Airlines Discrimination Lifestyle Obesity Southwest Airlines

Should I Wear Spanx When I Fly?

Southwest and their vague and discriminatory “Customer of Size” policy is old news around here, but I have some new things to say after a flight I took last week.

According  Southwest, the scale cannot tell me if I’m too fat to fly. That would be discriminatory.  Instead, they allow their ticketing agents to do it.  And it seems they prefer not to discriminate until you’ve paid for your seat and arrived at the gate!  At that point, they seem content to allow their gate agents to eyeball fat people and single them out in front of other passengers.  Somehow, this practice is widely acceptable at Southwest.  We see it in the news constantly!  And I’ve experienced it…again.

I realize that flying via Southwest after what happened earlier this year makes me foolish, but after being urged by a representative from Southwest’s HQ who contacted me after my original blog post, I agreed to give them another chance.  And I did.  After taking countless trips on JetBlue as well as flights on American Airlines and even utilizing two seats on a smaller US Airways commuter flight, I took a chance and flew with Southwest again. I flew from New Orleans to LA to workout with Richard Simmons, and I also flew from Baltimore to New Orleans without questions/harassment by Southwest employees.  Is it part of their policy to treat overweight passengers with respect only when cameras are rolling?  That’s certainly what it looks like to me.

Last week I decided to join my mom on a flight to my sister’s house using my free pass courtesy of Southwest. And while I felt some anxiety about doing it, I made the decision to fly with her, telling myself that this would be a different flight. I would not have to face public humiliation again. My bad….just call me naive.

When the woman at the check-in counter began explaining that I would not be able to fly today (in front of everyone at the gate) I firmly suggested that she move the conversation about my size to a private area.  She refused to move the conversation to a private area and proceeded to explain that from her view ( “Well, look at you.” Really? Okay…) I’d have to purchase an additional seat at full market value or not fly.

After a few moments that felt much longer to me as I revisited the hurt and anger already caused by SW, she called a supervisor who moved the conversation to a different kiosk – a different kiosk…still in front of everyone in the check-in line.  Clearly, the folks at Southwest Airlines do not understand the definition of the word “private.”  Of course, if you watch the news, that probably doesn’t surprise you.  When the conversation with the supervising agent commenced, she looked me up and down and said that I’d need to purchase an extra seat and that they’d refund the money at some point later if the flight was not overbooked. (Yeah, I know that’s part of their  “Customer of Size” policy. I’m quite familiar with it at this point.)

Standing there in front of hundreds of people, once again I was experiencing feelings of anger, embarrassment and resentment toward an airline that has already caused an incredible amount of anxiety and mental anguish for me personally.  Forgetting that their representative told me that it would not be necessary to purchase a second seat on future flights, and forgetting that he said he’d personally book me on another airline if I had additional problems flying with SW, all I wanted to do was fold and take an extra seat.  It was about 5am…and if you know me, you know that I’m not a fan of early mornings and/or confrontation. I prefer to deal with the folks that can actually make changes as opposed to the folks at the gate.

My biggest problem with Southwest now is not that I was humiliated once again, though I was….Being told to look at myself in front of everyone at the check-in desk only enhanced my feelings of failure and embarrassment while giving a lot of strangers the opportunity to agree that I don’t deserve even a modicum of respect, is unacceptable.

My biggest problems with Southwest now is their lack of respect, sensitivity and consistency.  Should I wear Spanx when I travel?  Seriously…As someone who fills my seat, but doesn’t spill into the seat next to me, I want to know what I have to do to see some consistency when I travel.  The short answer, I know, is to fly with another airline, and I will.  But that doesn’t help the 30% of Americans who are overweight – some of whom will find themselves in my situation at this airline.

Southwest’s “Customer of Size” policy needs to change.  Southwest’s employees need to go through sensitivity training just as the representative from their headquarters said they would.  Why do I feel like that was just lip service?  Read their broken policy then ask yourself… Why did they ignore my request to speak about this in private?  Why was I denied the opportunity to prove that I could fit into one seat with the arm rests down after offering to do so? What did I do to piss these people off? (That’s rhetorical, of course.)

Once I arrived in Colorado, I received a message from Southwest.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Moving forward, when flying with Southwest Airlines and falling under our Customer of Size policy, we will require the purchase of a second seat for travel.  If a second seat has not been purchased prior to day of travel, you will likely be asked to do so at the ticket counter or gate.”

Who decided that I fall under their Customer of Size policy now?  And why did they decide now as opposed to May when I weighed a bit more than I did at this time?  And why didn’t they decide that the man next to me (who was a few inches taller and noticeably rounder) needed an additional seat?  How is it that I could fly from New Orleans to LA on Southwest without embarrassing issues and from Baltimore to New Orleans as well?  Why is it only an issue sometimes?

