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I have a Cessna 172S and despite having 4 seats in the cabin, I cannot take 3 more passengers besides myself as the pilot with a full tank of fuel due to safety in weight balance issues. As the pilot, I'm 100 lbs overweight. Hypothetically, we can imagine a situation where a small regional carrier using a turboprop can have only one seat left but the length chord from center of gravity for that seat may cause an unsafe weight balance for the aircraft loading if the passenger is very overweight.

In that case, if not other solution can be found, could the airline reject to passenger for the motive of their weight?

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    $\begingroup$ United Airlines has a simple solution. $\endgroup$ – Koyovis Jul 8 '17 at 13:40
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    $\begingroup$ Does a company have to serve everyone? They should be able to refuse to sell without stating a reason. Just like you can refuse to sign a contract with someone. Of course, if you already have a ticket (i.e. already signed a contract) things get difficult … $\endgroup$ – Michael Jul 8 '17 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ @mins: Auto-translate of your link: “The refusal of a consumer to sell a product or to provide a service is prohibited except for a legitimate reason” But what is a legitimate reason? I’ve been refused entrance in more than one club/restaurant for “hygienic reasons” because I was barefoot … is this a legitimate reason? I think you could easily make up a reason if you needed one. The aircraft passenger being obese (and thus likely to endanger other passengers and him/herself) certainly sounds like a legitimate reason though. Sorry for starting a discussion here. $\endgroup$ – Michael Jul 8 '17 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ Even where you were allowed to refuse service "for any reason, or no reason at all", discrimination is still illegal. There is a laundry list of categories which are considered discrimination. The burden of proof is largely on the customer, but companies are caught all the time. $\endgroup$ – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 8 '17 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael: I answered you initial comment which stated no reason had to be provided (I said this would be illegal in some countries), now your second comment is about the improper reasons that are given, I think we are in agreement. For night-clubs in France, they found a bypass: Clubs are private associations, and there is no relationship seller-customer, so this article doesn't apply. Still as @ Harper mentioned, you may try to fight the refusal on other causes. It's like for employment. Physical characteristics are not allowed for any discrimination at exactly the same level than religion. $\endgroup$ – mins Jul 8 '17 at 22:08
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Yes. If carriage of said person on a particular flight would cause the aircraft to be overloaded or outside of its CG envelope, the airline has full right to refuse them passage for safety reasons. It would be illegal under Part 121 and Part 135 to do otherwise.

Practically speaking though, most large commercial aircraft have such great payloads that this would not happen on a frequent basis. Now the airlines may charge said person for an additional seat costs because of their size and girth.

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    $\begingroup$ Can they refuse the NEXT passenger, or are they expected to do something like hold a lottery, as United allegedly did? Who gets cut, the person who was last through the jetway, or the one who was issued a boarding pass last? Policies? $\endgroup$ – mongo Jul 9 '17 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ @mongo each airline will have a policy, usually either a lottery like UA did, or first come first serve principle so the last people to either buy tickets or check in get refused. Either method ensures the operator can't be sued for discrimination because the passenger refused was black, a woman, or whatever "protected group". $\endgroup$ – jwenting Jul 10 '17 at 9:05
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Airlines have rejected passengers for their size, perhaps more than their weight, specifically for being unable to fit into a passenger seat.

There appears to be some debate as to whether this practice is legal. "Customer of Size" is a politically correct industry term.

For example, the written policy at United Airlines requires a passenger to purchase an additional seat, if the armrests cannot be put down and stay down, regardless of whether a family member is seated adjacently. US Air's policy was to attempt to accommodate a customer of size, when there is additional seating on the plane.

Should this be a potential issue, travelers should contact the airline in question, as policies may change without publication.

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    $\begingroup$ Well it is a bit of a practical problem isn't it. I'm sure United Airlines has a solution... $\endgroup$ – Koyovis Jul 9 '17 at 4:09
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When the aircraft is going to be overweight, then yes, the airline can only take what weight the performance numbers will support. That's somewhat uncommon, but it can defintely happen when takeoff performance is limited (hot day, short runway, full airplane, etc) or when the landing weight will be at the maximum allowed landing weight (full airplane + significant fuel load required at landing due to requirements for an alternate airport, for instance). (More on this topic and how the numbers work in this answer.)

As far as a passenger being overweight, that's less likely to be an issue, simply because most airlines (in the US, certainly -- this may apply less in other countries) use an average weight multiplied by the number of passengers, rather than weighing each passenger individually. While the difference between four ballerinas and four linebackers in a C-172 is very significant, that same difference among 100+ passengers on a commercial airliner just evens out over everybody else onboard. So there isn't really a case where the airline would say, we can't take this passenger (weighing 300#) but we can take that passenger (weighing 100#), because we only have 250# of weight left. Either you can take one more passenger, or you can't. Doesn't matter what he/she weighs.

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  • $\begingroup$ Do you have any sources for the average weight numbers? Several years ago, I've seen a claim saying that the average weights were calculated in 1930s and 1940s and are therefore not completely representative of modern values, but I'm not sure how reliable the claim is. $\endgroup$ – AndrejaKo Jul 8 '17 at 20:01
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    $\begingroup$ @AndrejaKo: Passenger weight survey by EASA/NEA in 2008-2009: Survey on standard weights of passengers and baggage from this question. $\endgroup$ – mins Jul 9 '17 at 4:28
  • $\begingroup$ He didn't ask about the overall weight, he asked about a balance problem. $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Jul 9 '17 at 5:11
  • $\begingroup$ @WGroleau The answer works the same regarding balance -- either the airline can put "a passenger" in this seat, or they can't. Not weighing passengers, there is no option where you could put "a light passenger" in the seat but not a heavy one. For weight & for balance both, every passenger is considered as weighing the average -- since unless it's a particular type of charter, actual weights are unknown anyway (at least for major U.S. airlines). $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Jul 9 '17 at 5:25
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    $\begingroup$ "..that same difference among 100+ passengers on a commercial airliner just evens out over everybody else onboard." Unless you have extreme cases like this. I hope in such cases there is someone that can do the math correctly before allowing the take off! :-) $\endgroup$ – Lorenzo Donati supports Monica Jul 9 '17 at 8:25
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At least from what I've seen, most airlines will board the passenger.

