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16 February 2010 @ 08:56 am
Southwest Airlines' Major Fail  
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
Mari Adkinsmariadkins on February 16th, 2010 09:10 pm (UTC)
Well done.
Tapatitapati on February 17th, 2010 09:10 pm (UTC)
thank you, and I thank Kevin Smith for not taking it silently. :)
Mari Adkinsmariadkins on February 17th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
leave it to him not to take things sitting down ;)
Phatchick: stupidityladybrigid on February 17th, 2010 02:49 am (UTC)
You have no idea how much I hate flying and situations like that are the reason why. And, IMNSHO, Southwest has a bad case of size phobia, this isn't the first time they've done this. Just the first time it happened to somebody with some influence.
Me, the next time I need to travel, I'm taking the train.
Tapatitapati on February 17th, 2010 09:11 pm (UTC)
Other airlines are welcoming Kevin Smith and reminding him that they don't treat people this way. I've had good experiences with other airlines.
Mari Adkinsmariadkins on February 17th, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC)
i've flown southwest exactly once. in 1998 when i moved out to california. i'll never fly with them again.
almighty_patsyalmighty_patsy on February 18th, 2010 02:05 am (UTC)
I read about the whole thing first at sf_drama.

It's a livejournal community, sf_drama, which is basically supposed to be where people post about stupid things people have said on livejournal that have turned into big dramas. (It's actually a lot more than that, though.) It's kind of nice sometimes to read about some victim-blaming idiocy going on at a community like ohnotheydidnt and then have an entire community of commenters call foul on it at sf_drama (what can I say, I like having people agree with me.)

ANYWAY that very long intro just to say that the response there was not as unanimous as usual with the Kevin Smith thing.
3treekisser: Legally Blonde3treekisser on February 19th, 2010 02:22 pm (UTC)
Frankly when it comes to choosing to sit next to someone, I admit to discriminating against young men. It's unfair, I know (and doubly so since they're my peers), but whenever I see a teen/twenties-year-old guy not dressed in a suit, some classist part of me instinctively thinks GANGSTER KNIFE ATTACK RISK and GANGSTER LOUDMOUTH ABUSE RISK and steers my butt somewhere else. :/

I just caught up on your other posts about this issue, and just want to say how much I admire how calm and even-handed you've been, Tapati. Fat acceptance issues completely aside, all you've done is requested that if someone's going to impose extra charges for something, they clarify what that something is. It's the LEAST that can be done for and it's shocking that anyone should even have to ask for objective guidelines.

Hope you're feeling better otherwise...
Tapatitapati on February 20th, 2010 10:13 pm (UTC)
I've had lots of practice at addressing fat bashing and other such issues calmly. :)

My arm is a lot better than this time last week but still touchy and I'm still resting, icing when needed, and trying to keep it in a neutral position as much as I can. I'm getting a little stir crazy, though.

I think it's common to view men with caution in public--all men who are physically capable of being a threat. Sad but with so many well publicized violent incidents our radar is hyperactive. But when alone I will follow my gut about potential threat and not worry about offending a man.