I should also note that on my return flight, Southwest booked an additional seat for me.  And at check-in, they could’t figure out how to combine the seats to create one boarding pass so after 20 minutes or so, they gave me two boarding passes.  The SW agent at the ticket counter told me “not to confuse TSA by showing them two boarding passes,” but I did because I didn’t want any issues to arise at the gate.  The TSA agent said “Which seat will you be using?”  And my response was “I don’t know. Southwest just requires that I have two on this flight.”  The agent said “Why?”  I said “because I’m so fat.”  She looked me up and down and said “that’s weird…ridiculous. hang in there.”  She thought it was ridiculous that Southwest required me to have a second seat which made me feel good because she sees as many passengers as they do.

The bottom line is that I’m tired of showing up at the airport and being humiliated. All I want to do is fly. All I want is some consistency. I do not want to pay full market value for a ticket two days before Thanksgiving because one agent thinks I need to while another does not.

This is how I sit on every flight...

I will not fly with Southwest again. I gave them another chance (a few chances actually) and they have proven that they don’t want my business. They do not want the business of overweight passengers (unless, of course, you’re willing to pay for an extra seat or two – or you’re a minority.)  I am not going to pay for an extra seat every time I fly because Southwest sometimes hires fat-phobic employees.

I fill my seat, but I do not spill over into the next seat. I don't use the armrest either since there's only room for one arm.

And one more thing…I took a lot of flack for making a similar point last time, but I have to do it again because it bears evidence of their discriminatory policy.  The man checking in at the kiosk next to me was taller and clearly more robust than I. He was also a minority. Is that why his gate agent didn’t tell him that he couldn’t fly today? Or is it because, in the eyes of that particular agent, someone his size (someone taller and proportionately larger than I – in the hips and shoulder and stomach) wouldn’t require an extra seat?  Am I being targeted because I’m a woman?  Or because I was willing to stand up to Southwest after being discriminated against?

The reasons why don’t matter as much as the need for change.  Southwest may never grant equal rights to equal access. They may never create a finite policy that defines their terms for those of us who may not need two seats any longer. But I’m going to do my best to see to it that they do because I deserve it…and there are thousands of other consumers and would-be consumers who deserve it too.

This isn’t over Southwest…in fact, it’s just beginning.

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80 Comments

  • Reply
    Steelers6
    November 30, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Oh. Brother. Hard to believe it happened again. And hard to believe how insensitive the staff is/was.

    Um, I think the photos of you in your seat say it all. ??!

    I’m SO sorry this happened again. What a pain. (Weird too, that this is the only airline to harrass you.)

    Anxious to see where this goes from here.
    Chrissy

    • Reply
      Kenlie
      December 1, 2011 at 3:44 pm

      Thanks Chrissy….we’ll see what happens…I’m working on it..

  • Reply
    Jillian
    November 30, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    This sucks. I CAN believe it happened again. Obviously they’re assholes. Now I’m terrified because I’m flying Airtran to Mexico in a few weeks and they’re owned by Southwest. I can buckle my belt and fit in my seat alright with Delta, but who knows with their discriminatory policies? I can’t believe they refused to take the conversation somewhere private. I can’t believe you kept your cool, I probably would have punched someone.

    • Reply
      Kenlie
      December 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      I don’t fly Delta often, but when I have (even at a heavier weight than I am now) I haven’t had an issue at all…

  • Reply
    MO
    November 30, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Oh my goodness. I am a new reader and got the chance to read up on your first SW experience just last week – would have never guessed that it would have happened again, but I guess I was wrong. How awful for you to have to go through that again…and really, seriously, those pictures say it all. And yes, do want to see how it all plays out.

    However, I totally enjoyed all your wonderful Thanksgiving pictures and the fact that you had a wonderful visit!!!

    MO

    • Reply
      Kenlie
      December 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      I did enjoy my trip though I lost a day agonizing over the flight stuff. My family is supportive, and we had a great time. 🙂

  • Reply
    Christina
    November 30, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    This is Bullsh*t!!! I cannot believe this, that they’ve done this to you again. I would have no trouble sitting next to you, you are very CLEARLY in your seat and not large enough to disturb a neighbor. UGH. I’m so sorry.

    • Reply
      Kenlie
      December 1, 2011 at 3:46 pm

      Thanks Christina….I’d appreciate it if you sat next to me on my next flight. Ha..

  • Reply
    Christina @ Just Running
    November 30, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    I am so, so disappointed in Southwest for continuing to treat “Customers of Size” in this manner. I will never book a flight for my family with Southwest.

    You handled yourself really well, Kenlie. Thank you for blogging about occurrences like this one.

  • Reply
    Courtney
    November 30, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    I’m sorry that you had to go thru this, not once but twice.

    What i do not understand however is how/why ‘people of size’ continue to purchase tickets on Southwest. Time and time again you hear this EXACT SAME STORY- even to celebs like Kevin Smith.

    Their policies are discriminatory, but they are a private company and they are allowed to make rules as they choose. Our only power is to NOT FLY THEM. Do NOT give your money to a place that humiliates you.

