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Southwest praised for 'customer of size' policy that gives larger passengers priority

Southwest believes that no one should be charged for taking up an extra seat.

southwest, plus-size travel, airlines
via Bill Abbott/Flickr and DiamondPaintingLover/TikTok

Southwest's inclusive 'customer of size' policy.

Flying on an airplane can be highly stressful for people of size. Navigating through the tiny aisles and finding comfort in the extra-small bathroom can be challenging. But one of the biggest problems is getting an extra seat if necessary. Every airline has its own policy, and most charge for additional seats.

To make things easier for people of size, plus-size travel influencer Jae’Lynn Chaney has petitioned the FAA to standardize fare policies for plus-sized travelers. The need for some standards across the airline industry makes sense in a country where airplane seats are getting smaller and obesity is on the rise.

The petition requests that airlines require larger passengers to be “provided with an extra free seat, or even multiple seats, to accommodate their needs and ensure their comfort and safety, as well as those around them, during the flight.”


One airline where passengers of size feel welcome is Southwest, whose policy provides free extra seats for passengers who “encroach upon any part of the neighboring seat(s).” The airline hopes that people needing extra seating will purchase an additional ticket ahead of time, which will be refunded by the airline.

Even if a passenger doesn’t purchase the extra seat ahead of time, the airline will accommodate them.

“If you prefer not to purchase an additional seat in advance, you have the option of purchasing just one seat and then discussing your seating needs with the Customer Service Agent at the departure gate,” the airline's policy reads. “If it’s determined that a second (or third) seat is needed, you’ll be accommodated with a complimentary additional seat.”

Kimmy Garris, a plus-size fashion and travel influencer, showed how to use the policy in a TikTok post. She approached the customer service booth and said, “Hello, I’m hoping to use your customer of size policy today.”

@kimmystyled

How to use @southwestair customer of size policy. Southwest is the only airline that allows you a second seat at no extra cost even if the flight is FULLY booked. You HAVE to use it at the departing gate when you start your journey. If you don’t use it going out you cant use it flying back. Go to the departing gate agent and kindly ask them to use the customer of size policy. I’ve done this a dozen times and never had an issue or been denied. They will print you a new ticket + a second ticket to put down on your free seat. You will also be allowed to pre board! Enter the aircraft, get your seatbelt extender, and grab your seat! I place the ticket in the seat next to me. I always take the window seat. If anyone tries to sit it in I kindly let them know I have two seats booked. To be honest I almost never get approached because no one wants to sit in the middle seat next to a fat person on a plane 🙃. I’ve heard from others sometimes southwest will just put customer of size in your account so anytime you approach the main ticket gate you’ll get both your tickets at once but this hasn’t happened to me yet. I think this has to do with how “visibly fat” you are. Public airplanes are public transportation and should be accessible and comfortable for us all. I applaud @southwestair for being the only airline with a fair and humane way of flying fat passengers with dignity. We shouldn’t have to pay for two seats. Seats should be larger for all people including tall and pregnant passengers. Since airlines got deregulated it’s been an ADA nightmare. Airlines should also allow wheelchairs in the cabin esp power wheelchairs. This is an access issue at the end of the day and discriminatory to fat and disabled customers. #southwest #southwestairlines #customerofsize #customerofsizepolicy #plussize #plussizetravel #traveltips #plussizetraveltok #traveltok

"We shouldn’t have to pay for two seats," Garris wrote on her post. "Seats should be larger for all people including tall and pregnant passengers. Since airlines got deregulated it’s been an ADA nightmare. Airlines should also allow wheelchairs in the cabin esp power wheelchairs. This is an access issue at the end of the day and discriminatory to fat and disabled customers."

Southwest’s policy has become popular recently on social media, but it’s been around for years. “We’ve had a long-standing policy for more than 30 years designed to meet the seating needs of customers who require more than one seat and protect the comfort and safety of everyone onboard,” the Southwest website says.

Although the policy is a big win for plus-size inclusivity, not everyone is a fan. When a flight is booked, a person of size may take the seat(s) of someone who has already paid for a ticket.

A mother from Colorado and her two teens were on their way home from Montego Bay, Jamaica, and were kicked off their layover flight back home from Baltimore, Maryland, because a traveler of size needed extra accommodations.

“Please help me understand why do I have to spend the night without any accommodations in Baltimore because an oversized person didn’t purchase a second ticket,” the mother said in the video. But Southwest stood by its policy. “If they need an extra seat, we don’t charge for extra seats,” the manager tells the woman in her video of the incident.


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