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Should obese passengers pay for two seats? Kevin Smith drama sparks debate. What do you think?

Talk back L.A.

Director Kevin Smith's dispute with Southwest Airlines after his removal from a plane over the weekend in Oakland touches on what for years has been a hot-button issue in the airline world: Should obese passengers be required to purchase two seats?

Southwest is one of numerous airlines that requires passengers who can't fit comfortably into a single seat to purchase a second seat. Some passengers have hailed this policy, saying it's unfair to them to sit next to someone who takes up part of their seat.

Kevin Smith milking 'Fatgate' for all it's worthBut there have been legal challenges and protests over such policies. Last month, Air France came under criticism for asking obese passengers to pay 75% of the costs of a second seat, forcing the airline to clarify its policy. Critics argued the plan discriminated against people because of their weight.

United Airlines started charging obese passengers for a second seat last year. According to airline officials, United has received more than 700 complaints from passengers saying obese passengers  encroached on their seats.

In Canada, the government and courts have ruled that airlines must provide "clinically obese" passengers with an extra seat for no charge. Supporters of the policy said it will allow more disabled people to travel.

In the case of Smith, the director was outraged that he was told by airline employees to leave the plane even though he insisted that he fit in his seat.

"I know I'm fat, but was [the airline] really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?" he wrote. "I broke no regulation, offered no safety risk."

Smith said the incident took place Saturday and that he was eventually able to make it to L.A. on another Southwest flight.

Southwest issued an apology to Smith on its Twitter feed. "We are sincerely sorry for your travel experience on Southwest Airlines," the airline said in a statement.

What do you think? Should obese passengers pay for two seats? Or is that discrimination? Share your view.

--Shelby Grad

Comments () | Archives (180)

Who's going to decide who is too fat to fit in their seat? If, as Kevin Smith claimed, he fit into his seat with the armrests down and could fasten his seat belt then he fit into that seat. Personally, I have more problem with kids on an airplane than fat people. I almost always seem to end up next to someone's out of control kid who flops around in his/her seat, kicks me on every flop and who between the physical beating I take and the kid's nonstop yapping generally makes my flying experience miserable. If a person who fits into his seat can be removed because he takes up more than his allotted amount of space, I think parents of children ought to have to pay for two seats because the kids will not/can not stay in thewir allotted seat space. I say let the fatties fly--keep the kids off the plane!

I do not think that anyone should be paying for two seats due to their body size. Obese people have been around forever and ever so why the fuss now? It's a way for the airlines to make additional profits. Kevin Smith should sue them and publicly ask others who have had the same experience to join him in a class action suit. That would fun to watch.

I'm fat, but thankfully I haven't had trouble fitting in an airplane seat, yet. My next vacation is in 3 months, for which I hope to drop a significatn amount of weight to avoid an embarrassing scenario like that of Kevin Smith's. I agree with you skinny people that obese people are a burden, especially if you end up sitting next to them. But lighten up. We're not all meant to be the same size. Diversity is great, even when it comes to size. Furthermore, airplane seats are so lacking in size these days, that you have to be aneroxic to sit comfortably in them.

A. Gomez is right. I'm a man of standard height and weight and on a recent SW flight to Vegas, it felt as though I was sitting in my neighbor's lap. The spaces are definitely smaller. Now, that said, I was at one time very overweight and have since dropped the pounds. However, the entire time I was overweight, I never placed the burden on society to adjust itself to me. No one owes obese people anything. Lose the weight and quit crying. People will respect you again. And oh, by the way, you'll probably live longer. And one more thing...doesn't he have a movie coming out? Sounds like being overweight is actually working to his advantage. Maybe he actually owes SW for the additional PR.

I'm sorry to say, but yes, people that flood into the other passengers seat should pay for another seat. Passengers are already uncomfortable squished into their seat let alone someone flooding into their seat. I am so glad that Southwest took a stand on this issue.

It's seems like a no brainer, if you need 2 seats then you pay for 2 seats.

The policy is from over 10 years ago. Since then people are larger in size. The airlines need to update their seats and their policies for this day and age.

Society continues to treat the symptom and side-step the core issue. The problem is that we have an obesity epidemic in this country. I'm tired of paying for it.

I pay for it by subsidizing low-cost junk food (our taxes allow us to sell cheeseburgers for far less than their true cost).

I pay for it through health insurance (everyone's health insurance is higher because lots of people don't take care of their bodies driving the overall cost up).

And up until last year, I paid for it by buying half and airplane ticket for someone who couldn't fit in his own seat. Yes, on a few occasions, I've been seated next to someone who cascaded, sagged, or ballooned over the armrest and into my seat with me. Then I felt compelled to sit there quietly while this poor fat guy ordered drank his soda, pop, ate his cookies and wolfed down his cholesterol laden airplane meal.

Enough is enough. We need to find a way to compassionately assist overweight people toward a sustainable lifestyle. In the meantime, we certainly need to stop subsidizing their suicidal choices.

Reading all the negative comments here, makes me very sad. Who decides what is fat and what is skinny?

I'm 175 pounds and if I stand next to some asian who is only 90 pounds, does that mean I'm fat?

Reading these comments just shows how much people suck. Sitting behind a screen and making blank judgments.

The only reason Kevin got kicked off the plane, was that he normally buys two seats for privacy and the SW Employees automatically assumed that he was buying to seats because he was fat and should be kicked off the plane.

