DEAR ANN: I am writing about an unpleasant experience we recently had on an airplane flight. My husband and I, after many years of saving and planning, were finally able to take our dream trip to London. It was our first trip together in 30 years exciting and educational. We had a lovely time.
On the return flight, we boarded the plane and found a huge woman sitting in the aisle seat. It was impossible to get around her. We had to ask her twice to move so we could get to our seats. When my husband sat down, he attempted to lower the armrest, and the woman said, "You can't do that! My hips won't allow it." She was right. She took up her seat, plus, half of my husband's seat, as well.
At takeoff, the stewardess approached the woman and apologized because there was no double seat available for her. There was no apology to my husband for his half a seat. Needless to say, he was extremely uncomfortable, and had to sit like that for the entire seven-hour flight.
After we came home, my husband called the airline and expressed his displeasure about the return flight. The company was sympathetic and sent us two vouchers for $200. The person we spoke to admitted airlines have a difficult time dealing with obese people, since they can sue for discrimination if they are treated disrespectfully because of their size.
I do not begrudge the woman the space she needed, but my husband paid for a whole seat and ended up with half a seat. I do a lot of business travel, and when I mentioned this at work, many of my co-workers said they have had similar experiences, and had no idea what they should do about it.
We would like to know the best way to handle such incidents without creating a lot of ill will toward the airline and countless unhappy passengers. Janet in Huntingdon, Pa.
Dear Janet: It is the responsibility of the flight attendant to make sure ALL passengers are as comfortable as possible. I say, leave it to her (or his) discretion to do so. P.S.: The airline that gave you two $200 vouchers was exceedingly generous. They were under no obligation to do that.
DEAR ANN: Just when I thought I had read the dumbest of the stupid crook stories in your column, I pick up the Houston Chronicle and see a news item that I think beats them all. I hope you agree. Jim in Texas
Dear Jim: I do, indeed. Here it is:
A 29-year-old Houston man who turned himself in to collect a reward was sentenced to 30 years for robbing cabdrivers. The robber surrendered along with an accomplice after seeing his photo in the newspaper. The photo was taken from a newly installed camera inside the cab.
The picture showed the robber armed with what appeared to be a .45-caliber weapon. The cabdriver was robbed after responding to a call for a ride. When he stopped at the address indicated, the two suspects approached him. The robber got into the cab immediately while his accomplice stayed outside and talked with the driver.
The pair went to a Houston police station with the newspaper article in hand and asked for the reward money. Instead, a jury decided to give the man a 30-year sentence for aggravated robbery. He was also ordered to pay a $4,000 fine.
Gem of the Day (Credit Ellen DeGeneres): Does it really pay to try to stay in shape? My grandmother started to walk 5 miles a day when she was 70 years old. She is 97 today, but we don't know where the hell she is.