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SWA under fire for obesity policy

Do you think "people of size" should buy 2 tickets?

  • Yes

    Votes: 128 96.2%
  • No

    Votes: 5 3.8%

  • Total voters
    133

flydog

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Southwest under fire for making 'people of size' buy two tickets

By DAVID KOENIG
Associated Press
Posted June 20 2002, 7:04 AM EDT

DALLAS -- Southwest Airlines is under fire for its policy of charging overweight passengers for two tickets if they spill over into their neighbor's seat.

The airline said it is trying to provide a comfortable flight for travelers seated next to large passengers.

``We sell seats, and if you consume more than one seat, you have to buy more than one seat,'' said Beth Harbin, a Southwest spokeswoman.

Advocates for the obese are outraged.

``It's just discriminatory and it's mean-spirited,'' said Morgan Downey, executive director of the American Obesity Association. ``This is singling out a group that's been very heavily stigmatized rather than making some accommodations in their cabins.''

Downey, whose group has not received specific complaints about the airline's policy, said Southwest and other carriers should make wider seats because Americans are getting larger; the Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than one-fourth of Americans are obese.

Southwest, whose seats are 18¾ inches wide, does not weigh or measure passengers. Ticket agents can ``make a judgment call'' and ask an obese person whether he or she usually takes up more than one seat, Harbin said. If the answer is yes, the person is asked to buy two seats.

The second seat costs the same as the original fare, unless the passenger is a walk-up customer paying the highest price. In that case, the second ticket is discounted, Harbin said. The passenger can get a refund later if the flight is not sold out, the airline spokeswoman said.

Southwest said there is nothing new in its handling of obese passengers. Harbin said the carrier has followed the same policy since 1980, although employees were reminded of the policy as the carrier began switching this week to a new automated boarding pass instead of its old, familiar plastic passes.

Several other carriers have similar policies, including Houston-based Continental and Fort Worth-based American, which requires purchase of a second seat for customers who ``protrude extensively into an adjacent seat.'' Northwest Airlines allows the passenger to buy the second seat at the same price paid for the first seat rather than a more expensive last-minute rate.

``That's a compromise, and we're coming quite a ways with that. It's a very difficult issue,'' said Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch.

Delta does not require obese passengers to buy a second ticket and tries to handle complaints by moving passengers to empty seats or other flights, a spokeswoman said. United also does not require purchase of a second ticket, a spokesman said.

Southwest said its double-ticket policy on obese passengers was prompted by complaints from other travelers. Harbin, the airline spokeswoman, said nine out of 10 letters to customer service come from passengers who were crowded by large neighbors.

The airlines said they don't know how many times an obese passenger is required to buy two tickets, but they consider it rare.

Downey said his group was considering legal action or asking Congress to prohibit the two-ticket policy. ___
 

aero99

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As I can somewhat sympathize with those few who will need to pay for a second seat (based on the airlines regulations) because I find my self stuffed into coach seats and I only weight about 210 lbs. If I wanted to be more comfy on a flight and wanted to stretch out I would expect to PAY for that EXTRA seat I want to USE. Its called first class. And as a paying customer in coach, I don't want someones elbow laying in my lap.

Only real problem with this whole thing is when was the last time you bought two tickets and the ticket agent at the gate tells you ther are not TWO seats togther even though you bought the tickets together 2 months prior?

I can see the arguement at the gate now:

Ticket agent: "Sir (ma'am) I am sorry but I will have to charge you for two seats but I'm gonna have to split you up. "

p.s. I know.,I know, SWA doesn't have First Class....
 

capt_zman

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The svelt people are totally missing the upside here, two seats means two (2) bags of peanuts. Go baby.
 

Goffer

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Obesity is a severe disability. Other disabled people may require someone to care for them if they were to fly, also requiring two seats. It can also be seen as a courtesy service provided to the average traveler. How else would they remedy this problem, add larger seats in the 737's to an amount that reflects the percentage of obese citizens of the United States?
 

Vandal

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Goffer said:
Obesity is a severe disability. Other disabled people may require someone to care for them if they were to fly, also requiring two seats. It can also be seen as a courtesy service provided to the average traveler. How else would they remedy this problem, add larger seats in the 737's to an amount that reflects the percentage of obese citizens of the United States?

So about half the seats then eh?
 

sabreliner

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At my airline, and pleanty of others, we can't carry HAZMAT. This means we can't carry pax that require the continuous use of oxygen. Are we discriminating against them? No. The line has to be drawn somewhere. You do your best to accomodate everyone, but there is only so much you can do.
 

BigFlyr

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I can see it now... An airline seat next to the ticket counter with rigid armrests. If you fit, you fly with one ticket. Otherwise you buy two. Talk about humiliating! I'm all for it, but I just can't see it put into practice without obese people crying discrimination and suing the crap out of everyone involved.
 

Data

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Well if we do that we've got to make fares half-price for anorexics, right? It's the same argument, isn't it?
 

RichardFitzwell

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I personally agree with SW's decision. Proportionately challenged people should be charged extra when they spill into my seating area. I have been wedged between Big (in seat 8a) and Bigger (in seat 8c) too many times. This makes for a very uncomfortable flight.

