A businessman who fat-shamed a lady sat next to him on a plane and branded her a ‘lump of lard’ online has been accused of ‘playground bullying’.
Lewis Openshaw complained on social media that he had paid extra for a window seat on his flight to Tunisia on Friday but was dismayed to find the passenger sat next to him.
Holidaymaker Lewis soon took a picture of the poor lady without her realising and shared it publicly after being egged on by pals who commented on his posts.
Lewis, who had bragged about getting a ‘fresh start’ on his holiday, then went on to claim that his flight was ‘full of [racial slur redacted] and fatties’.
UK charity Helping Overcome Obesity Problems [HOOP] branded the comments ‘weight stigma’ and warned it could lead to depression, anxiety, self harm and even suicidal thoughts for the intended victims.
TUI, who are believed to have operated the flight Lewis was on, state in their conditions of carriage that they do not allow any behaviour that ’causes discomfort’ to other passengers.
Lewis, from Bolton, Greater Manchester, wrote in his first post: “Just my fucking luck. I pay extra for a window seat on a row with no one on.
“So sit down now a big fat sweaty fuck with a hairy chin with a minging face like she’s headbutted a flaky cheese and bean pasty from Greggs and she stinks of raw onions comes and sits next to me. Fuck right off.”
When a friend laughed at the post, Lewis replied: “I’m fucking fuming mate. Can’t even put my arm on the arm rest cause of her 6×4 biceps.”
Another pal asked him to take a photo of her to share and Lewis replied: “I will when she’s asleep. She’ll twat me. She’s a right lump of lard.”
Less than an hour later, he shared an image of the woman appearing to be asleep next to him with her hand on her face – to the delight of his friends.
Lewis, who uses the name Lewis Opey on social media, said: “Ladies and gentleman, I introduce [to] you the culprit! [Name redacted] the lump of lard.”
It is unclear whether or not the name used by Lewis was the actual name of the passenger
When Lewis eventually arrived in Tunisia and shared photographs of his hotel, friends asked him where his ‘bird’ was or if she was ‘eating to build up some energy’.
Dr Stuart Flint, senior research fellow in public health and obesity at Leeds Beckett University, is one of the directors of HOOP.
Dr Flint, who specialises in weight stigma and discrimination and the psychosocial effects of obesity, said: “It is exactly like playground bullying.
“You can see from some of the emojis used [by Lewis and his friends] that it is perceived as quite comical as if it is a joke. Fat jokes are perceived as acceptable.
“In terms of impact [on the victim of the abuse], the first thing I would say is the impact is great. [I would say to anyone thinking about posting something online like Lewis did], no matter what the subject, stigma discrimination is not acceptable. It doesn’t have to be just about weight.
“You have to think about the impact on the person. It can be quite vast and very serious. It could impact their mental and physical health but also self-harming and suicidal thoughts. You have to think about how you behave and treat different people.”
Dr Flint explained that while many people believe that negative comments about weight might inspire people to try to lose weight, studies had proved the opposite.
He continued: “We know people [after experiencing weight stigma] will then avoid health care or engaging in physical activity or exercise. So it possibly makes it worse.
“There needs to be greater restrictions on social media and throughout in terms of weight stigma and discrimination. If this was another topic that someone was being stigmatised for or treated the way this lady was treated then there would be repercussions.
“The social media [platform] would have intervened and depending on the topic it might even go further, such as legal or whatever.”
Lewis admitted to making the posts but claimed he did not intend them to be public. When contacted for comment, Lewis became abusive and said: “I hope you get cancer and die.”
According to TUI’s website, it is a breach of their the conditions of carriage to ‘behave in a manner which causes discomfort, inconvenience or damage to other passengers’ and they may ‘take such measures as we deem reasonably necessary to prevent continuation of such conduct’.
TUI declined to comment and the posts have since been deleted by Lewis.