A Southwest Airlines flight crew is under fire after they removed a 5'4” 110-pound stand-by passenger to make room for an obese ticket-holder who needed a second seat. The airline's normal policy for over-booked flights is to ask for a volunteer among the passengers to deplane.
This is not Southwest's first run-in with plus-size problems. The actor-director Kevin Smith criticized the airline in February after they kicked him off an Oakland-Burbank flight because of his girth. Referred to as “Fatgate” by the Twittering masses, Smith was outspoken about the incident, which he said was emblematic of the embarrassment and prejudices endured by overweight Americans.
A spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines, Marilee McInnis told the Sacramento Bee that this recent situation was “awkward” and admitted that the flight crew should have handled it better.
One reason she gave for breaking the rules: the late-coming obese passenger was only fourteen years old and already quite embarrassed. The flight crew didn't want to prolong the conflict and tried to act quickly.
As more and more Americans reach for the seat belt extenders, airlines are caught in a touchy position. Who get's priority in the battle over those 17.2 inches of navy-blue cushion? While airlines around the country struggle to set fair policies, Smith continues to find humor in the humiliation:
About Southwest's recent snafu, Smith tweeted: “Now me AND my [skinny] wife can get booted off Southwest... TOGETHER!”
-- MEREDITH MELNICK