Bravo Southwest. Hopefully the other airlines follow suit.
 

chperplt

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Unlike real disabilities like MS, mental illness, severe injuries, fat is totally controllable.

Photopilot,

For you, being fat was totally controllable. For others, it is not totally controllable. There are quite a few medical problems that can cause obesity. Hypothyroidism for one... People with severe thyroid disfunction can have uncontrollable weight gain. It can takes up to a year or two before medication can properly control it.

I know all about hypothyroidism. I went from 190lbs to near 300lbs before I was on the correct medication and correct amount of it. It took another 2 years to lose most of it.

Before you jump to a conclusion and call all overweight people lazy and fat, you might want to get your facts straight. It's not all about not being able to push away from the table.
 

bigD

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Now we just need to find a way to solve the screaming kid problem and we'd be all set.

Personally, I wouldn't be adverse to donning an oxygen mask and raising the cabin alititude until the little brats pass out. But that's just me. :D
 

surfnole

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Perhaps should have just had a row called *fat row* where all six people can squeeze into six seats together. Let them mash up against each other.

Its rather selfish that the obese leadership demand that they be allowed to overflow into someone else's seat and ruin their flight because they don't want to buy an extra ticket.

If there is room on the flight to accomodate an obese person, then perhaps Southwest should put them in that seat...But if the flight is packed, that person should be required to buy two seats or get bumped for the next flight.
 

AWACoff

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You didn't say "all" or "lazy" but you did use the phrase "totally controllable". Obviously that is untrue. For the most part though, a large percentage of obese people are fat asses due to lack of activity and a poor diet. Look at my lard butt for instance. I put on 15lbs after I was furloughed because I sat around the house and snacked all winter. Do like JARED! I am sick and tired of paying full price for my ticket and then getting only half a seat because some sweaty, fat, business man has rolls of fat falling over the arm rest and squishing me against the fuselage/person next to me/etc. Let's not even get started with how these people only weigh 170/175lbs. So much for average weights. Time for me to grab another donut.
 

chperplt

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Don't misquote me. I said being fat is caused by an idle lifestyle, but certainly not "all" cases.

Photopilot,

I wasn't quoting you.. I was inferring what you said and "lazy" and "all" were my words.

However, you did say,
Unlike real disabilities like MS, mental illness, severe injuries, fat is totally controllable

I was simply pointing out that you were incorrect.

Obesity is a major problem in this country and you won't get an argument from me on that point.

As far as this thread goes, I think Southwest is totally within their right to do this. I hope they don't find themselves in court fighting against having a certain number of seats + sized.
 

chawbein

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Quit Crying!!!

Bad things happen in life. You sack up and do what it takes to get by, without having to inconvenience those around you. I would put cold hard cash down that those who have a physical condition that ABSOLUTELY gives them no choice in their weight is insignificant. For those people; that sucks, but you can't expect that the other 90% of people who fly need to make an allowance for a small percentage. The rest of the fatasses can do something about it, either by taking medication and controlling their medical condition or by getting up and walking everyday and watching what you eat. That is exactly what that subway guy did.
 

chperplt

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Quit Crying!!!

Who's crying, and what are they crying about?? I'm certainly not crying, just enlightening.




I would put cold hard cash down that those who have a physical condition that ABSOLUTELY gives them no choice in their weight is insignificant.

How much money do you want to lose?

What percentage of people do you call insignificant? 1%? 5%? 7%?

Certainly the majority of people who are overweight are so by their choice of lifestyle. I don't have an exact number, but Thyroid disease is one of the most common diseases in the world. Many who have it don't even know they do. If you have a real slow producing thyroid, you have virtually no metabolism working for you. No metabolism means nothing is getting burned which in turn means everything becomes fat.

If you want to place that wager, I'll be happy to take your money. Hypothyroidism is not insignificant within the population.
 

RichardFitzwell

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We're off the topic...

Southwest doesn't care if people are fat or how they got that way. They simply expect them to pay for the extra space they use. Period.
 

skyking1976

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I'm about 30-40 pounds overweight. You know what I'm doing about it? Jogging. I can jog my fat a$$ off and get down to my "ideal" weight. Why? I don't feel like having myself spill over into the persons seat next to me. As for thyroid disorders, there are medications and they do take some time to work. However, in the meantime cough up the extra cash for an extra seat. I would be extremely embarrassed if I were the one crowding out the seat next to me and I would gladly pay it. Coach seats are uncomfortable enough.... Okay, I'm done now.
Have a nice day!


Skyking
 

eriknorth

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At an all you can eat buffet, notice that they usually charge little or nothing for children. This is due to the fact that most children do not eat as much as an adult. Granted, some adults eat like mice, but we are looking at the trends, not the exceptions. My point is, just like in a buffet, if you use up more of the good or service that is being provided, it is only right for a business to charge accordingly. This doesn't translate directly, but I couldn't do my flight training in a cheaper, smaller aircraft because I am 6'5", and that just doesnt work. I need more space, so I pay for more airplane. Again, I know this is a different kind of thing, but the principle still applies. Businesses (in theory) treat customers as best as they can, but they have to draw a line to make sure they are making money on their service (that is what a business does) and keep it fair for everyone. Maybe they could just sell seats by the inch, and they measure you when you get there, so smaller people pay even less when their space has been encroached upon:D .
 
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