    I have lost over 100lbs myself, and i feel your pain on this, i really do. But i will never ever fly Southwest, if for no other reason than it makes me remember how horrible and embarrassing it felt to fly at my heaviest (regardless of airline) and I would not want to give my money to an airline that consistently makes the experience worse.

    I’m very sorry you had to go thru this, but the only place you can hit em where it hurts is in their wallets.

    • Reply
      Kenlie
      December 1, 2011 at 3:48 pm

      For the record, I won’t be booking a flight with them again either…and I will not be using the rest of my voucher either. But as I said in my post, I flew again at the urging of their HQ who said he wanted to prove that I wouldn’t have to face those problems again.

      I gave them a chance, and they slapped me in the face again. Now, I’m angry.

  • Reply
    Pj geek
    November 30, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    oy!..don’t give SW one more red cent of your money ..ever!

    • Reply
      Kenlie
      December 1, 2011 at 3:49 pm

      I won’t…I flew on my free pass, but I won’t bother using the rest. I’d rather pay for decent service. I flew because Mom flies with them so she can bring certain things to my sister, but she knows that next time, she’ll be flying solo. I will not give them my $$ even as i continually shrink..

  • Reply
    Emmy
    November 30, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    That just makes me mad! Just look at your picture- you clearly do not need two seats! My husband is tall and skinny but fills up a seat that much just because he is super tall and he is not required to buy two tickets.
    I am so so sorry this happened to you again

    • Reply
      Kenlie
      December 1, 2011 at 3:50 pm

      Yep…it seems as though fat people are the issue with Southwest…they don’t care about people who weigh more than I do…they even expressed as much on the phone.

  • Reply
    Kelly @ No Thanks to Cake
    November 30, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    As a frequent traveler, I am absolutely appalled. Come over to Frontier for your trips to Colorado…. They are the best, and treat passengers with much more than common courtesy. Although, we can see from your post that courtesy is far from common.

    The fact that Southwest believes thy are doing something right by not releasing a weight limit, but continue to size people up makes me sick. Shame on you, Southwest. Seriously!

    I can’t believe this has happened again. I’m glad you didn’t let it ruin your trip.

    And Southwest, since you should be reading this, I have a flight credit that can grow mold. I’d rather give it away than fly with you ever again. Shame on you!

    • Reply
      Kenlie
      December 1, 2011 at 3:55 pm

      I typically fly JetBlue (when I can even though I’m not longer in New York.) I’ll fly with them when I head up to NY in January…I’ve flown from Newark to CO on Frontier in the past, but they don’t fly out of Nola. 🙁

  • Reply
    Brittany
    November 30, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Oh Kenz, I am so sorry! This is BEYOND ridiculous!! I am shocked that they continue to do this, especially to you of all people! Don’t they know who you are??! of course, that’s not the point, but it does shows their complete audacity and ignorance when it comes to customer relations! I am so furious! Thank you for sharing this with us, because it DOES matter and it DOES need to change! I will definitely never be flying southwest again. No matter what deal they are having! A company that so blatantly disrespects its patrons is NOT WORTH IT.

  • Reply
    SarahS
    November 30, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. It is the arbitrary nature of the policy that is part of what makes it so damn awful.

    I’ve flown Southwest probably 30 times in my life. This has never happened to me, but just knowing that it COULD makes it the most stressful experience. It all depends on if you get a gate agent with basic human decency who doesn’t want to humiliate some poor fat traveler, or one who doesn’t give a crap. It’s all luck that I’ve never been in this situation. I plan to try and never fly SW again if I can help it.

    For what it’s worth, I almost always wear spanx when I fly, because I usually find a comfy wrap dress to wear. I find that I almost always get better treatment from every airline when I dress a bit more spiffy. Not as nice as wearing the yoga pants and oversize cardi that I’d prefer, but I think it helps with the fat flying experience overall. It’s just too bad that it needs to be that way. 🙁

  • Reply
    Lyndsay @ Thinspiration
    November 30, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Oh my god!! The fact that this happened once is bad enough..but a 2nd time now!! This company needs to learn how to treat their customers!! I am so sorry you had to go through this again & hope that your post will encourage others to stop flying SW since they certainly have not earned any business or money with their awful customer service.

  • Reply
    Elanor
    November 30, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    So sorry to hear about your treatment – again. The staff were incredibly rude and should have taken you somewhere else to discuss the issue. I think the biggest problem is that they have too much power. If you can show you can fit in a seat that should be enough. It shouldn’t be up to them to decide who does and doesn’t require another seat. If you fit, you fit!!

  • Reply
    Kris
    December 1, 2011 at 12:15 am

    Sadly, I am *not* surprised this happened to you again. The lip service paid to you by the Southwest executive who tried to make amends for your first appalling experience never flows all the way down to front line staff, who know little and care less. (I’m speaking from experience in my own industry, which is not airlines, but sadly has service issues too).

    Are the SW agents behaving in an arbitrary, discriminatory manner? You bet! Does it have to do with race or gender? Probably… although of course they will deny it to the end of the earth. All you can do is use this medium, this platform, to broadcast far and wide why NO ONE should fly SW. No matter their size.

