Too Fat To Fly: Husband Blames Airlines For Death Of 425-Pound Wife

A New York woman deemed too fat to fly has died after being kicked off three planes in an attempt to get home for medical care. At first this might seem like a complete case of negligence and fat-shaming from the airlines, but how much responsibility should people obese assume when flying?

According to NBC reports, Vilma Soltesz, who weighed 425 pounds, and her husband traveled to Hungary in September on vacation. On the way from New York to Budapest, they flew on KLM without any problems and Soltesz purchased two seats for herself because of her size, her attorney Holly Ostrov Ronai told NBC news.

But when the couple tried to return to New York the following month, the 56-year-old woman was denied the ability to fly on three different airlines, according to their attorney:

They were sent from airline to airline, they were sent driving around, they were just treated completely inhumanely. (The airlines) had a duty to get her home to her doctors.

On their first attempt with KLM, they attempted to get her on the plane with the aid of a Skylift elevator, but the captain told them to disembark. The airline says it was not physically possible for her to board the plane, but the family’s attorney says it was because they didn’t have a seatbelt extender.

Over the course of the next two days, the couple tried to find a flight home that could accomodate her through KLM, Delta and Lufthansa. Delta couldn’t get her on a plane because their plastic wheelchair couldn’t hold the weight. Lufthansa could not fly her because she was unable to fasten herself properly on the plane, so she was told to disembark then too.

Lufthansa spokesperson Christina Semmel said the decision was unavoidable due to safety reasons:

Lufthansa, together with its local partners, fire brigade and technical experts at Budapest Airport tried its utmost to accommodate Mrs. Vilma Soltesz on board our flight from Budapest. After several, time consuming attempts it was decided that for the safety of this passenger and the over 140 fellow passengers, Lufthansa had to deny transportation of the passenger.

In the midst of all this, Soltesz was apparently suffering with some serious medical conditions. She was an amputee who suffered from kidney disease and diabetes. After being unable to get home, she died two days later, and her husband is now suing the three airlines for $6 million. He claims that they did not make proper accommodations for her to be able to fly home and seek medical care from her doctors.

All of this raises a lot of questions, of course, like: How much responsibility should the airlines take to accomodate someone who is 425 pounds and unable to safely board or fly? And how much responsibility should passengers take when they are of this size? Should someone with such severe medical issues be traveling overseas? And why was she not able to seek medical care in Hungary?

It’s strange that Soltesz was able to fly from New York overseas with no hassles, but was denied several times on the way home. Ultimately, all of this proves that airlines need to develop better policies and communication over their ability to serve obese passengers. It also proves that passengers need to assume responsibility too, and make sure they are healthy enough to travel and have clearly communicated with the airlines upfront on any special needs.

Tell us what you think.



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    • Hannah

      It seems like they actually tried everything within protocol to get this woman on a plane. If they were having an emergency, they should’ve gone to a local hospital.

      Additionally, while I understand that you can be overweight and healthy, 425 is just too damn high to be in that range. This woman clearly didn’t care enough about her health to take care of it on her own, she just wanted to continue destroying her body and assume her insurance and doctors would just do some maintenance on the way.

      I don’t fat shame on the basis of fat alone, and I don’t dislike fat people. But I can’t respect someone who clearly doesn’t respect herself enough to switch to healthier meals.

      • Donna

        You dont dislike fat people, and yet you do exactly what fat-hating people do: assume she wasnt trying to eat better and is lazy about weight loss. You assume she isnt trying to lose weight, and is waiting on a cure from her doctor, but how do you know? You know for a fact she wasnt trying to lose weight? How do you know if she didnt have a medical condition that made it hard for her to lose weight, how do you know if she isnt overweight due to a hormonal problem? I agree that she should have sought medical help in Hungary, and she should have thought twice about flying with the health problems she had, but we dont know why she went, perhaps she was visiting family. The airline had no problem flying her to Hungary and taking the money for her 2 tickets, so why not fly her back home. But I find it interesting that you claim not to fat shame, and yet you basically assume fat people are lazy and not trying to eat healthier meals.

    • VanCan

      I’m utterly confused why they didn’t seek medical care in Hungary. Kidney disease and diabetes aren’t rare conditions. A hospital in Budapest should have been able to handle it. If she was so unwell that a few days away from her doctors could lead to death, either postpone the trip or buy travel medical insurance and have a backup plan for care overseas.

    • JLH

      I have 2 questions. 1-why not seek medical care in Hungary? 2-how was she able to fly TO Hungary. She didn’t gain 200 pounds in a month. I suspect that the husband won’t get anywhere with the other airlines but KLM who allowed the wife to fly out is likely looking at some issues, because either they jeopardized the woman and the other passengers on her flight TO Hungary or they should have allowed her to board on the way home. Either way sucks, but since the other passengers on the flight could potentially sue if the airline endangered them, it’s likely better for KLM to settle now

      • bj

        There is no such thing as a civil suit solely for “endangerment”, at least not in the US. A plaintiff has to actually suffer some compensable injury (to person or property) in order to recover any damages.