Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

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)

I wish rather than bitching and complaining about it, the obese people would take this as a wake up call and lose some weight. Yes, I know there are medical reasons people are overweight, but by and large the reason most people are overweight is that they eat too much and don't exercise. Not only is their weight causing a host of problems for themselves, but now they overflow into the next seat, causing problems for others.

Push back the plate, Kevin, and get on a damn treadmill. I like your movies and even your TV efforts. I'd rather you be around longer rather than dying young from being fat.

as a frequent business traveler, it's hard enough to deal with the diminished seat-sizes & services, but sitting next to someone who barely manages to squeeze into his/her own seat & then procedes to have their bulk spill over into your seat makes a flight into a total nightmare. If you weigh over a certain limit, it's reasonable to have to expect to buy two seats OR airlines should provide plexiglass seat-borders to keep you in your OWN seat instead of also taking 10-20% of mine.

Should they buy 2 seats? Yes. Should the airline not charge double? Yes. Should planes be built with double-wide seat or two? Maybe. Should I not be forced to sit next to a very large person whose size reduces my space in an already cramped seating arrangement? Also yes.

Let me ask a different question first. "Does a person have the right to their own space in an airline seat and to not have the person next to them invade that space?"
Yes they do!
I think it should fall upon the AIRLINE to provide enough space to transport the larger peron. If that means the airline has to leave a seat empty next to the larger person for the sake of the next persons comfort, then so be it. We are not renting space on the airplane or hauling cargo. If that were the case, then a 115 pound woman should be able to fly for next to nothing.
Fat people should pay more on the same day they start giving skinny people rebates. Until then, its up to the airline to get you where you want to go.

The real question is: Should people who cannot fit into one seat be allowed to encroach on the passenger next to them. My wife and I were forced to sit in a seat and a half because a large woman had already flipped up the armrest and parked herself in the window seat and half of the middle seat. Maybe we should have received a refund!

He should have to buy an additional seat. It is in his complete control as to whether be obese or not.

Where does "discrimination" end... should he get two (or three) free meals because he is still hungry?

We're paying extra for bags on airlines, because more weight brings down fuel efficiency. We even pay higher health insurance premiums because obese people have more disease than people with a normal body mass index. There are enough solutions for losing extra pounds, from medical procedures to sheer will and courage. It's outrageous for this fat, rich, person to not assume responsibility for his size. The funny thing is in his picture he was bloating out his cheeks as if he was trying to play the part of a fat person. Maybe he has a body dysmorphic disorder and doesn't see his large mass as it really is.

I have nothing against obese people, but they should understand other passengers who sit next you. I would not want to sit next to obese passengers. If you meat protrudes, you must pay for two!


I am fat. I have flown many times with Southwest and have fit in my seat but I am also tall and my feet and knees suffer when the person in front if me invades my space when they recline. So should SWA charge people extra if they recline? I think it's time SWA upgrades thier planes. Or better yet let's build bullet trains and put SWA out of business.

I absolutely agree they should pay for 2 seats. If they don't recoup the costs of the 2nd seat it will raise flight costs for everyone, including those that are a healthy size and do not have this issue. The obesity issue here is disgusting, people need to take better care of themselves instead of blaming others for their size. Its not the airline or other passengers fault that they are too big for the seat.
I know I do not want someone's pounds of flesh spilling over into my seat, especially if it's a long flight. I think with the obesity issue here rising the way it is, people need to stop babying them and making excuses for their size, its simple.. quit super-sizing everything you eat and start exercising.

The problem is the airlines are using this more as a way to make money off empty seats. There are instances where they charge the person for two seats, yet the seats are not next to each other.

If this was just about the comfort of the other passengers, then when someone pays for two seats they would always be right next to each other. Also they would not be bumped if the airline overbooked the flight (as they always do now).

But what is happening is they charge them for two seats, they are not always next to each other, and due to over booking they get bumped because they second seat they charged them for they also sold to someone else.

There is also the problem as stated earlier that the airlines are in fact making the seats smaller and smaller so they can have smaller planes pack more people into them to optimize their profit.

Japanese airlines are now requesting passengers simply USE THE RESTROOM before flying in order to lower weight, save fuel, and reduce costs, and you'd be amazed how much they've saved and how much nicer it is to the environment.

Asking an obese person to pay for an extra seat, or a larger seat, is not exceptionable considering what their weight, above that of a "healthy" individual adds. Besides, 2X+ clothes carry an extra charge.

(And don't say "average" people are bigger now. Just because our country is potentially the most obese on the planet doesn't mean we should adjust our scales. On the contrary.)

