Thai Airways Sets Passenger Size Limit For New Business Class Seat

Filed Under: Thai

Thai Airways has taken delivery of both A350s and 787s in the past couple of years, though oddly the planes feature different types of business class seats. Their 787-9s feature reverse herringbone seats in business class, which are comfortable and found on many airlines.

Over the past week there have been some Thai papers with stories about how Thai Airways is banning “fat people” from flying the 787 Dreamliner. In light of this, Thai Airways’ director of security and flight standards, Pratthana Pattanasirim, has issued a clarification. It’s an interesting update, because I wasn’t aware of this restriction, and presumably it’s one that impacts other airlines as well.

Those with waists bigger than 56″ aren’t allowed to fly Thai Airways’ new 787-9 business class seat. Why? Because the seats have safety belts with airbags in them. The seatbelts can’t accommodate waists bigger than 56″, and you can’t add a seatbelt extender to these seats for safety reasons, given that the built-in airbag has to be front-and-center.

As a result, these seats also can’t accommodate parents with infants traveling in their lap, so those passengers would also have to avoid flying business class, or take a flight operated by a different plane.

As of now Thai Airways has two Boeing 787-9s, and doesn’t plan on taking delivery of any more (that seems like a strangely small subfleet to have). Their 787-8s feature different seats, so that restriction wouldn’t apply on those planes.

I find this noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First of all, these seatbelts are the FAA standard ones for the type of seat, and lots of airlines have these seats. So I would guess that the same restriction applies to the other airlines with these seats, though this is the first media report I’ve heard about this. I’m also curious how this would be handled by the airline. Presumably they’re not measuring people at check-in, so will they just let people board and if someone needs an extender they kick them off, or…?

(Tip of the hat to Michael)

  1. Thai Airways seems to buy every new model plane out there, if you look at their fleet overtime…. Not a whole lot of consistency, so not surprising they only have two of these….. Kinda makes you wonder sometimes…..

  2. Tbh, its not like you’ll miss a 56 inch waist swagger past….it will cast a shadow like a solar eclipse through the departure area…

  3. I’ve always found Thai Airways fleet strategy to be quite bizarre. Probably something to do with corruption, but must be incredibly challenging to manage such a diverse fleet with crew, maintenance etc. But this is also an airline that is plagued with financial troubles yet still serves Dom in First- although no complaints there!

  4. oh wow… I foresee thousands of DOT and human rights group complaints coming from “elite fliers” and “miles & points enthusiasts.”

    gives me chuckles everytime when I see some fat guys having a plate of cookies sitting on his belly while browsing Flyertalk at an airport lounge.

  5. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone with a 56″ waist, that is insanely large. I’m 6’6″ and fat, yet only have a 36″ waist. I can’t even imagine how big you have to be to have a 56″ waist.

  6. What is the point of an especially uncomfortable and un-adjustable “air bag” seat belt in a premium seat? Is it some kind of FAA regulation for seats at an angle or is it pure nonsense?

  7. Lol at the lawsuit happy people…
    Living In the Kingdom of Thailand 4 years and sometimesin and out of BKK every few weeks
    I can most likely agreee that authorities & royalty can say and do what they like in a press release… citizens also have a voice too. They are weary of les
    Majeste but overall Thai culture and citizens arn’t sensitive to standing by their beliefs.
    I doubt some obese sensitive citizen of any other country is going to try and sue them for discrimination or something because they were refused on a flight I can almost guarantee you that won’t happen within the boarders or Airways of Thailand they will do what they like in accord with their aviation authorities

  8. I always just thought that was an inflexible and rather annoying seat belt cover. How does that work exactly, I guess it explodes outward so you have a big balloon in front of you for protection?

  9. I’m in Thailand right now and, despite the fact that there are big people, I’ve seen no one that’s “American big”. You would have to be insanely big to be denied into those seats. Besides, chances are you’re gonna have the option of another flight in a 777 within hours of a 787-9 anyway as they love putting those birds on domestic runs.

  10. Well, I guess that means King Henry VIII wouldn’t have been able to fly then! But seriously, anyone with a 56″ inch waist should be shopping for a coffin, not a seat on a plane,

  11. You guys are focused on the wrong demographic. If people with kids on their lap can’t fly on this product I’m booking ASAP.

  12. Thais are notoriously politically incorrect about calling someone fat. It’s not an insult in a Thai, although has some comedic cultural meaning. It’s not uncommon to hear references to customers in street /casual restaurants referred to by a physical characterics, eg, old fatty, bald foreigner.
    So yes I can imagine a PA announcement : ” uncle fatty foreigner trying to sit in 2K, please get off the plane now”
    Even if it doesn’t get to that point, it’s going to be a hoot to watch this play out.

  13. @Jack

    Yes, of course. “We’ll take 2 or 5 of everything. No one can say we chose the wrong aircraft type” That thinking goes way back to the DC 8s and Caravelles ordered by Thai in the 60s.
    Plus the euphemistic ‘return on investment’ increases with multiple players.

  14. Phew. I thought I may have been too fat, but it turns out I’m 51 inches at the waist. Still fat I know, and I have a plan for that, but at least I can still travel on Thai with these aircraft.

