Connect and get the inside scoop on Airline Companies

Welcome to Airline Pilot Forums - Connect and get the inside scoop on Airline Companies

If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ. Join our community today and start interacting with existing members. Registration is fast, simple and absolutely free.

User Tag List

Post Reply
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old 03-14-2005, 09:48 AM   #1  
Gets Weekends Off
Thread Starter
SWAjet's Avatar
Joined APC: Feb 2005
Position: B737 Captain
Posts: 437
Default Fat Flyers on Southwest Pay Up

Airline making fat flyers buy extra seat

March 13, 2005

All Murrysville, Pa., dentist Michael Gigliotti wanted was a relatively cheap, last-minute flight from his mother's house in Florida to a natural-gas auction in Texas.

But a $552 bill for the late-February trip quickly went up when a late-boarding passenger complained he could not fit in the seat next to the 5-foot-11, 300-pound Gigliotti. A supervisor from Southwest Airlines boarded the plane, crouched next to Gigliotti and said he would have to pay for a second seat on the return flight, claiming the dentist's large frame would not fit entirely in the 17-inch-wide space.

Gigliotti did not feel humiliation - just rage.

"This won't hold up in court," he told the Southwest supervisor.

"It already has," was her response, according to Gigliotti.

The exchange captures a touchy topic in aviation - how to deal with larger passengers as the nation's waistline expands. More than one-fourth of Americans are now classified as obese, and in an industry obsessed with fitting as many people as possible inside a giant aluminum tube, airline seats have shrunk to 16 inches measured from arm rest to arm rest - narrower than an average-size computer keyboard and a tighter fit than the typical office chair or general-admission movie seat.

"The airline seats are simply too small for a high percentage of the flying public," Gigliotti said. "We are getting bigger, we're getting taller, we're getting wider."

Southwest is not the only major airline with a large-seating policy. US Airways, Northwest Airlines and America West Airlines all can require an overweight passenger to pay for two seats but said they do everything they can to find a pair of empty adjoining seats on the plane at no additional charge.

Other carriers, including United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, have no large-seating requirements. Hooters Air, an airline featuring slim, scantily-clad "Hooters girls" as flight entertainment, has no such policy, either.

"We love large people," said Hooters Air President Mark Peterson. Hooters has never charged for an extra seat, he said, and fitting a larger passenger onboard has never been an issue in two years of operating the airline.

While critics of Southwest's policy acknowledge that other airlines do the same thing, some said Southwest deserves to be singled out for its rigidity. "Southwest really expects its employees to enforce it, " said Mary Ray Worley, a board member on the Sacramento, Calif.-based National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.

At other airlines, she said, "it seems to me their employees exercise a lot more of their own judgment in enforcing or not enforcing their policies. A lot depends on the prejudices of the employees involved."

The large-seating policy is nothing new for the Dallas low-fare carrier, considered one of the industry's most successful companies, having made a profit 31 years in a row. It initiated a "customer of size" policy in 1980, requiring a larger passenger unable to fit in one seat to pay for two. But the airline, saying it could no longer ignore complaints from slimmer passengers, began enforcing the policy more vigilantly in 2002, requiring passengers to pay for the extra space even if others were available on the same flight. A refund is made available if the flight takes off with empty seats.
SWAjet is offline  

Post Reply

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Related Topics
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Southwest trying to leave SEA airport SWAjet Major 30 07-22-2007 08:36 PM
Southwest May Adopt Assigned Seats on Flights fireman0174 Major 21 05-21-2006 04:09 PM
A cloud or 2 for Southwest (APC mention) Baba Bluey Major 7 11-14-2005 09:45 AM
Southwest returning to Denver SWAcapt Major 2 10-20-2005 10:07 AM
Southwest Airlines Profit Nearly Triples captain_drew Major 0 04-14-2005 02:52 PM

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 08:28 AM.