Twice in the last year Kenlie Tiggeman was told by Southwest Airlines that she was essentially too fat to fly in just one seat. But the weight-loss blogger isn’t suing for money–instead, she wants the airline to clarify its “Customers of Size” policy, which she calls “discriminatory.” To which we say: Right on. Not because the two-seat policy shouldn’t apply in some cases, but because this totally cannot be a subjective thing based on the gate agent’s mood.
The 31-year-old, who once weighed more than 400 pounds but has now lost over 100 pounds, said she was humiliated by the gate agent on her last flight who apparently “eyeballed” her and told her she was too fat to board the plane. Tiggeman explained on her blog:
Actually, her words were ‘Well, look at you. Obviously you need two seats.’
She has now filed a lawsuit in Louisiana alleging that the airline “ignored her constitutional rights” and uses “discriminatory actions towards obese customers.”
Tiggeman told local station WDSU that she’s not necessarily against this policy, but she just wants consistency:
I understand Southwest wants everyone to be a certain size, but no one knows, including Southwest, no one knows what that size is. 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,” she wrote on her blog.”I don’t know about you, but I fly a lot. And paying double because a gate agent may or may not have something against overweight people is not realistic…nor should it be necessary.
Southwest’s brilliant solution to all of this? Make customers tell them ahead of time if they are fat. Their spokeswoman, Brandy King, told ABC News:
We realize that it’s a sensitive conversation and we train our employees to approach the situation as discreetly as possible. The … best case scenario is for the customer to notify us of any special needs ahead of time.
Oh, that’s a great idea. Yes, I’d like two tickets to Chicago, please. And be sure to charge me double because you might consider me fat.
By saying that, Southwest is trying to take the easy way out and leave the responsibility up to the customer. When, in fact, they are the ones who should take the responsibility. If they are going to enforce that people of a certain size need two seats (and let’s face it, those seats are tiny, so sometimes this is a necessity), then they need to be very clear about that upfront. Customers need consistent, concrete ways to determine if they fall into this category. And they certainly shouldn’t be looked at as having “special needs” if they do.
Not to mention the fact that any gate agent who treats someone with such disrespect should be fired on the spot. No one deserves to be humiliated like that. Get it together, Southwest.