A man has won the right to sue Etihad Airways over claims he suffered a back injury after being made to sit next to an obese passenger during a 14 hour flight.
The Mirror reports that James Bassos said he was forced to “contort and twist” his body to avoid contact with a “very large” passenger who frequently coughed and had fluid coming from his mouth.
Mr Bassos now claims the airline is to blame for the bad back he developed during the flight from Sydney to Dubai in 2011.
Court papers filed with the District Court of Queensland, Australia, on 29th July said the large passenger had encroached on his seat, and Mr Bassos aggravated an existing back problem in trying to avoid him.
The passenger claimed he repeatedly asked cabin crew to move him and was eventually given another seat – but only for a short time.
The papers added: “After repeated requests of cabin crew, Mr Bassos was given limited access to a crew seat, but was still required to spend long stretches of time in a position which he claims caused a back injury and aggravation of an existing back condition.”
After five hours he asked to be moved but airline staff allegedly refused. Half an hour later, Bassos complained again and he was moved to a crew seat.
However, he had to return to his seat next to the man later for another hour, and again for the final 90 minutes of the flight for security reasons, according to court documents.
Mr Bassos is claiming damages for personal injuries.
Etihad has tried to have the case dismissed and argued that it is not unusual to be seated next to obese or coughing passengers.
However Judge Fleur Kingham refused to strike out the claim, adding that she was “not satisfied Mr Bassos had no real prospects of success and that there is no need for a trial of the claim. Accordingly, Etihad’s application must fail.”
Judge Kingham has ordered Mr Bassos to undergo a medical examination in Brisbane in December.
An Etihad Airways spokesman said: “It would be inappropriate to comment in detail on this case as legal proceedings are under way.”
Etihad Airways will continue to oppose the action and now that Mr Bassos will finally face a medical assessment in December 2015, as directed by court, we believe that the matter will proceed to an early conclusion.
“The safety and comfort of Etihad Airways’ passengers and crew is of paramount importance and the airline has a zero tolerance policy towards unruly behaviour.”