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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)

Giving free extra seats to fat people will only encourage obesity! That's why people are so fat in Canada!

YES THEY SHOULD PAY FOR THE EXTRA SEAT!!!!!! 34% of Americans are considered obese. 32% of Americans are considered overweight. How fat do we have to get America?!?!? Regardless of what size the seats are in a flight, big is big. I can't tell you how many times I have been stuck on flights between 2 overweight/obese persons because I am only 5'2" weighing in about 120 pounds (yeah picture that for a second). Everyone has an opportunity to be healthy. If you don't choose this easy to follow lifestyle, then please be considerate for those of us who do. "People of proper weight" make up most of this country-why do I have to drop everything and change my life/schedule/seating arrangement for those who consciously choose to be unhealthy? Walking is free, people. Don't blame the airlines. "People of size"--really? do we have to have a PC term for everything now?

Smith's mouth is larger than his posterior. I vote YES. They should be charged for two seats. I think the airlines should come up with a template like they use for carry on bags. If you don't clear the template you get to pay for two seats like your body requires.

airplanes are rated as to how much weight they can carry so why shouldn't we all be charged by weight x distance traveled

Has anyone considered that the airline is also the one dictating the size of the seat for which it charges, and in doing so, decides who is obese and who is not? If a company is going to single out those for whom it can charge extra, there is going to have to be a measurable community standard for such distinction. BMI's? Hip size? Actual height/weight ratios? America is getting fatter, and airline seats are getting smaller (40 percent smaller than they were in 1970's), so if they had not reduced the size of the seats, how much revenue would they have failed to earn, and as they continue to reduce the size of the seats, how much revenue will they continue to earn based on this new policy? Looks like a real money-maker to me! In these times when air travel has gotten so miserable, why not!

I think the decision is in. Overly large people should pay for two seats. Just as hungry people have to pay for extra serves. What's fairer than that. And yes, why not charge people by weight, what a great idea. And whilst you're at it charge those inconsiderates for extra large on-board bags.

I have had obese people take part of my seat. I paid for it, no one looks at the rights of us who fit in the seat. If you cannot fit in a standard seat, buy a second seat. Simple.

Would Kevin like sitting next to Kevin on his next flight. I wouldn't!! BTW, try picturing 3 Kevins in a row. ;o)

yes - No one should be subjected to having to press flesh with strangers for hours. I will not do it. I have asked to have my seat changed several times. If I ever encounter a full flight while seated "with" an oversized passenger I will probably get off.

Forget 'political correctness'.

An airline is a business. They're responsible for safety via air travel, as well as passenger comfort. Weight distribution is also a major factor on planes. I believe that when booking a flight, a passenger SHOULD be asked a question like: "Do you weigh over XXX pounds?" If the answer is "Yes", then add a nominal fee to the ticket and offset the loss of revenue to the rest of the passengers booking (pennies on the dollar and currently happens today anyway). The passenger gets booked with 2 seats, as long as they're available, and is not specifically asked "How much do you weigh?" Comfort for all parties involved.

It is NOT discrimination (defined as: unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice). The treatment is not unfair. The treatment is not based on prejudice.

When you drive an SUV to a car wash, you're charged a little more than a car. When you buy a oversized shoes, you're charged more. If you transport a yacht, you're charged more than a small boat.

Why would a seat on an airplane be any different?!?

The two seats thing has been SOP for Southwest for many years. The deal was, if you bought two seats and the plane was not totally filled with passengers they would refund the second ticket.

That said, if someone can sit in the seat, without a seatbelt extender and lower the armrest, then they should not be charged for a second seat - or tossed off the plane.

I have just as much trouble sitting next to a 6 foot plus man with broad shoulders. Do they charge them extra?

This guy really has some junk in his trunk. In fact, he's got other people's junk in his trunk too. I keep hearing that he's a 'celebrity'....I think he's more like two 'celebrities'.

