“Too Fat to Fly”

This is a cross-post over at WeAretheRealDeal today. You can read it here or after the jump.
The Twittersphere and blogosphere have been abuzz with the news about writer/director Kevin Smith being removed from a recent Southwest flight for “being too fat.”

Per the L.A. Times piece, “The plus-sized writer-director behind such potty-mouthed comedies as “Clerks,” “Dogma” and 2008’s “Zack & Miri Make a Porno” was kicked off a plane at Oakland International Airport on Saturday, allegedly because the captain deemed Smith’s obesity a “safety risk” to other passengers.”

Southwest apologized to Smith via Twitter (because, you know, this is how customer service takes place nowadays … ) but stuck to its policy: if you can’t fit into the seat, you need to buy a second seat.

Apparently, Smith typically buys two seats when he flies … the problem arose because when he caught an earlier flight than planned, there was only one seat open … and given his size, he was kicked off the plane.

Needless to say, even with the apology (which was rather immediate), the damage was already done, and Smith took to the blogosphere and Twittersphere sharing his miserable seating experience.

I’m of mixed feelings with respect to this story.
On the one hand, I have no doubt that Smith’s weight was a form of blatant discrimination– and I feel terrible for him that he had to leave the plane; I imagine that must be so embarrassing and I can’t imagine what that must feel like …

But on the other side of the coin, I see Southwest’s point, too. I’ve flown next to some people on long, international flights who take up their own seat and then some.

And though I’ve never said anything about it to the flight crew or asked to switch seats or anything, (surely the seat-mate knows they’re squished in there; why draw extra attention or make someone feel bad?) it can make for a very uncomfortable in-flight experience … which is why airlines have had to create their seating policies in the first place.

I just wish there was a kinder way to go about these things … body weight is a sensitive enough topic as it is … and incidents like this just shed light on how difficult it can be to strike that delicate balance between being politically correct and pragmatic.

While I don’t think anyone should be discriminated against for their race, gender, size, sexual orientation, etc., I don’t think Southwest was necessarily in the wrong — it was following its own policy; it just makes me sad to think that people need two seats, period.

And the reality is, especially here in the U.S., many people do.

How about you? What do you think about this story?


13 thoughts on ““Too Fat to Fly”

  1. I would just like to point out that he buys two seats because he’s super shy in public and doesn’t like to converse with people that close, NOT because of his size. BUT, airlines are assuming THAT’S why. For a one hour flight, he was flying coach because he doesn’t just bleed money. i really feel for him. I’m not his size, but I’m not slim and I always feel like i’m encroaching on people’s space. Planes just need to accommodate our larger population.

  2. I can see both sides of the coin as well. I do feel badly for the situation he’s in but I also see where Southwest had to stick to an established policy.

    To respectfully disagree with Sarah, I don’t think our planes, cars, restroom stalls, etc. need to get increasingly larger to support a “widening” population. We as individuals need to consider the choices we’re making so we don’t get to a point where we can’t function in “normal” society. Honestly, its more about someone’s health than it is that he/she can’t fit in a plane seat.

    I hope I said that in a way that wasn’t disrespectful. I ache for people who struggle with weight. I am one. I just don’t believe making everything larger to fit us is the solution.

    1. Staci, agree 100%. I hadn’t responded yet to Sarah, but like you I respectfully disagree and don’t think making our seats bigger is the solution, either. We need to address the bigger picture. I empathize for sure, but like you noted, “just don’t believe making everything larger to fit us is the solution.”

      1. I agree, making things bigger to accomodate is not necessarily the answer. I I guess you can get into the whole “HAES” argument and say just because someone can’t fit into one airplane seat doesn’t mean they are not healthy but I think the average obese person is probably not in the “HAES” category.

  3. I understand the policy and they shouldn’t bend it just because he’s a celebrity or because there was only one seat available. I’ve had to sit in those seats next to someone who infringed on my space and it is not very comfortable. That’s why the policy exists.

  4. I’m not sure how much you read on twitter and such, but Kevin wrote that he fit in the seat (with the arm rests down). He normally buys two just because he’s not a people person. Furthermore, the people on either side of him said that he was fine and fit just fine. No one was uncomfortable, but the crew.

  5. Can you imagine if someone who was handicapped or in a wheelchair was asked to pay more for taking up too much space? The ADA would be all over that, and I doubt there would be any question about who would win the lawsuit. I don’t see how this is any different just because the person’s handicap is assumed to be their fault for eating too much. I don’t really know what the solution is here, whether it’s making seats bigger or changing policies, but I definitely don’t think it was “right” of Southwest to kick him off.

      1. Hey Alison — you raise a really good point — and I don’t even know how to address it … if someone is handicapped and needs special seating, that is a given … but you’re right, it’s kind of a double-standard that if someone is “too fat” they need to pay for 2 seats … I need to think about this some.

      2. I think the issue here is someone in a wheelchair is viewed as a “victim” of something (accident, disability etc) while someone overweight is viewed as having brought in on themselves. Not saying that is a good way to view things but I think that is how most people would view the comparisons.

  6. I guess my problem is that many people CAN’T be thinner. It’s not always about what you put in your mouth. That makes it seem like we’re lazy.

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