A New South Wales man is suing American Airlines, claiming he got squashed sitting next to two "grossly obese" passengers during a long-haul flight.

Michael Anthony Taylor, of Wollongong, is seeking more than $100,000 in damages from the airline, claiming he was crushed by the next passenger during the whole flight from Sydney to Los Angeles and refused permission from flight crew to move to another seat. He says the discomfort aggravated an existing back problem.

According to documents lodged in court, Taylor was seated next to the window in economy class on the December 2015 flight, sharing the row with two passengers described as "grossly obese".

Wollongong man Michael Anthony Taylor is seeking more than $100,000 in damages from American Airlines. Photo / News Corp
Wollongong man Michael Anthony Taylor is seeking more than $100,000 in damages from American Airlines. Photo / News Corp

The body of the passenger next to Taylor "spilt over and encroached" into his seat, forcing him to "contort his body into a series of positions including standing up, crouching, keeling and leaning forward".


The situation caused Taylor to experience pain, injuries and discomfort during the 14-hour flight. He says he has since suffered back injuries, neck pain and injuries, ongoing discomfort and the aggravation of pre-existing scoliosis or curvature of the spine.

Taylor's lawyer, Thomas Jansen of Shine Lawyers, said his client repeatedly asked the cabin crew if he could move to another seat, but he wasn't allowed.

"Mr Taylor asked the cabin crew on numerous occasions if he could sit in another passenger's seat, or sit on one of the crew seats, or sit in the aisle or even to sit on the toilet seat to alleviate the pain and discomfort that he was suffering from. On each occasion, he was refused and rebuffed," Jansen said.

"As a result of the fact that American Airlines failed to re-seat him or even offer a viable alternative, he suffered bodily injuries by contorting his body within the cramped space caused by the intrusion of the grossly obese passenger sitting next to him."

Taylor's claim comes amid growing concern over airlines shrinking seats and cutting back on legroom in order to cram more passengers onto flights.

This week, American Airlines announced the legroom, or seat pitch, in economy on its new Boeing Max jetliners would shrink by up to 5cm on three rows, allowing for 172 seats on the jets, compared to the current 160.

A number of other airlines have been accused of a similar trend.

Concerns over ever-shrinking plane seats prompted a push last year to get the United States' Federal Aviation Administration to set a minimum seat size and legroom requirements for airlines, which was rejected.


Jansen said as seats continue to shrink on planes, cases such as Taylor's are likely to become more common.

"This will definitely become a more persistent issue," he said.

"American Airlines has recently announced that they are removing up to two inches [5cm] of leg room in some passenger seats in the economy class cabin in their new passenger aircraft.

"If Michael is successful, there will likely be many more lawsuits around the world concerning this issue."