Southwest Airlines is going to start enforcing a large-sized passenger rule. Starting now, if you take up two seats, you pay for two seats.
Personally, I couldn't be more thrilled.
I know it seems easy for me to say. I am a small person. But at the rate I am going with my weight, that might not always be the case. My dad is large (well, he really only has a belly & he's really tall), but my mom was large. Overweight is one thing. So large that you take up two airline seats (or two movie theatre seats, whatever) is another thing entirely.
I am not unsympathetic. But in the end, I admit, I think about MY comfort, & the fairness of it all. If you sit in one seat, you pay for one seat. If you take up two, you pay for two. That's only fair.
I can speak from personal experience. Two personal experiences, in fact.
I am claustophobic. I cannot STAND sitting in the middle seat, because I hate being between two people I don't know. I get very agitated. Once, I was sat between two VERY large people. 300+ a piece. A man & a woman. Ironically, they were together, but I had the seat in between them. Picture, if you will, a small girl SANDWICHED between two LARGE people. I didn't get my own seat. I had to share. On both sides. The woman was 1/4 in my chair on the right, & the man was 1/4 in my chair on the left. I sat completely squished between these two people for a 3 hour flight. To make matters worse, they argued over me the entire time. I asked them at one point if they wanted to switch seats with me. The man said, "No, I don't want to sit next to HER!" Well, I didn't want to sit next to either one. But the plane was full.
The other experience...I had a direct flight from Charlotte to Los Angeles. That's a 6+ hour flight. I walked back to my seat, in the last row of the plane (again, a full flight). I had requested an aisle seat, because after the above mentioned experience, I refuse to sit in middle seats. In the middle seat & the window seat were two 300lb.+ people. The woman, sitting in the middle, already had the armrest raised, because she could not fit between the armrests. I always rest my arms on both armrests, it's the only way I can get comfortable when I am trying to sleep (which I was going to try to do). I had 1/2-3/4 of my seat, but I sure did not have the whole seat. She was sharing my seat with me. Again, I do NOT like to touch strangers. It makes me really uncomfortable. So I edged out into the aisle. Well...EVERY time they brought the cart back & forth, it bumped me. Get bumped by a cart or sit on top of a strange woman. I actually felt more sympathetic for this woman, because she seemed really embarrassed at the situation, as opposed to the attitude of, "I'm big & proud of it, so you have to share your seat with me," like the 1st experience. But it didn't change the situation. I wrote to the CEO of United Airlines after this experience. He told me that they couldn't ask people to buy two seats, but issued me a gift certificate in apologies for my uncomfortable flight.
If we started making seats large enough to accomodate EVERYONE, people of ALL sizes, can you imagine how large the seats would be? If we encompassed everyone, that would mean airlines would have to provide seats to accomodate 500+lb people. That's a VERY large seat, people. 300lb people---unless most of the weight is distributed well due to their tall height---they would need a very large seat in order to not hang into the next seat. If we made seats to comfortably seat TALL people, there would be TONS of room between the rows. So...are we going to start making planes capable of only carrying 50 passengers? That's about how many planes would be able to carry if the seats were made large enough to fit EVERYONE. It's NOT possible nor realistic. They could make a "plus sized person" section, of maybe 10 rows, where you'd have to pay a premium to have more butt & leg room...but even that cuts down on the number of passengers on a plane. And there are federal mandates on aisle size. What's the solution here, folks? What would the large people like us (or the airline industry) to do???
Let's look at it. I pay $400 for a seat on a plane. You can expect NEVER to be comfortable on a plane, even with short legs. I have bad knees, & sitting for too long hurts them. But I do NOT expect to have to share my seat. I paid for one full seat. The seats are small enough as it is, no one is denying that. The smart thing to do would be for airlines to make the seats wider. But that's not going to happen, because there'd be less seats, & therefore, less money for the airlines. So we need to accept that airplane seats are probably NOT going to get bigger. If I pay for a seat, I want the whole thing, as small as it is. No one should have to share their seat, just because they are sitting next to a large person. A large person shouldn't get to hang over into the next seat without having to pay for it! Why should a paying customer be made to be uncomfortable (more than usual) on a long flight simply because someone next to them is too large to fit in their single seat? I pay $400 for 3/4 of a seat, while the large person pays $400 & gets a seat & a 1/4? That's not fair. Someone PLEASE tell me how this isn't a FAIR rule? You take up two seats, you pay for two seats. You take up one seat, you pay for one seat. Makes total sense to me.
Read the article here:
By Jon Herskovitz
DALLAS (June 19) - Passengers who are too large to squeeze between the arm rests of Southwest Airlines Co. seats will be charged double for flying the low-cost carrier, the company said on Wednesday.
The Dallas-based airline, which does not have first or business class sections with larger seats, said the policy has been in effect for some time but will be more strictly enforced beginning next week.
Starting next Wednesday, its ''people of size'' policy will require passengers who need seat-belt extensions or cannot lower the arm rests on their seats to purchase two seats if they are flying on a plane near or at capacity.
''If you consume more than one seat, you will be charged for more than one seat,'' said spokeswoman Beth Harbin.
Harbin said that under the existing policy, fewer than 1 percent of Southwest passengers have been asked to buy a second seat, which is offered at the same rate at which the passenger purchased their original ticket.
Southwest seats are 18-3/4 inches wide.
When the plane is not crowded, a larger passenger can apply for a refund for the second seat, she said.
Southwest said that about 90 percent of the letters it receives on the issue have been from passengers complaining that their seating has been encroached upon by larger neighbors. The airline said one of the top complaints it receives are from passengers who say they were ''sat on'' during their flight.
Fat activist Marilyn Wann, author of the book ''FAT!SO?,'' said airlines should provide seating that accommodates people of all shapes and sizes who are paying for a trip.
''You are buying passage from point A to point B. You are not buying real estate,'' Wann said.
SENSE OF FAIRNESS
David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, said that airlines have had an informal policy for years of encouraging larger people to buy an extra seat.
He said the topic will likely gain greater attention as Americans grow fatter and airlines try to keep seats narrow to comply with federal mandates on aisle size and their own need to pack passengers on planes.
The extra seat policy is not unique to Southwest. American Airlines said the ''purchase of an additional seat will be necessary for customers whose bodies protrude extensively into an adjacent seat,'' while other carriers have formal and informal policies on the extra seat requirement.
Stempler said he supported charging certain people for two seats out of fairness to other passengers and the potential safety concern of having people of size shoehorned into a small coach seat.
''If people are taking up two seats, they ought to pay for two seats,'' Stempler said. ''They are really impinging on the sense of fairness.''
Southwest was sued eight years ago on the issue by a larger passenger forced to buy a second seat and the case was dismissed, Harbin said.
The airline said the move to more strictly enforce the policy was prompted by its decision to stop giving out its trademark plastic boarding passes on a first-come, first-served basis to passengers at its departure gate.
Southwest, which does not have assigned seating, is starting to dispense paper boarding passes instead in an effort to cut waiting time for customers who have to pass through more stringent security measures after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The new boarding passes, which are given out at Skycap counters, ticket gates and at departure gates, provide an opportunity for Southwest workers to show greater discretion in enforcing the people of size policy, airline officials said.
Morgan Downey, executive director of the American Obesity Association said his organization is considering lawsuits against the carrier for a policy he called highly subjective.
''They are packing us in like sardines and they say it's our fault that their seats don't fit the traveling public,'' he said.
Reuters 18:21 06-19-02