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Too Heavy To Fly?

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Recently, a mother and daughter who have struggled with their obesity all their adult lives, were told that they were too fat to board a Southwest Airlines connection from Dallas Love Fld (DAL). After some discussion, they were eventually allowed to board the flight, however the women took the issue to Southwest over their humiliation, and were compensated with several flight vouchers and a plethora of apologies. That sounds like a pretty good ending to a mortifying experience for the airline and the ladies alike, but really, the onus squarely lie on both ends: the airline for not being clear enough about their weight restrictions, and the women who didn’t investigate the airline’s policy prior to booking.

When it comes to issues of obesity, especially in situations that can lead to public humiliation, it can be a touchy subject. There has been enough media-saturation by this point for even the most novice of flyers to know that, if you’re overweight, flying can be a precarious situation. Even if you’re well under the airline’s weight restrictions, sitting in those cramped seats can be an uncomfortable experience with cramped leg room, restrictive arm rests, and seat belts that dig into your flesh. Digging into the stories of mother and daughter Joan Charpentier and Kenlie Tiggeman, it turns out Tiggeman used to be much larger, around 400 pounds, and lost approximately 120 pounds recently. That would put her at 280 pounds, which is still considered morbidly obese. The weight loss she achieved is an incredible triumph, and should be celebrated and applauded. However, at 280 pounds, flying could still be tricky. Before buying her plane tickets, a quick online search into Southwest’s weight restriction policies might have alleviated any possible confrontation or dispute with the airline.

However, the airline here is equally accountable. Apart from publicly humiliating the women in front of everyone, when they should have been pulled aside and quietly spoken to, Southwest airlines should inform all of their employees about their exact weight restrictions. Apparently the employee that pulled them aside didn’t even know what their restrictions were, and just caused the incident based on his perception of their weight. In addition, Southwest, and all airlines, should put their weight restrictions on their websites, and inform all travel agents of their rules and regs, so that flyers can make informed choices before forking over their credit card details and hard-earned cash.

Airlines need to step up to the mark, as do consumers. If a quick online search prevents such humiliation in the future, then it’s worth the trip to the cyber café.


  • pat

    about 5 years ago

    do what the movie theaters do. Have a few seats on each plane to accommodate obese people or at least make the seat belts longer.I am not morbidly obese but at 200 lbs I still have trouble with some seat belts.

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