If they have concerns about weight and balance, they'll typically deal with that by rearranging luggage or (if necessary) leaving some behind to be carried on a different flight.

When I lived in Colorado Springs CO (runway at 6187 feet elevation), this was fairly common if you were taking off on a hot afternoon. In one case I recall, they even removed most of the carry on luggage from the aircraft--but they still took nearly all the passengers. At least to the best of my recollection, the only passengers who were left behind were those who refused to part with their carry-on items.

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http://www.aviationqueen.com/?p=2585

Vilma Soltesz [...] three airlines — Delta, Lufthansa and KLM — refused to let her board on flights from her vacation home in Hungary to her permanent home in New York City, allegedly because she was deemed too overweight (at 452 lbs.) to fly.

Mind you she was so overweight they had physical problems boarding her. It was not like the gate agent said "you are overweight, we won't carry you" but still.

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    $\begingroup$ The phrase "allegedly ... deemed 'too overweight to fly'" sounds to me like a journalist's over-simplification. At that sort of weight, there could be any number of other issues that come up, such as safely securing the passenger in a seat in a manner that complies with the regulations. If you need more space than any seat or row of seats can provide, then the choice is to do something unsafe & let the person fly, or re-engineer a seat/row in order to accommodate 1 individual, or else deny boarding. That not one but all 3 of these airlines said "no" is, IMHO, pretty telling. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Jul 9 '17 at 23:38
  • $\begingroup$ Could she walk? $\endgroup$ – Koyovis Jul 11 '17 at 9:13
  • $\begingroup$ Nope, she was wheelchair bound and one of the problems were that the plastic wheelchairs at one of the airports have failed under her weight. $\endgroup$ – chx Jul 11 '17 at 15:49
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Since your question was more concerned with balance (weight distribution) than total weight, the point about safety still applies. However, if it were actually an issue, I suspect they could reassign seats to put the big guy closer to the middle.

I recently heard a pilot announce that we would be a little late because they had to move some luggage around for better balance.

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    $\begingroup$ I shouldn't have packed that anvil! $\endgroup$ – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 9 '17 at 22:13
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, YOU'RE responsible for the destruction of my bicycle! Where do I send the repair bill? $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Jul 10 '17 at 0:21
  • $\begingroup$ They move luggage around mid-flight? Do the cabin crew do it or does a machine somehow move them around? $\endgroup$ – Mehrdad Jul 10 '17 at 9:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Mehrdad They bank the plane sideways +/- 30° a few times to shuffle it just about right... $\endgroup$ – Stian Yttervik Jul 10 '17 at 12:06
  • $\begingroup$ Obviously they did it before taking off. If they did it mid-flight, it wouldn't have made us late. $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Jul 10 '17 at 15:05
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In the U. S., ANY business has a right to refuse ANY consumer for ANY reason (with certain exceptions). However, due to business reasons, an airline will force you to purchase another seat. In the case of a small airline, they could put you on another flight. Discrimination against consumers by businesses is permitted by law in the U. S., albeit, it's not wise for business. The exception is disabled persons with service animals. And they must meet certain criteria before service is refused to them.

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    $\begingroup$ Your first sentence appears to not reflect the number of bakers, clergy and caterers who, for example, refuse to handle gay marriages, and then get sued, loose state licenses, etc. $\endgroup$ – mongo Jul 9 '17 at 18:49
  • $\begingroup$ It ignores those numbers, simply because it was wrong for those suits to have been won by the gay couples. Those businesses are private entities. Exactly where in the bill of rights of the Constitution of the U.S. does it explicitly state that gays have a right to sue because a private business owner exercises his/her religious rights as well as right to refuse service (as given by federal law) to a gay. Had the business owners gone to the supreme court, I am positive the business owners would have been ruled in favor. $\endgroup$ – PiGuy88 Jul 9 '17 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ I would also like to add, that the aviation industry is a whole different ball game than baking a gay cake. In aviation, if you name it, the Federal Aviation Regulations nearly allows it all...a Pilot can kick you off a plane for nearly ANY reason. Even if you smell bad. Remember the asian doctor who got his butt kicked by airport police? Well, there are about 5-10 different laws that man broke enacted by the FAA $\endgroup$ – PiGuy88 Jul 9 '17 at 21:45
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    $\begingroup$ @PiGuy88 it sounds like you are stating a political positon, that's not the format on SE. Discrimination most certainly is illegal in all the usual categories, those being the exceptions to "any or no reason". Ironically, the one thing you recognized as illegal discrimination, isn't. ADA is about access and is not punitive. However several states add "disability" to the discrimination list, and ADA compliance is their litmus test. $\endgroup$ – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 9 '17 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ @harper, negative, I am not stating a political position. I know all about the ADA. A business under no circumstances can refuse service to a disabled person with a service animal for any reason unless certain criteria are met. rarely does this meeting happen. My comment to mongo was a position of morality based on the constitution. Not my political stance on the matter. In terms of federal laws, a business can refuse service for ANY reason to ANYONE with exception for their color, race, religion, nationality, or disability. Places of worship are generally exempt from those all the way. $\endgroup$ – PiGuy88 Jul 9 '17 at 23:05

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