    If bad publicity is what it will take to get their attention, then that’s what needs to happen.

    I’m so sorry you had to go through this again!

  • Reply
    Deborah (Schmiet)
    December 1, 2011 at 12:43 am

    Hi Kenlie

    I’ve only just discovered your blog – sent in this direction by another blogger, Beanfruit (http://slowlylosing.wordpress.com/) and I am horrified at your treatment.

    This hasn’t happened to me yet, but I’ve written about it in my blog and I am so paranoid that I haven’t flown anywhere for a couple of years! I’ve lost some weight recently and ‘contemplate’ the idea of travel, but I would be devastated to be treated as you were and don’t know if I’m as resilient and would recover as well.

    I hope you hear from them again and get an apology!

    Deb

  • Reply
    Margi Hansen
    December 1, 2011 at 12:55 am

    You’re a better woman than I for even giving them a second chance. I refuse to fly Southwest, ever since they’ve put this awful policy into place.

    Delta has publically said they won’t discrimnate against people of size. Ive flown them 3 times in the last 3 years-with my husband who is a big guy, and we’ver NEVER experienced any issues like that. I’ve flown Alaska Air/Horizon Air probably…..30 times in the last 10 years and have NEVER had an issue.
    Please don’t fly SW again.

  • Reply
    Nina
    December 1, 2011 at 2:22 am

    I have so much to say about this … in 2009 I was abused by a ticket agent on my return flight from Vegas. (Which they say they do not do, but that is not true.) Worst most dehumanizing experience of my life.

    I didn’t fly SWA for almost 2 years.

    Why did I ever fly SWA again? I really wanted to go visit my 87 year old father for his birthday and all other airlines were twice the price. Luckily I was not hassled. But this is just due to a nice game of Russian Roulette that all fat people have to play now with air travel.

    I think the entire thing with SWA is not only anti-fat but anti-woman. Women naturally have bigger hips and are more likely to be subject to this air-abuse. (The football player with the small waist and huge shoulders is not.) If they actually had a standard measurement, I bet a lot of average weight people would fail – and thus be pissed off too. (They can’t risk alienating all of their clients.)

    I think what they need to do is have a private area with a damn chair with the arms … the sad thing is how many “normal” sized people run the risk of failing that test! The fact that these agents and their customer service (phone) personal have absolutely *NO* sensitivity training is disgusting.

    It needs to stop.

    I will not fly SWA again, ever.

    I think people need to think about how they would feel if their mom … or perhaps their wife, who maybe just had a baby, was treated like this! This is not just a fat issue … and SWA has been getting away with it too long. (They seem to love to hassle women (in particular) who fall in the typical Lane Bryant range.)

    Most people who are beyond that size metric, are more than happy to purchase two seats and would most likely not travel on a plane otherwise … I think that if one seriously takes up two airline seats they are aware of it. I also think that most women in the typical Plus range are very aware of the dangers of flying and are very good at becoming a pretzel to make sure that they are not accused of spilling over on their neighbors space.

    The airline industry is a mess. They have managed to make flying about the worst experience anyone could have. They get away with it because when push comes to shove and important events happen or you have to travel for work or what have you, we all put up with it!

    I really wish that someone in the Congress would get booted from SWA and berated in front of everyone … and have your family members look at you with pity and helplessness. (That’s how I felt with my husband on that trip … I have never felt so bad to be me ever.)

    Honestly, I am not sure what to do about this, but if you have any ideas I am sure there are a bunch of folks who would gladly see SWA get a real black eye over this.

    The fact that they now have some sort of freakin’ “no fly” fat listing is beyond gross! Once you are tagged with that, how do you get off of it?! They won’t weigh you … they won’t give you some way to prove you can fit in a seat … and now you are branded when you try to order a ticket online?

    This has gone way too far …

    I am so sorry this happened to you.

    (The fact that it happened with free flights from the last incident is insane to me.) After your original article I finally had the guts to call them and demand a refund for my second seat, on the return flight! I have never been treated worse by customer service personnel who begrudgingly refunded my non-full flight ticket. Because it’s not their fault I am a cow and all …

    Argh!

    So lame!

    Fight the good fight … and seriously if there is anything I can do to help let me know.

    XOXO,
    Nina

  • Reply
    Xazmin
    December 1, 2011 at 3:34 am

    Holy crap Kenlie…I cannot believe this happened to you again!!

    I am so sorry! You are such a remarkable person and I am always inspired by you!!

  • Reply
    David (Keep it up, David)
    December 1, 2011 at 5:31 am

    I’m so glad you’re not afraid to raise hell, Kenlie, and unfortunately for Southwest, you’re really good at it! KEEP IT UP!

  • Reply
    Eliza
    December 1, 2011 at 7:06 am

    Like most of the responses, I’m utterly disgusted in SW. It’s amazing to me that the reduce the size of their seats so they can cram more on the plane (and make more money) but they have no idea how to make their customers happy. They are famous for this type of behavior.