Hell yes he needs to pay for the extra seat. The overwhelming majority of fat people are fat for one simple reason. THEY EAT TOO MUCH FOOD. Its a simple law of physics that is not going to change because some third rate director has a twitter account. EAT LESS FOOD and you'll fit reasonably well in those tiny ass seats and you won't take up a third of your neighbor's seat. Why do we have to rearrange the world to accommodate sloth? And that some people, including the so called victim, don't seem to realize that he is truly obese is disturbing. We have become so accustomed to rank obesity over the course of the last twenty years we don't recognize it anymore. It is a major health problem. No way should private individuals and transportation companies feel obliged to accommodate it.

I don't care what they charge him, but sitting next to someone that is very large is uncomfortable be/c you are squashed right next to someone you don't even know. The tight spaces on an airplane are hard enough without being sandwiched next to a stranger. This director is too arrogant.

I dont think they should have to pay for 2 seats, Being over weight isnt easy, why must they world make it even harder for them, Not only did they kick him off a plane that he was already seated on but they humiliated him infront of tons of people? What in the world makes them think thats any where near acceptable. How would the pilot feel if someone pointed out he had a huge nose, or a wierd looking body infront of some odd number amount of people? He wouldnt. I think its like kicking someone off a plane for their religion or race. NOT ACCEPTABLE!

Of course they should no reason a normal sized person has to have half the room they normally would because some one is huge. And that does not always mean fat either. It is unfortunate but only fair trouble will be to figure a fair way to measure it.

This applies to other public places --- how many of us have ever gone to a major sports event to find that our seat is occupied by someone spilling over? or a movie premiere where we've purchased tickets but there are no unoccupied seats, and multiple people taking up two?

We should not condone this by saying, "It's okay to be 300, 400 lbs --- we'll throw in an extra seat for free and give you the right to glare at us as we squeeze ourselves in next to you." It's an epidemic sending millions of Americans to an early extra-wide grave, causing diabetes at an alarming rate in young children, and costing our healthcare system a ridiculous amount of money. It's time that we put our foot down and become a healthy nation once again.

Forcing people to be financial responsible for their obesity is similar to taxing cigarettes and alcohol. If I had my way, fast food would be taxed to the hilt, Michael Pollan would be required reading, and fresh produce would be the cheapest thing you could buy.

Yes, obese people should have to pay for the space they take up. With my career, I fly more in a month than the average person flies in an average year, so I believe I can speak to this with some merit.

Most of my time in the sky is flying in Coach, and I wish most airlines would enforce this same "purchase the space you use" policy. I can't tell you how many times I have been seated next to a man or woman that spill over their seat/armrests into mine. It is unsettling for me to have to share my seat with a stranger and it is unsafe if there were a situation where I would have to contend with them in an emergency.

I don't know anything about this Kevin Smith situation; I am not a fan, but that has nothing to do with this. If you take up the space, you should have to pay for it; period.

Everyone has the right to choose their size. BUT, vendors who rent space, in this case an airline who rents you a seat temporarily, have a price and value for that space. It is not unlimited. It cannot be. There has to be a limit on the amount of space an airline rents to a customer.

So, if you were to rent a garage to store things in, and you needed more space for your stuff, you would of course pay for that additional space. You simply could NOT put your overflow items in the unit next door that someone else has rented. There is no difference with an airline seat.

The airlines are renting space for a fee. If you exceed that space, then you need to pay more for the additional space you are occupying.

This is not a discrimination issue. If you believe it is, then you believe that when you exceed limit on your storage unit, that it is discrimination if you are unable to put your excess belongings in someone else's unit next to yours.

Sorry, but I am tired of having large people hang over into my seat making my flight terribly uncomfortable for hours on end. It's not MY fault they cannot fit into the small seats. Why do I have to be uncomfortable because someone else is sagging over the armrest and sweating all over me? Sorry, but it is unfair.

Perhaps the airlines need to offer big person sections.

The airlines no longer care about their passengers, only the bottom line. At one time, all passengers were afforded every amenity and treated as special guests, all of which were included in the price of the ticket. Now, they've gotten stingier, hard-nosed, definitely NOT customer-friendly and don't give a rat's behind whether or not you're comfortable, cold, hungry or thirsty. I gave up flying several years ago, largely due to the incredible discomfort of the seats, inability to sleep during long flights and the fact that a cold burrito and peanuts as the only choices doesn't cut it. As long as people suffer in silence, the airlines turn a deaf ear, but remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Here is a problem I see in these comments: the issue is not limited to obesity or "fatness." This issue is a SIZE issue. If a healthy linebacker is taking up half of my seat that I PAID FOR he needs to buy 2 seats. PERIOD.

Southwest Airlines should make their seats to where they comfortably fit ALL customers regardless of size instead of imposing discriminatory and punitive policies such as charging extra to those people whom they think are "too fat." What is someone who is large but not rich supposed to do...and they must take an airplane to get to where they are going?

« | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 | »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Please send to newstips@latimes.com
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: