American Airlines aircraft are parked at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, U.S., August 8, 2016.
American Airlines aircraft are parked at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, U.S., August 8, 2016. Reuters/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

An NSW man is suing American Airlines for sitting him next to obese passengers. Michael Anthony Taylor of Wollongong said he developed serious injuries during his 14-hour flight from Sydney to Los Angeles in December 2015.

Taylor was seated next to the window in the economy class section of the plane, sharing the row with two passengers he described as “grossly obese.” The body of the passenger next to him, according to his lawsuit, “split over and encroached” upon his seat. This apparently forced him to adjust his body into a series of contorted positions, including “standing up, crouching, keeling and leaning forward.”

He said he suffered from pain, injuries and discomfort during the 14 hours’ long flight, and he has since suffered back injuries, neck pain and injuries, ongoing discomfort and aggravation of pre-existing scoliosis, reports. Taylor had asked the cabin crew repeatedly if he could move to another seat but was denied every time.

“Mr Taylor asked the cabin crew on numerous occasions if he could sit in another passenger’s seat, or sit on one of the crew seats, or sit in the aisle or even to sit on the toilet seat to alleviate the pain and discomfort he was suffering from. One each occasion, he was refused and rebuffed,” his lawyer, Thomas Jansen, told the publication. The lawyer added that his client suffered bodily injuries by contorting his body within the cramped space as a result.

US federal regulations do not allow passengers to sit in crewmembers’ seats. It is understood that all 310 seats aboard the 77-300ER plane were occupied by other passengers on the Dec. 28 flight.

“I don’t hold any malice towards the people in the seats next to me – they’d paid for a ticket too,” Taylor told the Daily Telegraph. However, he did take offence with the cabin crew because “they did nothing.”

Jansen said that if Taylor’s suit is successful, it may open doors for potential thousands of other similar lawsuits. There has been a growing concern on how airlines cram their passengers into restricted seats in order to save on space.

Taylor, according to the case he brought in Australia’s federal court, is seeking $100,000 in damages. American Airlines said it has just received the lawsuit and is still reviewing the allegations. The airline has recently announced it planned to add more seats on its flights, effectively shrinking the distance between seats from 31 inches to 29.

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