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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.


Identity

Celebrate International Women's Day with these stunning photos of female leaders changing the world

The portraits, taken by acclaimed photographer Nigel Barker, are part of CARE's "She Leads the World" campaign.

Images provided by CARE

Kadiatu (left), Zainab (right)

True

Women are breaking down barriers every day. They are transforming the world into a more equitable place with every scientific discovery, athletic feat, social justice reform, artistic endeavor, leadership role, and community outreach project.

And while these breakthroughs are happening all the time, International Women’s Day (Mar 8) is when we can all take time to acknowledge the collective progress, and celebrate how “She Leads the World.

This year, CARE, a leading global humanitarian organization dedicated to empowering women and girls, is celebrating International Women’s Day through the power of portraiture. CARE partnered with high-profile photographer Nigel Barker, best known for his work on “America’s Next Top Model,” to capture breathtaking images of seven remarkable women who have prevailed over countless obstacles to become leaders within their communities.

“Mabinty, Isatu, Adama, and Kadiatu represent so many women around the world overcoming incredible obstacles to lead their communities,” said Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA.

Barker’s bold portraits, as part of CARE’s “She Leads The World” campaign, not only elevate each woman’s story, but also shine a spotlight on how CARE programs helped them get to where they are today.

About the women:

Mabinty

international womens day, care.org

Mabinty is a businesswoman and a member of a CARE savings circle along with a group of other women. She buys and sells groundnuts, rice, and fuel. She and her husband have created such a successful enterprise that Mabinty volunteers her time as a teacher in the local school. She was the first woman to teach there, prompting a second woman to do so. Her fellow teachers and students look up to Mabinty as the leader and educator she is.

Kadiatu

international womens day, care.org

Kadiatu supports herself through a small business selling food. She also volunteers at a health clinic in the neighboring village where she is a nursing student. She tests for malaria, works with infants, and joins her fellow staff in dancing and singing with the women who visit the clinic. She aspires to become a full-time nurse so she can treat and cure people. Today, she leads by example and with ambition.

Isatu

international womens day, care.org

When Isatu was three months pregnant, her husband left her, seeking his fortune in the gold mines. Now Isatu makes her own way, buying and selling food to support her four children. It is a struggle, but Isatu is determined to be a part of her community and a provider for her kids. A single mother of four is nothing if not a leader.

Zainab

international womens day, care.org

Zainab is the Nurse in Charge at the Maternal Child Health Outpost in her community. She is the only nurse in the surrounding area, and so she is responsible for the pre-natal health of the community’s mothers-to-be and for the safe delivery of their babies. In a country with one of the world’s worst maternal death rates, Zainab has not lost a single mother. The community rallies around Zainab and the work she does. She describes the women who visit the clinic as sisters. That feeling is clearly mutual.

Adama

international womens day, care.org

Adama is something few women are - a kehkeh driver. A kehkeh is a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, known elsewhere as a tuktuk. Working in the Kissy neighborhood of Freetown, Adama is the primary breadwinner for her family, including her son. She keeps her riders safe in other ways, too, by selling condoms. With HIV threatening to increase its spread, this is a vital service to the community.

Ya Yaebo

international womens day, care.org

“Ya” is a term of respect for older, accomplished women. Ya Yaebo has earned that title as head of her local farmers group. But there is much more than that. She started as a Village Savings and Loan Association member and began putting money into her business. There is the groundnut farm, her team buys and sells rice, and own their own oil processing machine. They even supply seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture. She has used her success to the benefit of people in need in her community and is a vocal advocate for educating girls, not having gone beyond grade seven herself.

On Monday, March 4, CARE will host an exhibition of photography in New York City featuring these portraits, kicking off the multi-day “She Leads the World Campaign.

Learn more, view the portraits, and join CARE’s International Women's Day "She Leads the World" celebration at CARE.org/sheleads.


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Elya/Wikimedia Commons

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The 43-year-old, who has a 2-year-old son with comedian John Mulvaney, shared her experience with photos, video and a written statement shared on Instagram.

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