Thai Airways appears to become a permanent staple for bad news, this time they refused a group of female passengers their Business Class seats to Auckland because their body measurements weren’t compliant with Thai’s regulations and mishandled the situation terribly.

Ground staff at Bangkok Airport even measured the passengers publicly at the boarding gate and then downgraded them to Economy Class on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

While this might sound totally alien to really have occurred, Thai Airways first made headlines about this about two years ago when the Dreamliner first came into service and the companies safety protocol didn’t allow passengers with waist wider than 56 inches in the business class seats due to limitations of the safety belt.

The New Zealand Herald had originally published the article on which several other media had picked up on in the meanwhile.

An Auckland woman and her two daughters were left traumatised after staff from Thai Airways said they were “too big” to sit in business class.

Huhana Iripa, 59, and her daughters Renell, 28, and Tere, 37, were accosted with measuring tapes ahead of their Bangkok to Auckland flight, with crew stating seatbelts in the high-end section of the aircraft would not reach to fit around them.

The daughters has been in Thailand for weight loss surgery and had each paid $2650 for the flights, including the business-class seats for the way back to ensure greater comfort.

Iripa said the experience was “horrific” and feels she and her family have been discriminated against because of their body shapes, which at the time ranged from a size 22-26.

“We were utterly humiliated in front of all the other passengers. We went up to business class check-in and the member of staff on the desk looked at us and said ‘sorry you can’t’.

“The next thing, there were about five members of staff all around talking in their native language, shaking their heads and looking at us as if we’d committed a crime. “A staff member then came forward and started saying ‘no, you’re too big, you’re too big’.

“She then pulled out a measuring tape and wrapped it around my daughter Renell, moving her arms outstretched, before trying to do the same to me and Tere.

“At this point, I broke down in tears. “Everyone was just standing staring at us. The whole thing was disgusting.” The trio were moved to three economy seats. …

After the ordeal, Iripa and her daughters complained and were offered a meeting with two representatives from Thai Airways.

The family asked for a full refund of their business-class seats, but were offered only the difference between the economy and business-class price which amounted to $1250.

The airline apologised and offered $450 in compensation, but Iripa and her daughters believed this wasn’t enough and requested the full balance of the tickets as recompense.

“For their rudeness, their disrespect and the trauma of what they put us through, how could they identify that price as compensation?” she said.

After being contacted by the Herald, Flight Centre – the travel agency the family had booked through – offered a full refund of their tickets.

This entire situation sounds like something out of the twilight zone. For one, if a passenger isn’t suitable for a flight based on a specific reason that is apparent at check-in then this needs to be clarified at the check-in desk and not at the boarding gate.

I’m not getting the calculation of Refund + Compensation in the article. Would that be NZ$1250 refund plus NZ$450 compensation ($1700 total refund for a $2650 ticket)? If so the leftover for the entire round trip in Economy Class would be NZ$950 which isn’t bad at all. Except for the humiliation aspect as described here.

From the article I get however that their travel agent Flight Centre refunded them in full and possibly took the discrepancy as their own expense. Maybe they also felt a bit guilty because they didn’t tell the passengers about the limitation that lead to this situation?

The original NZ Herald article has a family photo of the passengers which I won’t re-post here since I don’t have the permission of the related parties and I think it would be distasteful. Only so much, the three ladies are big but not huge, however it’s a miracle to me how a check-in agent would miss the fact that a passenger is of large statue. In the case of B787 flights with Thai Airways (I come to that later) there should be a warning in the check-in system for a check-in agent that “large” passengers require a check with the supervisor to handle the situation delicately.

But what is this all about in the first place?

When the Boeing 787 Dreamliner first entered service in 2018 Thai Airways established a safety protocol that passengers with waist size wider than 56 inches could not be accommodated in Business Class due to limitations of the safety belt that apparently can’t be…

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