    Eliza

  • Reply
    Tara
    December 1, 2011 at 7:41 am

    So many thoughts go through my head as I read this:

    I never experienced this personally. How you remained calm, cool and collective is beyond me. I would have had to have been hand cuffed out of there I would have been so stinkin pissed.

    How they could do this numerous times to you is beyond even my comprehension. For eff sake they should have had a red flag next to your name “Don’t mess with this passenger…let her fly in peace”

    I have so much respect for you Miss Kenz, seriously.

    Whatever you need from us…

    xoxo
    Tara

  • Reply
    Sara
    December 1, 2011 at 8:35 am

    How is your experience with Delta? I am flying to Mexico from Ohio next month and I am a bit concerned..
    I’m honestly considered a “cleanse” just so I don’t have trouble with my seat. Since I’m traveling alone I’m not sure what I would do if I was asked to purchase another seat. I don’t have the money for that…
    Scary.

  • Reply
    Marla
    December 1, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Wow. I wish I could say I was shocked this happened to you, but I am not. I love that you have the proof in pictures.

    Personally, I have never flown Southwest because of not having an assigned seat . Now I will never fly on their airline. I do not support companies who harass or belittle people and do not have clear policies that all their staff understands. Or even respond to a customer’s request to take a discussion to a more private location.

    And kudos to the TSA agent. I wondering if the TSA will accept a complaint like this.

  • Reply
    Morgan
    December 1, 2011 at 9:04 am

    So sorry you had to go through this again and be humiliated. I will never fly Southwest again! Keep doing what your doing!!

  • Reply
    Aimee
    December 1, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I’m so sorry Kenlie. My stomach turned when I read this. No one should have to be treated this way.

  • Reply
    Tara
    December 1, 2011 at 9:55 am

    I’m Canadian, so I rarely have the opportunity to fly Southwest, but rest assured I will choose another airline if they are ever offered as a choice.

    This is disgusting! Why didn’t she take it private, LIKE YOU ASKED?!

  • Reply
    Victoria
    December 1, 2011 at 10:06 am

    As Tara said, I don’t understand why she wouldn’t grant you the kindness to take it in private. I think it is disgraceful what they did. You didn’t “spill” into the other seat. I am so sorry they are so insensitive!

  • Reply
    Kelly, Future Thin Girl
    December 1, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Again? Why & how could this happen to you again, especially when you showed them a letter from the CEO of the company? I just don’t understand it.

  • Reply
    Miss April
    December 1, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Kenlie, I’m sorry you had to experience this. I’m glad you are speaking out about it in a public forum as awareness and action needs to be taken.

    The strange thing is that Southwest is my airline of choice. I only fly Southwest and I fly a couple times a year. For work trips, I tell them to book Southwest even though the airport is 4 hours away vs. the one 2 hours away with other airlines. They treat me so well. I’m always a little nervous when I get in line, but it’s mostly looks from other customers. The agents are always very nice and treat me just like everyone else, even at my highest weight of 333 to my weight when I flew with them last week of 260.

    http://missapril-30before30.blogspot.com/2011/10/some-observations-from-vacation.html
    *That’s a post from my recent trip to Vegas. Item #1 talks about my only interaction from SWA staff and he was so nice and discreet about it.

    Don’t get me wrong, Kenlie, (or other readers)… I’m not trying to invalidate your feelings or the gravity of the situation you experienced with them. I think it just goes to show it is a ‘gamble’. Maybe you’ll be treated well, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll be humiliated or maybe you’ll be treated like gold. On that same trip, when I was checking my bags – the lady said, “hey do you want some drink tickets? A guy had free ones, but didn’t want them.” Extra perks for a fat white woman like myself…. and you get the devil’s treatment. It is horrible. They do need their whole policy revamped, solidified and followed with consistency.

    You’re a trooper to give them a second chance, I don’t think I could if I was treated like you were. I hold grudges, big time. Kudos for speaking out, fight the good fight with this. I wish you well!

  • Reply
    Sarah G
    December 1, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Didn’t SW have a reality tv show several years ago? Their agents treated people like dirt & laughed about it on camera for the world to see and got away with it then. I vowed after seeing that show to never fly SW and now your experiences have re-affirmed that vow. I’m so sorry that this has happened to you yet again Kenlie.

  • Reply
    Lisa
    December 1, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    ”Well, look at you.” ???? Really????? How insulting. I’d be raising a huge stink about that disrespect. That’s bullshit.

