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

February 16, 2010 |  8:10 am

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