America is a relatively obese nation; it's just a sad fact as to our state of decline. Soooo... if airline seats accommodated one standard deviation towards the up-size, they should be able to accommodate 84% of all Americans comfortable, no problem. Two standard deviation towards the up-size should fit 97.5% of a fat America. It would be interesting to see a study of the average sized airline seat and how much of a Fat America it truly accommodates percentage wise. Sure, it's economics; airlines squeezing for max capacity, but how much of America is it accommodating, and as a result, also squeezing a fit person when they have to sit next to the obese?

I would go ballistic if I had my paid-for-space taken up by a person who let their selves go the way of America... but how much of it is the airlines fault? I don't know. Good material for a college study. Stay fit, please.

I once sat in the window seat with a very large man in the middle seat. He was very inconsiderate and took much of my seat with his size. It was my most miserable flight and I have been on many. Southwest is correct and I salute them.

"people of size" should also pay for two seats at the movies.

If an airline can charge for extra heavy baggage, they should be able to charge for extra heavy passengers. Even better would be if they would remove the extra rows of seats they installed to maximize the number of passengers. Normal weight passengers are squeezed so tightly it is impossible to recline or even read without disturbing someone.

I am fat, and I'd gladly pay a reduced price for a second seat. You see, while I realize I can't buy half a seat, it's also true that it is cheaper for the airlines to leave that seat empty than it is if they have to process a person for that seat. So pass on the savings, and I'm fine buying that second seat.

Yes. If you are too wide to sit down *comfortably* in an airplane seat (i.e., you are squeezing and compressing yourself into the seat and you cannot completely lower your arm rests), you should be required to buy the seat next to yours. The premise is that you cannot insinuate yourself, physically, into your neighboring passenger's personal space. Really, really fat people "spill over" into the seat space next to them. We've all experienced this. It's really unpleasant and unfair to the non-obese passenger who has paid the same fare. I think they should just do it by weight. Decide on a maximum one-seat weight/neight ratio and stick to it. If you exceed that restriction, you buy 2 seats. Period.

I was on a Northwest Airlines a few years ago. There was an obese man in the row ahead of me. He easily took up 1/3 of the seat of the woman who sat next to him on a long flight from Milwaukee to San Francisco. It must have been extremely uncomfortable for her, although she was very gracious about it. I called Northwest to complain on her behalf: I thought they should upgrade her to first class for her return trip. (Don't know if they did.)
So yes, I think it should be a requirement that someone pay for an additional seat so that they don't cause discomfort to someone else.

I think the Southwest Airlines current policy is fair. They will refund your second airfare if the flight is not full.

I do think that if you take up two seats, you should pay for 2 seats, its only fair. Its like bringing on extra luggage, if you have more than the allotted amount, you have to pay the extra. It's no different.

Seats in coach are too small. No one can argue with that. But what's the alternative? Larger seats and higher prices? It still doesn't guarantee that EVERYONE will fit in the seats! Of course, if you're too large to fit in coach, there is always Business or First Class... but not on Southwest. Given that, I believe this is all a publicity stunt. Why else would an obese Hollywood director be flying on a cramped, cheapy, no frills airline?

During a past flight I was seated next to an obese person who took up part of my seat. I had to cling to my side rest so that we were able to fit. I felt bad and tried to get a flight attendant's attention so I could move to another seat. But the flight was full. Thankfully it was only a 1 hour flight. Even so, with the economy as it is, if I paid for one full seat that's what I should get. No more and absolutely no less.

In the case of Kevin Smith, he isn't huge and clinically obese, he is just a large man. He got a standby seat because he didn't want to drive back to LA so that is why he didn't fly in business class... that and SW doesn't have business class. I personally have never had a good flight on SW.

I think Canada has it correct with requiring airlines to provide extra seats for clinically obese passengers free of charge. As for those that are not cynically obese, the airlines need to find a way to make everybody happy. In restaurants they have special seats that are "reserved" for disabled patrons, if you are in that seat when a disabled patron comes in, you have to get up and move. They should make seats that are just a few inches wider (amazing what 3" can do).

And Kevin Smith is not so fat that he spills over into other seats... this was clear discrimination.

Should obese passengers be made to purchase two seats? YES!

Should underweight passengers have to share their seat with children since there is space left over? I have had annoying seatmates regardless of size ; are they tracked like complaints about the obese. While this type of discrimination is legal it is still unfair that there is a monetary penalty against one class of passengers. How about the smelly, loud and sick passengers who annoy me? What penalty is given to them?

Physics: More weight needs more fuel to fly.

Human truth: It would not be fair for 5' 8" human weighing 280 pounds should pay more than 6' 6" human who weighs the same.

Problem: 5'8" human occupies 125 to 150% of their allotment of seating space.
6'6" is probably proportioned to a more usual body shape which the seats are designed for.

The 5'8" is responsible for their own additional girth. If they are not handicapped, then they should pay for the extra space. Much like how parents buy seats for children, even though they could possibly ride on the parents laps. It seems more a pragmatic safety issue than human rights issue.

I find it simply amazing how many stand here declaring someone is fat when what is the true definition by these airlines? Is a linebacker from some football team fat? Or is that ok for him to fit himself in one seat because he's a football player. What about the basketball player who is quite tall and squishes himself into ONE seat. Shouldn't he pay for 2 or 3 or even 4 seats! Or let's talk about the offensiveness of someone who SMELLS sitting next to you or the DRUNK. These people should also be dealt with if we feel fat people need to be dealt with. From what I'm reading Kevin Smith fit himself into the seat and could fasten the seatbelt... I think he only needs to buy ONE seat. If you are 500 lbs and can't fasten the seatbelt then maybe you need two seats. I'm sorry but this is all out of hand with discrimination against SO many people. And if we are going to discriminate against someone who is fat then we need to do so against smelly people etc.

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