  • Reply
    Evil Pixie
    December 1, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    I refuse to fly Southwest. Knowing what their policy is for “Customers of Size,” I insisted a client purchase two seats for me when they flew me out for a meeting and booked me on Southwest. It was the first (and only) time I flew Southwest. While I was hesitant about flying this airline (and their ridiculous boarding practices), I was confident that I wouldn’t be harassed because I had two seats. Silly me. Each time I had to board a flight, an agent began to say “I’m sorry but you…” before I cut them off with my board pass (which showed the purchase of two seats). Once I boarded and found my seat(s), I buckled up and prepared for the flight. However, that didn’t stop the flight attendants from approaching me (at every flight) and handing me a seat belt extension – even though it wasn’t asked for nor was it needed. Every time, this happened when everyone had already boarded and were in their seats – watching the exchange between me and the flight attendants with freakish curiosity. The exchange went somethign like this: “You’ll be needing this.” “Really? Why?” “I think it’s obvious.” Glaring, I raised my jacket enough to reveal my seat belt comfortably fastened. Snickering throughout the plane cabin was heard, and the flight attendants would walk away with (I believe) a disappointed expression on their faces.

    I’m sorry you have had repeatedly bad experiences with this airline, but it doesn’t surprise me. I will not fly Southwest again, and I now have it in my contracts that clients cannot book me on Southwest flights.

  • Reply
    Jocelyn @ ScooterMarie
    December 1, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Wow, this is infuriating. I have never flown Southwest and now I never intend to. I’m very sorry for what you had to go through dealing with them, and I applaud you for standing up for yourself when many probably do not.

  • Reply
    Melissa
    December 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    So sorry this happened to you!

    More than 10 years ago (yes, I can hold a grudge), I flew SW from San Diego to Las Vegas for a day trip, for work. I was six months pregnant. Flying out in the morning – no problem. Flying back 10 hours later, the gate agent looked me up and down and informed me I was “too pregnant” to fly. Never mind that I was *not* too far along to fly, and by their own rules and regs was not far enough along to require a doctor’s note to fly. Add my hormonal rage to the gate agent’s attitude and it got ugly very, very quickly.

    They tried to get me to sign a waiver and the supervisor they called got angry when I started reading the waiver first. “Just SIGN it,” she huffed. Well, that waiver had me giving up all my rights even if I should be injured (or worse) due to negligence on the part of Southwest. I refused to sign it. After much back-and-forth, they allowed me on the plane but said any time I ever fly with them again when pregnant, I’ll require a doctor’s note.

    Hope they didn’t hold their breath because I have NEVER flown SW again.

    What happened to you tells me their culture of bad attitudes and power trips continues today.

  • Reply
    Hillary
    December 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Fuck them. Take your business elsewhere. Jet blue was quite lovely this weekend. I suggest them. I won’t give stores or restaurants that are rude business it is the same with airlines. I wont fly sw because the shit they do to you and kevin smith. I’m sorry hun.

  • Reply
    Brandy
    December 1, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Southwest is notorious for this behavior with heavier people. I fit in the seats fine and have no problem ever, but I WILL NOT fly Southwest again because of the way they treat heavy set people. It’s crap and they are the only airline that consistently has the problem with being inconsistent on this policy.

    I think you’re right Kenlie, they need to change their policy. Here’s my idea of what they should do in the Southwest terminals to clear up the confusion:

    They should have a bank of 2 or 3 “test” seats (like at amusement parks) in a private place so that if they have any question about whether a “person of size” spills over into the other seat they can find out that way and do it PRIVATELY so as not to humiliate the passenger. The decision shouldn’t be up to some nasty, little gate agent who’s subjective opinion is given all the power to decide whether a passenger should have to spend hundreds of dollars to buy another seat.

    Here’s the other thing, what if the flight is full? Southwest has open seating, so then you have to tell each person that tries to sit by you that they can’t because you had to buy that extra empty seat because of your weight, thus furthering your embarrassment!

    Also, if you buy two seats, do you get to check twice as much luggage for free? Or bring twice as much carry on baggage without hassle? I think not…

    Shame on Southwest. Will NEVER fly them again! (ok, am done with my rant now! LOL!) Hang in there Kenlie!!

  • Reply
    Michelle
    December 1, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    SW won’t be getting any money from me either. Just because of this story. It’s ridiculous and they shouldn’t be supported by anyone. Especially when there are other airlines that treat people right.

    And not moving the conversation was just plain wrong wrong wrong. Sorry you had to go through that again. But I’m proud of you for posting it and bringing awareness to it.

  • Reply
    Marion
    December 1, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    It’s just awful that this happened to you. I think it’s near impossible to erase that from your memory. And I don’t like the 2nd ticket policy *at all*, but, even more, I abhor the words and actions toward you.

    I really wish that guys who cheated on their wives each got a new face wart for each extramarital sex act, so we could talk about that. Or rich people who over-work people for un-sustaining wages would get some defining mark, opening them up for ridicule. Those are the type of people, who take advantage of others, that I wish people would get mean to. You don’t fit this category at all.

    🙂 Marion

  • Reply
    Bella
    December 1, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    I can’t imagine how terrible that was for you, but I am glad that you’re posting this. How could any of your readers have an issue with you expressing these emotions? I hope you never let the opinions of others influence what you write on your own blog.

    I’ve hated SW for some time, but mostly because of their cattle call way of boarding planes. It’s simply not worth saving a bit of money. I haven’t flown them in years, but I’m sure that when I did was I big enough to spill over into the next seat, but somehow I was “saved” from their discrimination.

