Of course I am following Kevin Smith's dispute with Southwest Airlines over whether he was "too fat to fly" and needed to be ejected from his seat.Southwest issued an apology that managed to once again accuse him of being too fat to fly--therefore not really an apology.
Fat people have been complaining about their policy for years because it is unpredictably enforced and they refuse to offer any measurements or weight criteria to go by, leaving us to wonder if we'll be singled out when we show up to claim our seat and humiliated in public. I wrote the following comment about my experience flying round trip in 2006 at non-peak times for business. Frankly I wouldn't have picked Southwest but apparently I was lucky that day and was not required to pay for an extra seat on the spot or miss my flight. Because I board first (being disabled) in the end no one sat next to me and I had plenty of room. (One thing about no one wanting to sit next to fat people is you often get extra space if the airplane or bus isn't filled!) Btw, I am vindicated in my observations that people will avoid sitting next to fat people if they can: read many of the comments in reaction to the Southwest blog entry by people viciously attacking fat people they have sat next to on a plane and thanking Southwest for discriminating. Charming, really. Nice to know that I wasn't being paranoid--though I already knew that. Only a small percentage, it seems, doesn't mind sitting next to us.
Here was my response to Southwest's "apology:"
All of the fat people I know don't have a problem with the idea of being asked to purchase two seats--rather we are frustrated with no clear guidelines and subjective implementation, leaving us in doubt as to whether we will be required to purchase an extra seat or not. No one wants to be publicly shamed. With no clear, objective guidelines that we can check when we buy the tickets online, how can we know what to expect when we show up to board?
I am one of those who was NOT asked to buy a second seat. I have to wonder if it is because I booked an early morning flight that was not fully booked. Unlike Kevin Smith, I need a seat belt extender for a two inch gap. I can put down the armrests fully. I am five foot five and at the time of that flight weighed 290 and carry a lot of extra weight on my hips, being bottom-heavy. I would think I'd be asked to pay for a second seat before Kevin would. According to his account, both women seated on either side of him indicated that they were fine with him being seated next to them. So what was the real problem if his seat belt was buckled and arm rests were both down? That is the real issue--Southwest seems unwilling to admit that he did not need to be ejected. I'd love it if the women come forward and publicly state that they told the airline employee they were fine with him flying next to them.
I don't see why it is impossible to do some testing with different people--we'll volunteer--and come up with a range of weight and measurements that anyone can apply at home to know if they are required to buy two seats or not. Why do we have to be surprised and publicly confronted when such standards ought to exist? Having objective standards will also insure that employees can't ever be subconsciously influenced by things like class and race, even with the best of intentions. A measuring tape or weight scales don't lie and can be employed when there's a dispute about the policy.
T. McDaniels — Tue, 02/16/2010 - 08:57