Overweight passengers barred from business class

THAI’s new safety measures will affect larger travellers and parents with small children

Thai Airways have introduced airbags for premium passengers, but if your waist is more than 142cm (56in) then you’ll have to sit in the cheap seats because you won’t fit in business class.

Larger passengers will not be able to fasten the new seatbelts, which come equipped with airbags, the airline, which is known as THAI, says.

The devices, fitted on THAI’s new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, will also make it impossible for a small child to sit on a parent’s lap. Parents who wish for their children to sit on their lap will also be unable to fly premium.

Passengers flying THAI between Bangkok and Auckland or Taipei could be affected – Shutterstock
Passengers flying THAI between Bangkok and Auckland or Taipei could be affected – Shutterstock

It is hoped that the airbags will reduce the risk of a passenger’s head hitting the seat in front in the case of a sudden impact. Sensors are used to deploy the airbag up and away from the passenger to provide protection to the head, neck and torso.

The manufacturer, AmSafe, says over 150,000 seatbelt airbags are currently in use on more than 100 airlines.

Flt Lt Prathana Pattanasiri, vice president of THAI’s aviation safety, said the seatbelts meet US Federal Aviation Administration safety standards, according to the Bangkok Post.

In most cases, seatbelt extenders are used to accommodate larger passengers and small children. However, their use reduces the protection provided by the airbag.

THAI routes affected by the measures are between Bangkok and Auckland, and Bangkok and Taipei.

Saree Ongsomwang, secretary-general of the Foundation for Consumers, said the seat belts amount to discriminatory treatment. She said: ”No matter where you sit, regardless whether in cheap or expensive seats, equal safety must be in place.”

THAI are not the first airline to enact restrictions on overweight passengers. Finnair now weigh passengers voluntarily before they board, while the now-defunct Samoa Air introduced a pay-by-weight scheme in 2013.