    I hope this blog post reaches thousands and that each person commits to never flying Southwest again. They seriously do not deserve to be in business.

  • Reply
    Trina
    December 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Hi Kenlie!
    I’ve been lurking on your blog for months now and love it! I find your determination and success to be very motivating. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    I am so sorry that this happened to you again with Southwest! Like many others have commented, I will not be flying Southwest again. It appears that you handled a difficult and embarassing situation with a lot of aplomb. It is more than I would’ve been able to do in the same situation, and it’s something that I often worry about when flying. It’s clear that Southwest needs to provide their employees with sensitivity training. I can only imagine how many potential customers they’ve alienated with their reprehensible behavior.

    Thanks for fighting the good fight!

    Trina

  • Reply
    Ruthie
    December 1, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    I understand how you are upset, but I have to play the devils advocate here. Andu yes, I am an overwieght person. I am 5’5″ and 290 pounds. We all carry our weight differant. I am bottom heavy. I only wear a size 18 and can BARELY use the seat belts on most Delta flights. So I find it hard to believe when other says they have no issues “spilling” into other seats.

    Do you spill over the top part of the seat? Are your shoulders touching the person next you?

    Yes, indeed this absolutely sucks. BUT- I would think that since this has happened twice, perhaps you do need to buy 2 seats to avoid embarassment. Yes, yes, yes I know you have flown before with no problem, but a fact is a fact. Perhaps SW planes are smaller.

    Also, perhaps the Gate agent could not leave her area so there was not any chance to take you some place more private. Besides, if I saw a gate agent walking away with someone I would be more curious as to what was going on. Plus airports are loud, I doubt many people even heard what was happening.

    The world cannot change because one person is overweight, but still wants to fly. That is just the way life is and I am sorry about that. Concentrate on things you can change and what are worth your energy.

    I know this comment most likely wont get posted and if it does will get negative replies back. But we all need to sit back and really think about things. Rules exist for a reason.

    • Reply
      Kenlie
      December 3, 2011 at 12:54 pm

      Well Ruthie, I don’t spill over into the next seat. And PER SOUTHWEST’S POLICY I should have been taken aside (either in test chairs or on a plane) to prove as much. Even so, per SW’s policy, the conversation should have been moved elsewhere. So think what you want…it doesn’t make you right.

      • Reply
        Tanya
        December 3, 2011 at 8:42 pm

        Here, here Kenlie! Regardless of what ANYONE thinks, you are a PERSON who deserves to be treated with respect. I can tell you right now that if you disrespected THEM you would probably be put on some no-fly list or something!

        • Reply
          Kenlie
          December 4, 2011 at 11:51 pm

          Agreed Tanya..thanks..

  • Reply
    Emily
    December 1, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    I am so sorry this happened to you again. I understand if they need to follow policy but I don’t understand why they couldn’t use a little courtesy and tact. It’s complete crap.

  • Reply
    Sarah C.
    December 1, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Wow… after reading about the experience you and others have had with SW in the past when I had to travel last year, I went ahead and booked two tickets, in great part due to the ambigous Customer of Size policy. Thankfully, half of my ticket was covered by work, so it didn’t hurt as much financially as it could have. However, even having the two tickets and doing everything I was supposed to it was still a huge effort. In addition to the extra time it took at the check in counter (my agent didn’t know how to combine the tickets either), you have to board the plane with people in wheelchairs and families who actually need assistance. So, first you get all of the skewed questioning looks of “why is she getting to board first?” But then comes the fun part… you get a little piece of paper that you get to place on the seat next to you “reserving” that seat for your use. I sat in a group of three seats, next to the window, so the middle seat was my reserved seat. As the plane started boarding, someone quickly grabbed the aisle seat but most people moved past me without a second glance. Then the plane started getting full. Then as people reached my set of seats, they’d stop, look frantically around the plane for somewhere else to sit (don’t want to sit next to the fat lady), and then sigh and attempt to take my reserved seat. At which point I would politely state that they couldn’t, that it was taken. And then they’d have to walk all the way to the back of the plane. My flight was definitely overbooked, but I was never offered a buyout of my seat and I fit just fine in the single seat I would have bought if their policy had been clearer. However, since I had the extra space I took advantage of it and even offered to let my other seatmate stretch out. If I had had to buy both tickets out of my own pocket I definitely would have been angrier, but I couldn’t help but smile at the looks of disbelief I got from the people who were willing to “sacrifice their comfort” to sit next to me only to find out they couldn’t.

    Hang in there and focus on the positive things!

  • Reply
    Kelli
    December 1, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    It makes me sick that you were treated this way– not once, but twice! What happened to everyone in the South being friendly and kind to one another?! Especially those in a service agency!

    I have never flown Southwest and I will refuse to if I am ever presented with the option– I will refuse to spend a cent with their company and will do it with a smile on my face (and a certain finger up in the air in their direction)!

