Kenlie Tiggeman of New Orleans was dished up a double helping of humiliation last November, having been offended over the same thing in May. She says Southwest sometimes demands she buy two seats and other times is content to let her sit in one.
She is fed up with the airline’s inconsistent “Customer of Size” policy and says she refuses to fly with Southwest anymore.
“The problem I have with Southwest is not that they may want me to purchase two seats. It’s that sometimes they want that, and other times they don’t,” Tiggeman wrote in her blog.
Last year, Southwest Airlines backed down and apologised to Tiggeman, who was travelling with her mother when they ran into an embarrassing “too fat to fly” airport scene. Tiggeman and her mother were each told they would have to buy two seats – four seats in all.
Tiggeman, described as a “weight loss blogger” and political strategist, was outraged at being told she was too fat. It was humiliating, she says, especially as she has been slimming and has now shrunk to a relatively petite 121.5 kilos, having previously weighed over 178 kilos.
She described the gate agent’s attitude as rude. “It was in front of lots of people,” she said.
The weight of her mother was not disclosed. Tiggeman says they were travelling on the second leg of a return ticket and the matter of size hadn’t been raised on the first leg.
“I was asked what size clothes, and how much I weigh. I gave answers in front of a gate full of people – some of whom were snickering,” CBS New York quoted Tiggeman as saying.
Southwest confirmed that its policy remains that if a passenger cannot fit in a seat with the armrests down, they must buy a second seat. If the flight is not full, that added charge is refunded.
Tiggeman claims she can fit into a seat but the airline thought otherwise. Or it did initially. Southwest allowed Tiggeman and her mother on a later flight. In a major climb-down, the airline apologised and gave them a refund and free vouchers.
Southwest is no stranger to such controversies. Earlier last year, a 175-kilo male passenger complained that a Southwest flight attendant had stepped in front of him and loudly demanded: “Did you purchase two seats?”
When the male passenger admitted he had not done so, the flight attendant allegedly told him that his size might offend other passengers and in future he would need to buy an extra seat to accommodate his bulk.
About a year ago, Southwest evicted actor and director Kevin Smith from a flight on similar grounds. The furious Smith sent out indignant Tweets about the incident to his 1.6 million followers, making headlines.
For the record, Southwest Airlines states on its website:
“Customers who encroach upon any part of the neighbouring seat(s) should proactively book the needed number of seats prior to travel. The armrest is considered to be the definitive boundary between seats and measures 17 inches in width. The purchase of additional seats serves as a notification to Southwest of a special seating need. Most importantly, it ensures that all Customers onboard have access to safe and comfortable seating. You may contact us for a refund of the cost of additional seating after travel, provided the flight does not oversell (which means having more confirmed Customers than seats on the aircraft).”
Written by : Peter Needham