Size issues have once again resulted in a passenger being forced from an airline. The most recent episode was last week on a Southwest Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Sacramento. A 5-foot-4, 110-pound woman had already stowed her bags and was buckled in her seat when she was asked to leave the plane to provide room for a large person to sit in two seats. The late-to-arrive large person was a 14-year-old girl whose parents had only purchased one seat, a violation of the airline’s “Customer of Size” policies.
The passenger said in an interview with the Sacramento Bee that she was surprised when she was told to deplane, and airline employees berated her for expressing irritation. "It didn't seem right that I should have to leave to accommodate someone who had only paid for one seat," she said.
"We know this was awkward and we should have handled it better," said Southwest spokeswoman Marilee McInnis, adding that normally the airline would ask for volunteers to give up their seats. In this case, however, flight attendants may have been rushing to make room for the teen in order to save him from embarrassment.
Southwest is the same airline that made headlines earlier this year when it removed blogger and director Kevin Smith from his seat for being too large and needing to “squeeze” into his seat. Southwest said his removal was for the "safety and comfort of all customers," maintaining that a large person could block passengers seated nearby from exiting quickly in the event of an emergency.
Southwest generally requires large passengers to buy two tickets. The airline has even gone so far as to now have an online “Customer of Size” FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) document. It addresses multiple concerns, including whether a pregnant woman has to buy two seats: Southwest says a pregnant woman does not occupy two seats if she can lower the armrests. While the policies only apply to Southwest, they could influence other airlines to adopt similar restrictions.
Southwest Airlines “Customer Of Size” Policy Information
Why ask large Customers to purchase additional seating?