Never mind the ACLU, he needs the advocacy of the Fraternal Association of Ridiculous Tonnage.

Since each pound uses extra fuel, why don't the airlines charge passengers a graduated rate by the pound??

Here’s my modest proposal. The government mandates that people maintain a healthy weight. This weight will be established by medical professionals and be measured annually. People with genuine medical conditions may apply for exemptions through their primary care physician.

Those who exceed their weight limit up to 50 percent face fines until they bring themselves back below the threshold. Those who exceed the 50 percent mark are issued a warning: if they cannot bring their weight under control within one year, they will be euthanized.

Airlines will no longer have to charge people for two seats, and you and I will no longer have to pay higher insurance premiums and taxes to cover the cost of preventable medical conditions.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

I think the armrest test is not valid. I've seen grossly obese people pull down the armrest, but the rest of their body is still spilling into the adjacent seat. If you can't confine yourself to the seat, buy another seat. Period.

One solution may be to have a special "fat" row where instead of 3 seats there are 2. Charge 1 1/2 ticket price for the large seats. Reserve them for obese people, but if they don't sell, let the standby customers have them.

Hell ya, Big folks should pay if they encroach on my personal space. Also lets no forget the heavier the plane the more fuel it burns!? Right, tax em there to. No what else........

Hell ya, Big folks should pay if they encroach on my personal space. Also lets no forget the heavier the plane the more fuel it burns!? Right, tax em there to. No what else........

Why is a just an obese person? I've sat in seats next to someone who was muscular with broad shoulders that encroached in my seat. Does Southwest have a policy on broad shoulders? I’ve also been on a flight where for six hours I had to hear a baby scream. If Southwest is so serious about my flight experience shouldn’t they do something about a screaming baby? The baby doesn’t even need to pay for a ticket and forget about just the person next to the screaming baby being inconvenienced, it was the entire plane! It seems that Southwest's policys are very arbitrary.

Kevin Smith has a movie coming out soon. He's getting lots of publicity for this trumped up two seat fiasco. He always buys two seats and now he's complaining give me a break Kevin.

Kevin Smith is making me angry, he's manipulating the media to get attention for his new movie. What's the deal he usually buys two seats so now he complains? Kevin Smith I think your problem isn't being over weight it's about using and manipulating us with this trumped up story to make a buck. Too bad.

I had to sit next to an obese person on a flight. She could not put down the armrest and took up a 1/3 of my seat. We were in contact from our knees to our shoulders the whole trip. I was very uncomfortable, I should have asked for a refund. The plane was full, so I couldn't move. What was the flight attendant thinking? They should have a seat by the gate, no fit no fly, unless they buy another seat. I have nothing against large people, but it was not fair to me. If it ever happens again it will be my last flight on that airline, I promise. Mr. Smith should fly with a carrier that offers first class, or buy 2 seats. And when he flew standby he should have told them he needed 2 seats.

It's not comfortable sitting next to a fat person but it also isn't comfortable sitting next to a stinky person, or a sweaty person, or a snoring person. I also hate sitting next to a person with a baby, especially if the kid is riding in her lap and is crying and squirming and needs to be changed and has to move all around to get toys and bottles and snacks. Being shuffled in with the general public can suck but it's how it goes and all of these things have to be tolerated. Being squished next to a fattie is just another issue to endure during public transportation. Get over it. One person=one seat. Suck it up!

If you have ever shared 1/2 of your seat with a fat person next to you you would say "Bravo " to southwest to try to enforce it's fat policy.

I sat next to a very large man on a flight once. I was very tired and soon drifted off to sleep. I woke up and found myself nestled in the folds of his belly and drooling on his shirt. I apologized and he was very kind about it. It was the most comfy nap I've ever had on a plane. There are upsides to sitting next to a person of size.

It's not discrimination. It's called paying for the services you use. If you utilize 2 seats, you ought to pay for 2 seats. Plain and simple...

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