Woman Dies After Three Airlines Say She's Too Fat to Fly

Illustration for article titled Woman Dies After Three Airlines Say She's Too Fat to Fly

Well, this sucks. Late last month, Bronx resident Vilma Soltesz and her husband Janos tried to board three separate airlines from Hungary to New York City, but they were repeatedly turned away. Why? Well, because they couldn't stuff Vilma's fatness into the plane, a seat, a wheelchair, an elevator — take your pick. This whole thing is a big mess and ends with a horrific twist. Vilma was was headed to New York to get treatment for kidney-failure to save her life, and since she was obviously unable to make the trip, she died. Ugh.


The couple originally travelled from their house in the Bronx to their vacation home in Hungary via Delta and KLM airlines. Their travel agent bought Vilma two tickets to ensure she'd have proper space, so it appears they were doing everything right per fat person flying protocol.

The return flight is where things get weird. On October 15, the couple attempted to board their KLM flight home for Vilma's meeting with her physicians about her kidneys. However, KLM didn't have the proper... I'm not sure what.

KLM spokeswoman Ellen van Ginkel explained the set of circumstances that had them unable to take Vilma back home.

"It appeared on the passenger's return that it was not physically possible for her to board the aircraft, despite every effort made by KLM to this end," van Ginkel said. "A seat or belt extender did not offer a solution, either."

Wait, why didn't the seat belt extender work? What was difference between this flight and the ones that brought her to Hungary? I'm honestly confused.

So, after a five-hour wait, the couple was directed to Prague for a Delta flight but the wheelchair — Vilma had one leg and used one to get around — couldn't hold her. I'm guessing she had her own personal wheelchair, I'm not sure why that wasn't used? Also, allegedly the elevator couldn't hold her. I don't understand, the elevator had a weight capacity of 425 pounds (her weight, according to Radar)? I've never seen that. Doesn't that seem like no weight to you? What can that elevator hold? A bunch of paperclips and um, what's lighter than paperclips?

Delta spokesman Russel Cason said that "despite a determined good-faith effort by Delta in Prague, we were also physically unable to board her on our aircraft."

Finally, the couple tried to board a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to New York on October 22, but issues "arouse [sic] when the plane crew and local fire officials could not fit Vilma in a three-seat gap after 30 minutes of trying."

Lufthansa spokesman Nils Haupt said, "We had 140 passengers on board, and they had connections and needed to travel. The question was never the seat belt. The question was the mobility of the passenger."


I just don't understand how Vilma travelled from NYC to Hungary in the first place when it sounds like getting her safely onto a plane was damn near impossible! I talked to two friends who say they weigh as much to a bit more and neither of them have encountered any of these issues, and these are people who fly on the regular. Granted, they're both fully mobile, and two people does not a study make, but at the very least, it presents a few questions.

Because the couple didn't trust doctors in Hungary, Vilma didn't get medical care she needed, and died in her vacation home two days after the final flight took off without her. As for Janos, he is obviously grieving: "I'm lonely now. Wherever I am going, I am just going alone. I am missing her a lot."


Side note: I know a lot of people will say, "Why didn't she just get medical treatment in Hungary?" and that's a fair question but I must make the point that I really don't like seeing anyone but my doctor, I'm very much set in my ways and feel like nobody knows me the way she does. Also, my parents are fifty times worse with the stubbornness than I am — and my grandparents (RIP) were a million times worse than they were. Also, it's possible her weight had led to uncomfortable interactions with doctors in the past and that's no small thing to overcome.

Just a bummer all the way around, especially considering that the Soltesz's travel agent appeared to have covered all their bases by purchasing two seats for Vilma and flying them on airlines they've flown before. I don't think the people working at these airlines were purposefully being cruel or unhelpful, but I'm not even close to understanding what went wrong.


Too Fat To Fly? Obese Woman Dies After 3 Airlines Refuse To Take Her Home To NY To See Doctors [Radar]


Ginger, get the popcorn!

This story is bizarre all around, but I have a hard time ignoring that 3 separate airlines tried to board her on the flight (i.e. didn't just look at her and turn her away at the gate) but physically couldn't. I suppose it's possible that in the aftermath of her death, they all got together and decided on a story, but it seems far more likely that she really couldn't board the planes. What I think it most bizarre is that she somehow got to Frankfurt (I assume by car?), where she still refused to get medical treatment. Germany has excellent medical care. I understand preferring to see your own doctor, but when you are in a life threatening situation—I understand this may be an unpopular opinion— I think you bear some of the responsibility for whatever happens to you if YOU actively choose not to accept the medical care that's available. This is a sad story all around, and the intense fat-shaming being seen on the original article is upsetting and absolutely uncalled for, but I just can't get behind blaming this all on the airlines when Vilma herself demonstrated really terrible care-seeking behavior throughout this entire ordeal.