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The 37 stone man who was told to buy two airline seats... and ended up with one in row 17 and one in row 19!

Before he boarded the plane, 37-stone Les Price had already been forced to pay for an extra ticket.

The airline’s rules for passengers weighing more than 20 stone required him to buy two seats for himself.

But when he got on board, insult was added to injury. For a dismayed Mr Price found his seats for the flight to Ireland were not even next to each other – they were either side of another traveller’s seat.

And on his return journey the situation was even more farcical, with his allocated places two rows apart.

Mr Price, 43, had booked his tickets in advance of the flight.

But he said the unnamed airline’s employees did not seem to understand its policy on heavier passengers.

‘When I got to the airport I had to explain to all the staff why I had two tickets,’ he said yesterday.

‘They didn’t have a clue. When I finally got on the plane one was an aisle seat and the other was by the window – in a three-seat row.

'On the way back from Ireland one seat was in row 17 and the other in row 19.’

Mr Price, of Brynithel near Newport, South Wales, said the incident was one of many everyday difficulties he has faced since he began struggling with his weight.

The unemployed widower, who sleeps on the ground floor because he cannot manage stairs, said: ‘From the age of about ten I put on around a stone each year it seemed.

‘But I was the same as everyone else, working, playing rugby, training, so I wasn’t inactive. I’d work 70 or 80 hours a week and play rugby on a Saturday. I wasn’t a layabout.'

Mr Price then injured his back in an accident. He added: ‘I lost my mobility, developed sciatica and I didn’t get out of the house for three months.

‘Even if the boys took me out they would pick me up and drop me off and when I was at the pub they’d go to the bar and get my drinks for me.’

When his wife Zeruiah died from cancer in 2009 he admits he turned to comfort eating. ‘I fell into a depression,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t be bothered to cook, would eat takeaways and want to treat my step-daughter Charlie because her mother had died.

‘When I was working, I had to get the calories in. I’d be up at 5am and have a cooked breakfast later. I also worked for a bakery, which involved physically hard lifting, moving things around.’

Earlier this year a travel expert advocated a ‘pay-what-you-weigh’ airline pricing scheme because heavier people cost more in fuel to fly.

Passengers weighing above a certain threshold would pay more for their plane tickets and lighter ones would be charged less under plans put forward by Norwegian scientist Dr Bharat Bhatta.

Writing in the Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management, Dr Bhatta said weight and space should be taken into account when airlines price their tickets.

Mr Price said he is cutting down on his calories and attending an NHS weight management clinic. He said: ‘I want to be out there working.

'I feel guilty my partner is out there working all she can. Christmas is coming up and I feel awful I can’t do anything to help.

'I know a lot of people work the benefits system – but I want to be out there, not stuck at home.’