Airlines charging extra for "large" fliers.

This kind of policy is not unique to Southwest, although their methodology may be unique.

The Council on Size and Weight Discrimination says that Americans are getting larger, so “an airline has an obligation to make its seat fit the population.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance is portraying this as an “accessibility” issue for larger fliers.

The airlines point out that larger fliers crammed into standard seats often create complaints from passengers next to them…and of course making seats larger results in fewer numbers of seats per jet space…which results in potentially lower income per flight.

Is this a reasonable policy?

oops…story is here

Beagledave, I just finished my OP on this very subject. Rats. Well, here’s Southwest’s 22-year-old policy – people whose girth exceeds their seat on the plane (Southwest’s seats are 18-3/4" wide) will be required to purchase a second ticket for a second seat.

According to this Chicago Tribune article, the gate agent will be responsible for judging whether a passenger is too large for the seat and require the passenger to purchase an extra ticket. From the article:

I have to admit, I’m on the fence here. On the one hand, 19" is a very bare minimum for seat width, especially for large American behinds. It’s pretty silly of Southwest to expect that the majority of their passengers will fit into those seats without any…umm…spillover. Hell, I’m a size 6 and I don’t think I could tolerate a seat much smaller than that. On the other, I’ve been that passenger quite literally wedged under and between two very large people, and it was a hellish flight. (Come to think of it, wider seats would have helped that too.)

But how large a person should Southwest reasonably be expected to accomodate? Is it unfair to ask a, say, 300-lb person to buy an extra seat? How about 400-lb? Do we measure everyone’s butts before the flight?

(I didn’t bother reading the article, but figured I’d give an uninformed opinion…) :slight_smile:

Am I the only one that seems disturbed by that? That the American population is becoming so obese that we have to force businesses to conform to their needs? Being Obese (for the most part) is NOT a handicap.

I never knew such a thing as “the national association for the advancement of fat people” even existed.

I’m sorry but although I DISAGREE with discrimination against the overweight, I have to support the higher ticket prices. I just look at the larger picture and think if we start making excuses for a national health problem, then it would really get out of control.

No offense, but sitting next to a larger person can be uncomfortable. They take up a lot of room, and can really crowd your space. Really though. Those may seem like whiney complaints, but they are valid ones especially since these people pay for tickets. HOWEVER, I think that if airlines are going to charge for two seats, they should atleast build in bigger seats to accomidate larger passengers.

It’s discrimination, pure and simple.

Would Southwest (or any other airline) allow two very skinny people to buy one seat to share between them? I don’t think so.

On the one hand, as a tall skinny guy, I wouldn’t particularly mind if arlines ripped out every other row of seats and replaced the seats with large plush recliners.

On the other, I’d rather not pay a thousand bucks for short hops that cost me two hundred now. And that’s a bigger hand.

Gundy wrote:

For us guys in the audience who use a different clothing size scale:

How big is “size 6” in inches or centimeters?

(sorry for my poor sentence structure and spelling…)

That comment does seem very shallow, and I apologize.

Thats more along the lines of what I was getting at. It’s simply not fair to other passengers to be seated to a larger individual.

“Come to think of it, wider seats would have helped that too.”

Ummm… No.

No, you or they would have had to pay more or go on another flight.

Of course not, for obvious safety reasons. But so what? That doesn’t have anything to do with making a person who cannot fit into one seat pay for the other seat that they take up. If a person needs two standard-sized seats (and I, too, wish the goddamned seats were bigger to begin with) to sit in, they should pay for both seats. Simple.

I’m curious if obesity IS covered under, say, the Americans with Disabilities Act. I mean, it goes against my better judgment to describe obestiy as a disability…although the Simpsons episode where Homer intentionally gains 161 lbs. comes to mind. :smiley:

Still, discrimination against the obese isn’t necessarily of the same kind as, say, gender, race, or ethnic background. A person’s weight is something that can change, and so isn’t part and parcel of who the person is. (I’m being a bit overbroad here; I know there are some who have glandular problems or whatever causing excessive weight beyond their control.) It IS possible to healthily reduce one’s girth; it’s not an “immutable trait” of the person which requires acceptance.

There’s also a safety issue involved: what happens if the plane has to be evacuated? I was listening to a safety engineer on a radio program yesterday discussing this problem. Besides the potential problem of blocking the aisles (c’mon, you can’t count on folks to exit in an “orderly fashion”), the life rafts and emergency slides are designed for people in the 250-350 lb. range.

