Several years ago, I was on a Southwest flight from Houston to Tulsa. The man sitting next to me was too fat to fly. I am not saying that in a rude way, it is a simple matter of fact. His rolls extended over the arm-rests into my space. Before you think I am being mean…I am not…neither was he. Quite possibly, this was one of the most polite, cordial people I have ever flown with. He recognized the impossibility of the situation and gave me a handful of drink tickets and bought the first round. That being said, the issue is not about him or anyone as a person, it is, in my opinion about their physical ability to sit in an airline seat.
A New Orleans woman who said she was called “too fat to fly” at a Southwest gate last year is now filing a lawsuit demanding the carrier clarify its policies on larger passengers. Kenlie Tiggeman considered Southwest’s “Customers of Size” policy too inconsistent, having been told at least twice that she would be unable to fit in their seats and other times flying on the airline with no problem at all. She said she has not had issues on other airlines. I find this surprising because Southwest’s seats are a tiny bit bigger than those on other airlines. In a petition and application for injunctive relief, she alleges Southwest violated her “constitutional rights” and engages in a practice of “discriminatory actions toward obese customers.” As a consumer, Tiggeman said she has a right to know the rules at the point of purchase. “We need to know what the rules are,” Tiggeman said. “We need to know if we need one seat or two, because this eyeballing happening at the gate is incredibly discriminatory, and it’s so unnecessary.”
Southwest that “customers who encroach upon any part of the neighboring seat(s) should proactively book the needed number of seats prior to travel… (to) ensure that all Customers onboard have access to safe and comfortable seating.” The airlines’ seats are 17 inches wide, and passengers may not extend beyond the armrest in between seats. Tiggeman expands on her reasoning behind the lawsuit in her own blog, AlltheWeigh.com. A similar was filed by a passenger 20 years ago and was dismissed. Tiggeman’s incident occurred about a year after celebrity director Kevin Smith (aka Silent Bob) was “ejected” by a Southwest pilot for being unable to fit properly in his seat. Southwest apologized to both passengers and offered refunds and vouchers.