A MAN who claims he hurt his back when he was forced to sit for hours on a long flight beside a fat passenger whose body spread into his seat is suing an international airline.
Etihad Airways has lost a court bid to have James Andrew Bassos’s case thrown out of the District Court in Brisbane.
Mr Bassos was flying economy class from Abu Dhabi to Sydney in October 2010 when he was seated next to a very large man “whose body encroached into his seat”, the court heard.
The other passenger was frequently coughing and “expelled fluid from his mouth”, Mr Basso claimed.
He claims he was forced to twist and contort his body to avoid contact with the “grossly overweight person” and ended up with a back injury and aggravation of a pre-existing injury.
Mr Bassos said after five hours of discomfort he complained, but his request to be given another seat was refused by an Etihad Airways cabin crew member.
After another half hour he again asked to move and was allowed to use a crew seat for an hour, before returning to his seat.
After another stint in the crew seat Mr Bassos said a crew member invoked a security procedure and he had to return to his allocated seat for an hour and a half before landing.
Mr Bassos, 38, who is from Queensland but works in the United Arab Emirates, claimed for damages for personal injuries resulting from an accident.
The “accident “ was within the meaning of Article 17 of the 1999 Montreal Convention, which required “an unusual or unexpected event or events external to the passenger”.
Etihad applied to strike out the claim, saying the facts alleged by Mr Bassos’s did not constitute an accident.
Mr Bassos claimed it was unusual and unexpected to be required to sit in a seat partly occupied by another person to the extent that he had to twist his body to avoid contact with another passenger.
Judge Fleur Kingham said she was not satisfied that Mr Bassos had no real prospects of success with his claim and she rejected Etihad Airway’s strike-out application.
Mr Bassos has been ordered to submit to a medical examination by a specialist when he returns to Brisbane in December.