Friday, May 4, 2012

Too Fat to Fly? How Do We Know?

I just came across the story of Kenlie Tiggeman who is suing Soutwest for a "too fat to fly" situation. And the interesting twist is that she's not suing for a cash settlement. She wants, instead, for airlines just let us know when we're too fat to fit in their seats. From an ABC News piece:
Tiggeman said she is not seeking monetary damages from the airline and filed the injunction application pro se, without legal representation. She said she wants an industry standard to be put in place for flyers who have to buy a second seat, including rules so that it is no longer up to gate attendants to decide whether or not an obese passenger has to purchase a second seat. 
"If you're telling me I have to buy two seats, you should tell me at the point of purchase, not the day I'm flying when I check in at the terminal," she said.
This is really interesting. I'm with Ragen Chastain, in that I actually don't think it's unreasonable to ask large people to buy more space. She said:
I understand the airlines’ position that they are selling space and so they feel that if you take up more space than you purchased you should pay more than others. At the very least, if the airline wants to charge more for people who take up more than one seat, then that policy must be applied across the board – so if people’s shoulders are too broad or their legs are too long, then they’ll need to buy another seat as well.

...Airlines ask fat people to purchase two seats if they don’t fit into one. But then they make it difficult if not impossible to do so. I personally know people who’ve had to spend hours on hold to get the tickets purchased (because you can’t buy two tickets under the same name) only to be told on the plane that they had to give up their extra seat because the airline “needed” it, or to have their seats be non-adjacent. If this is really such a huge problem then they should make the solution that they propose easy for us. And if the flight is not full, the money that we pay for a second ticket should be refunded.
YES. What both  Chastain and Higgeman are getting at is that airlines need to be mindful of people of size and the fact that they are PEOPLE, so treat them as such. If the airlines put reasonable rules and guidelines in place, it helps preserve the dignity of larger customers. But if no rules exist, and people are being pointed out and humiliated at the gate, then there's clearly a problem.

So good on you Higgeman. I hope you win your case.

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