Heartbreak: Too Big To Fly- News of the World- ***Sunday***-

Sandy Russell contacted us after being upset that he was thrown off an aeroplane for being too big.

The refusal to let him fly meant that Sandy was unable to say goodbye to his dying aunt who lived in Canada.

We ensured the story was told in a sympathetic way and got him a good fee for the story.

The story appeared in the News of the World newspaper as an exclusive.

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Too Fat to fly to my dying aunt.

News of the World newspaper

A 32-STONE man was thrown off a transatlantic flight for being TOO FAT - and robbed of the chance to say farewell to a dying aunt.

Hefty Sandy Russell burst into tears when a stewardess marched him off the Air Transat plane.

He was then offered another flight - but only if he paid for TWO full-price tickets from Gatwick to Toronto.

Disabled Sandy, 32, couldn't afford the 928 charge and his Aunt Judy died of bowel cancer in Canada two days after he was due to see her.

Last night he said: "I was absolutely devastated.

"I hardly cry, and there I was reduced to tears out of frustration and humiliation in the middle of the airport."

Sandy was booted off the full plane last Saturday because his 52-inch girth was overflowing into the next seat.

And although the passenger beside him didn't complain, the armrest couldn't be lowered for take-off, as demanded by the airline's regulations.

Sandy, from Wolverhampton, said it was never explained that his size could be a problem, and he passed through check-in and the departure gate without trouble.

"The worst thing is, my aunt has died now," he said.

"By the time I got home from the airport, she was too ill to talk on the phone, so I couldn't even say goodbye to her.

"I'm not small, I don't deny it. But that doesn't mean I should be treated so disrespectfully."

Air Transat agreed to refund Sandy's ticket price "as a gesture of goodwill." A spokesman said: "We can't ask people their measurements before they book a flight - it's a breach of their human rights.

"In this case, the armrest would not go down and separate Mr Russell from the lady beside him - and he was taking up more than a third of her seat."

Tam Fry, spokesman from the National Obesity Forum, says: "The overweight passenger should really be offered the next flight which has spare seats available, or be upgraded to a wider seat.

"This is what happens in the States and I don't think it will be long before it happens here."

Bridget Benelam, from the British Nutrition Foundation, says: "People should be shown respect whatever their size."

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