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Quick Hits: Obese Passengers Get Free Ride

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Brief scrutiny of today's headlines.

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If you're more than a little thick between the pockets, the Canadian Supreme Court says you're entitled to two airline seats for the price of one.

Other travelers will just have to pick up the bill.

Air Canada and WestJet, Canada's two largest airlines, must give morbidly obese passengers an extra seat at no charge on domestic flights starting in January. The ruling also covers disabled travelers.

Possible trouble ahead: How do airlines decide when obesity is a disability?

The Canadian Transportation Agency suggests the new rule should kick in when a passenger is too fat to lower the armrest. In the US, some airlines have already adopted this practice. But is the standard too fat without a coat or security blanket or does it include bulky clothing?

The decision will cost Air Canada an estimated $7.1 million a year and cost WestJet an extra $1.5 million – and that's more money out of the pockets of passengers who manage to squeeze into a single seat.

The ruling raises basic questions. Few would argue that airlines should accommodate passengers with disabilities, but most morbidly obese people are fat simply because they eat too much and exercise too little. Why should everyone else pay for their gluttony and sloth?

And why stop at obesity? Surely those with a morbid fear of flying must be accommodated, especially if they have to be in a distant city tomorrow. Perhaps a taxi and police escort with lights and sirens are in order.

You can bet that the court's decision will be twisted to cover situations the justices never intended to be covered. It's not difficult to imagine a passenger with a history of blood clots demanding a first class seat at the price of coach price so he can stretch out and avoid a life-threatening deep vein thrombosis.

Forget about personal responsibility because that's an increasingly hard argument to make in view of the bailouts of the financial sector and the pending bailout of the auto industry – just dig deeper into your pocket and pay up for what others see as a good cause.
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