…the response, of course, being that they should make stronger rafts and slides, and wider seats.

I wonder if its possible for airlines to install one or two rows with larger–and fewer–seats on some of their planes. Charging half again as much for these seats would be a compromise over making tubbos pay for two tickets.

When I worked in reservations for Eastern Airlines I would get calls from time to time from people who explained that they were too large to fit in 1 seat. I would put them on a flight that was underbooked so that they could put up the armrest and use a little of the next seat. If the seat is going to be empty anyway, what’s the harm.

As far as flying a fully booked flight, I’m kind of torn on requiring someone to purchase 2 seats. I can’t imagine how embarrassing it would be to have some gate agent take me on board and “measure” me.

Oh, and I also think the gate agents that have to do this deserve a hell of a raise. They are definately going to be facing some very irate passengers.

Good. When you fly on an aircraft, you’re buying space. If you want more space, you fly 1st class. But if I pay for a seat, I want the whole seat, not the bit left over by someone who’s overweight in the next seat.

Ditto with baggage. If you carry more baggage than your allowance (20kg is the norm in economy class here, IIRC), you pay extra - “excess baggage” it’s called. The extra weight uses up fuel. Why should people who only carry a small bag (like me) subsidize people carrying half a ton of stuff?

Airlines are free to compete. If some want to provide bigger seats, fine. The others will lose the custom of people who can’t fit into smaller seats. But if an airline sees fit to provide only smaller seats, people who take up more than one should pay for it. Otherwise, they’re just taking what their neighbor has paid for.

(I’ve been stuck next to people who take up more than their fair share of space before, so it’s a peeve of mine.)

What SWA is doing is perfectly legitimate.

SWA is in the business of making money, period. They make their money by selling seats on airplanes. If an overweight person causes them to lose the revenue from a seat, then the overweight person should pay for it. Simple. Just as I can’t get two hamburgers for the price of one by claiming I’m a big eater by a resturaunt, I can’t get two seats on a plane for the price of one.

SWA could make their seats bigger. However, they have to factor the following into this:
(1) The cost of the larger seats
(2) The lost revenue from having less seats per flight
(3) The additional revenue that would result from overweight people flying on their planes. If #3 would outweigh #1-2, SWA would do it in a heartbeat. Obviously, it doesn’t, so they don’t.

So, what recourse does a fat person like myself have? Simple. Go to another airline. Send them a letter stating “I would have flown your airline, but X Airways accomodated me and so they will be getting my business in the future.” Make noise in public. But don’t demand that they give you a seat for free.

Zev Steinhardt

Like first/buisness class? :slight_smile:
I am of the opinion that if some wide-ass needs two seats, they should pay for two seats. (Also, lay off the twinkies and go for a walk instead of a cheeseburger, but that is another topic)

By the way, it is eminently arguable that it is possible (and healthy) for certain overweight people to “just lose the weight.” For many people weight loss is not a matter of simple discipline; many of those overweight people you decry as lazy are extremely fit.

I’m on a mailing list for persons of size* and they’ve been discussing this since about Tuesday. A high percentage of them have stated that they purchase two seats, just on general principle and self-respect. Just FYI.

pld, because it’s all about the money. Southwest sees charging passengers who ask for seatbelt extenders**regardless of whether they spill over into the next seat (note that I am now only talking about one class of people here) as a way to make more money.

Like Zev, I will no longer be flying Southwest. Note that, as I hate to fly anyway, this is not that great an inconvenience for me. It will be for other people.
*Their phrase, not mine.

**The frustrating thing for me about this is the fact that they will be charging said overweight people the extra seat even in cases when the flight is not booked. The last time I flew, Southwest, I had an entire row of three seats to myself because there were so few passengers. If I had met their criterion for being too big, would it have been fair of them to charge me double?

What happens if you are supposed to be sitting next to the “person of size” whom the gate agents adjuge to be too large for one seat?

Would you have to be bumped to another flight?


To be perfectly clear, I am not boycotting SWA. I don’t fly enough to make a difference one way or the other and have never flown on SWA. I was merely offering it as a suggestion of what to do if you are frustrated by SWA’s (or anyone else’s) policies.

Zev Steinhardt

In Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts said that she was a size 6. So, that size.

I can imagine how humiliating it would be to be taken in by some airplane worker at the gate and measured to see if I fit into the seat - and that it’s entirely at the workers discretion whether or not to embarrass you is a bad, bad policy (based on many of the airline staff I’ve encountered.)