American Airlines planes
An American Airlines customer has sued the carrier for alleged injuries to his back and neckRobyn Beck/Getty

A man in Australia is suing American Airlines after saying he was left with permanent back and neck injuries after being seated next to two obese passengers during a 14-hour flight.

Michael Anthony Taylor, 67, said the airline refused to let him change seats on the flight from Sydney to Los Angeles, leaving him "crouching, kneeling, bracing or standing" for much of the journey.

The Wollongong man said the discomfort – which aggravated his existing scoliosis, a condition which causes twisting of the spine – led to lower and upper back injuries as well as bruising to his neck.

"I don't hold any malice towards the people in the seats next to me – they'd paid for a ticket too," he told Sydney's Daily Telegraph.

"The airline could have put me in a crew seat or moved people around but they did nothing."

Taylor was in the window seat on the December 2015 flight but shared the row with two overweight passengers, described in court documents as "grossly obese".

The body of the passenger seated next to him "spilt over and encroached" into his seat, forcing him to "contort his body into a series of positions including standing up, crouching, keeling and leaning forward," News.com.au reported.

The flight was sold-out, with all 310 passenger seats occupied. US federal regulations do not allow passengers to sit in jump seats.

His lawyer, Thomas Janson, said the case – which seeks AU$100,000 (£57,000, US$74,000) in compensation – could cause airlines to make sure economy seats are more comfortable.

It comes as American Airlines this week announced the leg room in economy on its Boeing 737 Max jetliners would be cut even further, with three rows losing two inches, from 31 to 29, and the rest losing an inch.

"If Michael is successful, this throws open the doors to potentially a large amount of cases against airlines and how they've designed their seating and how they seat passengers," Janson said. "There will be a huge outcry against the way airlines furnish their cabins, particularly in economy."

The airline has 28 days to formally respond to the statement of claim filed in the Federal Court of Australia on Wednesday (5 May).

American Airlines told IBTimes UK: "We just received the lawsuit and we are reviewing the allegations."