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Flier Sues American Airlines After 14-Hour Flight Between Obese Passengers

A man says two obese passengers squashed him during a 14-hour flight, leading to permanent injuries.
American Airlines aircraft sit on the tarmac at LaGuardia airport following a reservation system outage in New York
American Airlines aircraft sit on the tarmac at LaGuardia airport in New York. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

An Australian traveler is suing American Airlines, claiming that he suffered injuries after being seated next to two obese seatmates for a 14-hour flight.

Michael Anthony Taylor, 67, told Sydney's Daily Telegraph he spent most of the trip from Sydney to Los Angeles either "crouching, kneeling, bracing or standing." He claims the airline wouldn't let him change seats and the awkward positions worsened his scoliosis, and caused back injuries and neck bruising.

“I don’t hold any malice towards the people in the seats next to me — they’d paid for a ticket too,” he told the Telegraph. "The airline could have put me in a crew seat or moved people around, but they did nothing."

Reached for comment, American Airlines spokesperson Ross Feinstein told NBC News, "We just received the lawsuit and we are reviewing the allegations."

The flight occurred on December, 28, 2015 on a 777-300ER, which seats 310. All of the seats were occupied. According to U.S. federal regulations, passengers are not allowed to sit in seats reserved for crew members.

The suit, filed in Australian court, comes as recent stories have put poor airline passenger experiences in the spotlight: An American Airlines employee was suspended last week after getting into an argument with a passenger over a stroller. Shortly after that, the airline announced it was reducing legroom in some economy class seats on its new 737 jets.

Last month, United Airlines was forced to completely revise its customer service policy after a widely condemned incident when a passenger was forcibly dragged down the aisle when he wouldn't give up his seat. United reached a settlement for an undisclosed amount last week, and its CEO Oscar Munoz was summoned to testify before the House Transportation Committee.