wouldn't expect the average employee to have the necessary authority.

    Sick and moribund people fly quite often—in reality, during a crash event, panicky people are far more problematic than someone that's just in the way.

    I agree with your point about negligence and maybe this was a weird set of circumstances, but considering that wear and tear on the KLM flight was the problem, one would think the airline could find some other way of getting her either on-board or on another seat, even if that was to bump someone.

    What kind of contingency? She apparently couldn't get on another flight, so unless she chartered her own aircraft or sailed the high seas, her contingency was to remain in Hungary.
     
  17. CorvusCamenarum macrumors 65816

    CorvusCamenarum

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2004
    Location:
    Birmingham, AL
    #17
    What we're not told is what actually caused her death. Instead we're given this cryptic passage:

    The next paragraph wants us to believe that not being able to see her [US based] doctor is what killed her. This is implausible. As others have already asked, are there no doctors in Hungary?

    If she had time to go on TV, she had time to go a hospital.
     
  18. 725032 Guest

    725032

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2012
    #18
    Imagine how horrible it must have been for her being asked to leave one flight as the seats were broken and couldnt support her weight, then 'sorry, you'd break the wheel chair'. Followed by being asked to leave another plane as they didnt have a belt big enough.

    I wonder if she knew she would die there and didnt really try and fight it. Perhaps welcoming the end to her pain and suffering?
     
  19. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2002
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    #19
    Why should other people get bumped because her seat malfunctioned? If she's in dire need of medical attention she should go to a hospital, not get on a 10hr flight across the globe.

    What kind of contingency? Before you leave on your trip ask yourself, "If I can't make the scheduled flight back what do I do?" and look at all other flights that leave after yours that day. Then call those airlines and see if they have wheel chairs that can get you down the jetway and seatbelt extenders on board that will allow you to be safely secured. Besides that, if your health is poor and it makes traveling difficult, how can you not have a plan in place in case of medical emergency? Hell, there are medical travel insurance companies that will perform a medical evacuation from just about anywhere in the world if need be. Those are the types of contingency plans I'm talking about. Assume the airline will lose your luggage and with it your medications and plan accordingly. Assume your passport will be stolen and plan accordingly. Assume your travel plans will be disrupted and plan accordingly.

    Maybe it's just me, but anytime I fly I always take into consideration a delay or cancelation and plan accordingly. I try to take flights in the morning or afternoon so there will be other flights later in the day I can catch if my original flight falls through. I keep those schedules and airline hotline numbers handy so if something does happen I'm already booking another flight while everyone else is going "Gee, I wonder what I should do now." Heck, one time a plane I was on taxied to the runway before mechanical problems forced it to taxi back and before we got back to the terminal I had a seat on another flight later that afternoon.

    Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
     
  20. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2003
    Location:
    the faraway towns
    #20
    Kidney failure, but I can't say if that was a consequence of her diabetes or something else.

    Yeah, I don't really understand why the couple didn't just go to a hospital. They're not in Sudan, they're in the middle of a first-world country.

    Photos show her belly was pretty pronounced (at 450 pounds, I'm not surprised), but I don't think she went on a talk show. Instead, I think the passage is referring to some other video. It's poorly written.
     
  21. throAU macrumors 601

    throAU

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2012
    Location:
    Perth, Western Australia
    #21
    Yeah, i'm sure having a 425lb unsecured load being thrown about the cabin in an emergency would be awesome.
     
  22. CorvusCamenarum macrumors 65816

    CorvusCamenarum

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2004
    Location:
    Birmingham, AL
    #22
    If her health was that poor, and access to her primary doctor was of such paramount import, maybe she shouldn't have been flying for a month-long holiday in the first place. Just sayin'.

    Fair enough, I found the link in the article, and it looks as though they're interviewing her at the airport. Couldn't understand it, though, Google translate did a horrible job on the text and the video is in Hungarian.
     
  23. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2003
    Location:
    the faraway towns
    #23
    Keep in mind that it took a week for this situation to develop. She tried to fly on Oct. 16 and was refused another flight on Oct. 22. So, what would have been tenable on Oct. 16 was a full-blown medical problem a week later.

    As for bumping someone else, the airline could have paid someone to give up their seat voluntarily. I've done it myself because of a similar situation (pregnant lady with a kid, busted seat) and the airline paid for my hotel, food, etc.

    In the case of equipment like wheelchairs and seatbelt extenders, I agree with you, but I can't say that the couple didn't try to make those arrangements. Based on the stories, it appears that they thought they could fly, but the aircraft or terminal lacked the equipment. They may have thought they could fly each time and couldn't once they were on the aircraft.

    Fair points all. I hadn't considered medical evacuation insurance and the ability to get a special flight.

    I agree, but the couple's circumstances are pretty narrow. They couldn't just hop onto another flight or do a bounce-skip through an entirely different city or switch airlines in a terminal.

    I agree to a point. Keep in mind, they were stuck moving between airports for a week, which might have stressed her. Had they followed their plan, she might have been fine, or more likely, died in New York. But, the couple obviously, as LW pointed out above, failed to plan for problems.

    I'm not defending them, rather I'm critical of the airlines' failure to get two people on an airplane.

    Yeah, I don't really understand the timeline. They went to Hungary for a month, where they returning because she was sick, or did she get sick while they waited for the flight home, why didn't they get care in Hungary, etc.

    This is a teachable moment, medical evacuation insurance is pretty cheap and it could have gotten this lady home.
     
  24. iStudentUK, Nov 28, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2012

    iStudentUK macrumors 65816

    iStudentUK

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2009
    Location:
    London
    #24
    It's Hungary - it's a developed first world country! I was there on holiday last year, granted I'd rather go to an English, French hospital etc but it's not like a third world country! Plus like others have said its not a massive country and Czech Republic, Austria, Germany are all just a couple of hours from there by train. The article even says they drove to Prague looking for another flight! Her own stupidity certainly helped kill her.
     
  25. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2002
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    #25
    Maybe the airline made the offer and no one accepted?

    I agree that the couple's circumstances were pretty narrow (transoceanic flight, special needs flyer, dubious medical condition, etc.,) which is all the more reason to have backup plans.

    These two aren't any more or less important than any of the other thousands of daily passengers trying to fly between the U.S. and Europe. A malfunctioning seat was bad luck that could happen to anyone but her morbid obesity compounded the problem astronomically. If she can't safely buckle up she shouldn't be allowed to fly (especially a 10hr flight where there is bound to be some turbulence) and if she's too big for the airport's wheel chairs and therefore can't even board the plane...

    I feel like the airlines' efforts would've been sufficient to get 99.99% of the people on the planet on a plane to their desired destination so it's hard for me to think they didn't do enough.
     

Share This Page