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Right Or Wrong? Southwest Sued Over Obese Passenger Policy

7 May

This headline on ABC News – ‘Too Fat To Fly’ Passenger Sues Southwest Airlines For ‘Discriminatory Actions’ - caught my eye, since I’ve blogged several times (here and here).  For my newer readers, I am a woman of size – rubenesque, as it were — but I can still fit in one seat. So I understand the sensibilities on both sides.

I happen to agree with — and appreciate — Southwest Airlines’ policy of how it deals with passengers of size.  But I also see the point of Kenlie Tiggeman, the overweight passenger who was originally judged too fat to fly, who filed the lawsuit.

The problem with the Southwest policy, as Tiggeman (and I) sees it, is the inconsistency in how it is administered.  I’m all for having a row of seats at the end of a ticket counter placed behind a screen if an agent feels someone might not fit into their seat. The issue is that as humans, we all have our own views and prejudices.  I’m betting that if you put Tiggeman in front of 10 different gate agents or even 10 different travelers and asked if she was “too fat to fly,” you’d get myriad different answers.

A few years ago, my daughter and I were flying Southwest home from San Antonio on a full flight.  She was still using her SkyMall stroller/car seat. She was at the window (she can’t block a passenger in) and I was in the middle seat.  A man “of size” came to sit in the aisle seat. I knew it was going to be a tight fit — and it was.

Several flight attendants came by and looked at him, but didn’t say a word. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to be rude. I should have. That was the longest 3.5 hour flight of my life.  A passenger who has paid for a seat should not be forced to have a passenger of size taking up their space.

So my wish is that before this goes to court, Tiggeman and Southwest Airlines come up with  a plan that balances the needs of passengers of size to have a consistent second-seat policy with the rights of “normal” sized passengers who deserve to have their own whole seat.

So, what do you think? Is Tiggeman right to sue Southwest Airlines? Do you think Southwest Airlines’ Customer of Size policy?  Tell me!!

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