    Btw: as a fat person: I really have no issue at all with explicit transparency like this. The more transparency the better.

  15. Other airlines accomodate infants and don’t mention a waist restriction

    So Thai will refuse families ?

    No problem with an infant on Air Canada klm or Air France 787-900

    People often refer to oversized Americans as the population is high ,however sadly the largest nations are found in South Pacific , Kuwait has an issue.

    How will Thai enforce the waist size restriction ? They won’t know until the customer is seated
    They will see he or she is large but what’s their plan ? To take out a tape measure ?

  16. Wait, Kuwait has an obesity issue? I think they should be more worried about getting quadruple “random” body search or barred from entering airports than seat belt size.

  17. @Menalwaysright:

    I’ve you’ve travelled with middle eastern passengers lately in arabic airlines’s business class you know a lot of them have an extreme obesity problem.

    Sometimes they almost make me feel slim in comparison. (!)

    I was chatting in a Qatar A380 bar a few weeks ago with a lovely Kuwait/Qatari couple a few weeks ago. The Qatari husband was recovering from some kind of weight reduction surgery in Bangkok.

    Even after than weight reduction, both he and she were literally at least 1.5-2x my size. And I’m, as I said, fat.

  18. I think airlines should have employed a weight + size measurement standard for decades. We (slimmer and light weight people) have always been penalised for overweight (often just a few KG) while airlines allow HUGE and heavy pax onto their planes without any penalty.
    I always advocate a total weight system – i.e. person and luggage are weighed together and you get say 100 kg in total. Wouldn’t that be fairer?
    As for someone with a 56″ waistline. Please. He should go to see a doctor. Not fly.

  19. “I always advocate a total weight system – i.e. person and luggage are weighed together and you get say 100 kg in total. Wouldn’t that be fairer?”

    Why not list ticket prices by the pound? (NYC-LAX in J for $5.95/lb) You can even put little scales next to the boarding pass scanner and when a pax scans their BP to board, it will indicate their total weight including carry-on.

  20. Did you really mean 56″? WOW! I think they should charge extra for everyone who weighs more than me. That sounds fair.

  21. Can we get this kind of restriction in economy please? Saw a gentleman with at least a 56 inch waist try to squeeze into a middle seat last week, it wasn’t pretty.

  22. @Owen

    As these seats are configured at an angle with only a lap belt, the forward inertia of the aircraft in a crash scenario will send your head smashing into the seat shell to the side of you, rather than into the open space where your legs are (which would happen on forward facing seats). This also is the reason for the armrests to be lowered on seats like this, to prevent your ribs being broken when you are propelled in the forward direction of the aircraft.

    3 point seatbelts which are becoming increasingly popular in business class seats offer a safer and more predictable method of restraint in a crash scenario, whilst also eliminating the common ‘bulge’ of seats fitted with airbags.

    To be honest if you have a 56” waist I imagine that the added weight on the seat structure would critically affect the structural integrity of the seat due to the above average loads that may not have been anticipated or tested for in a 16g crash scenario.

  23. As far as I know, infant seat belts and extension seat belts are designed to deactivate the airbag feature on those seats. So it shouldn’t be a safety related issue

  24. Interesting. I flew Virgin Australia from LA to Sydney recently and they mentioned that the business class seat belts had air bags in them. I hadn’t heard of that before but thought it was interesting. I didn’t see any size limitation or notice when I was booking my tickets.

  25. @SC

    While you think it is fair, same logic, is it fair if the airline charges you less and have another slim person on your lap? Maybe put your ‘slim’ on a 4-4-4 while ‘fat’ rides on 3-4-3?

    I hope you are not one of those animal/human rights advocate or gender/race/age/etc equality advocate.

    But if human race starts transporting people by lbs and cram more people until they reach MTOW, the air travel will never be same again LOL

  26. We fatties hate flying, too. Unfortunately, fatties need to travel for work, attend funerals, see a doctor, or get to faraway places just like all you supermodels. We also like to vacation (shocker!) even though I’m led to believe we don’t deserve to because we’re disgusting.

    I flew AA 77W biz class recently and there was an inflatable seat belt. I almost couldn’t buckle. Asked the FA for an extender…she went to the front and conferred with someone, came back with the extender and told me that to use it would be “at my own risk” and that the airbag wouldn’t work properly. At the time I thought this was probably not (technically) allowed, but that she didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. I was relieved. In the end I held my breath and got it buckled. Spirit Airlines also has these seat belts in the first row of their Big Front Seats on some planes making only the second row viable for us.

    Fatties are fat for all sorts of reasons. Yes, of course, it all comes down to food we’re shoving in our fat faces. But some (not I) struggle for reasons beyond his/her control. Disease (both physical and mental), injury, and lack of mobility are all components. I’m lucky to travel with my husband and daughter who are okay with sitting next to my fat. Others are not. Maybe try walking a mile in our fatty footwear and at least attempt to be kind.

  27. Some real nasty comments on this page. I am fat, i became fat when i had to take steroids due to a life threatening illness. I still require those drugs and others that lead to weight gain to remain alive. Perhaps instead of nasty comments and instant judging you might like to show some humanity.

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