    For what it’s worth, I think you look amazing. You are an inspiration in many ways!!

  • Reply
    Sarah
    December 1, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Wow, just wow. I don’t really even know what to say.

    Sarah
    notaneffingdiet.blogspot.com

  • Reply
    Jill
    December 1, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    This is so upsetting. I’m always a little torn about the “size policy” because I know I wouldn’t want to have to pay double what everyone else does, but at the same time, I understand not wanting to be “encroached” on as a passenger. The thing that really upsets me is the lack of consistency & that they weren’t even willing to listen to you. I think you should have been allowed to demonstrate that you can fit into one seat…kinda like the carry on luggage sizer. It’s hard to believe that people can be that blatantly rude and inconsiderate. I’m really sorry that you had to go through all of this, and I don’t blame you for never flying with SW again!

  • Reply
    Janet
    December 2, 2011 at 2:39 am

    Hi Kenlie,

    I have been following your blog for a few month now and I was shocked when I read your first report on SWA and how they treated you. Discovering that there was another situation that made it necessary to write yet another post on the exact same subject, which is the discriminatory behavior of SWA employees towards overweight customers, is a joke. I think we all should raise hell and really make them pay. We should repost your experience on all our blogs and thus reach a maximum of people who will then in turn refrain from flying with them, ever. That might actually make them financially understand what they are doing to their customers.
    Please can I repost your post on my blog?
    Keep it up Kenlie
    Janet

  • Reply
    Jessie
    December 2, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Hi Kenlie,

    I’m SO sorry you’re having to deal with this awful treatment, AGAIN! I hope you raise hell, like only a Southern girl can! 😉 I’m a bigger girl, myself (much bigger than you), and I recently flew Delta..from Dallas to Dulles. They were AMAZING to me. I never felt discriminated against, looked down upon, or anything even close. Maybe for future flights, you could try them. They seem to be more people friendly and fair to their customers in regards to size.

    I think Southwest is delusional for thinking you need an extra seat. The proof is in the pics.

    Get ’em girl!
    Jessie

  • Reply
    Carrie @ No More Tomorrows
    December 2, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Ridiculous. Thankfully I’ve never been a victim to that. I don’t know what I would do. It is hard for me to deal with confrontation. What I find interesting about southwest though, is that I flew with them in November of last year, right after I had flown with another airline 3 weeks prior. I had no issues with the seats or seatbelt in the previous flight, but I did in the SW flight. The seat seemed smalled and the seatbelt didn’t buckle (it was winter so I just tucked the belt under my jacket and pretended it was fastened). I know I was the same size, so are there seats really actually smaller?

    I have been losing weight and I will continue to do so for my health. But no matter what size I am, I will be sure never to fly with Southwest again. I may only be one person, but I vote with my money, and they don’t get my vote.

  • Reply
    jodi
    December 2, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    True Story…. When I was at my largest I had “fat girl plane ride phobia” big time. This was long before the “fat person seat policy” and more of the phobia of all the other passengers looking at me like “Please lard ass don’t sit by me” as I walked sideways down the isle. I had a pretty good job so I did a premptive strike or so I thought. I bought two seats together months ahead to get the best deal i could money wise. Low and behold I get there for the flights and they have over sold it and couldn’t put my two seats together and then refused to give me a refund. The ticket agent proceeded to publically humiliate me as I asked for a refund and explained the situation. I was so shamed that I didn’t even complain. Jodi NOW would have their ass on a plate…..

  • Reply
    anneliesz
    December 2, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Here’s the thing about customer service.

    Those two words should stand on their own: providing helpful, friendly service to the customer. Hearing the customer out and then trying to find a solution. You requested privacy and the fact that a supervisor got involved should have meant you’d be given a chance to be heard. Privately. That disappoints me that you were treated poorly and by a person who felt it was okay, in their uniform, representing their company and in providing customer service to say “well, look at you.” I don’t know how common sensitivity and decency don’t factor into the conversation for people sometimes. It seems like what they did, that person, their supervisor and the one before, was to provide a great disservice to you, their customer and to their company, who’s HQ had assured you all had been fixed. I’m so sorry you had a rotten experience.

  • Reply
    Sarah
    December 2, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Reading the comments I guess I shouldn’t have been so shocked at this happening again – BUT I AM! It’s freakin’ 2011! This should NOT be happening this day and age – it’s unbelievable. I wish it hadn’t happened to you specifically because you’re an awesome person, but I’m kinda glad it did because I know you’ll speak up. There are probably HUNDREDS of stories like this happening to people who are already embarassed enough and don’t want to put themself out there any further. I’m worried for those people – very worried (and sad – so so sad). It’s 2011….(and if I wasn’t in Canada, I wouldn’t fly SW either – and I’m 160lbs so THERE SW!!!)

  • Reply
    Vinny Slavin (@VinnySlavin)
    December 2, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Kenlie,

    I hate that this happened to you AGAIN! Last year, I was very nervous about flying (Southwest) because I was afraid I was going to have to use the seat belt extender and that would have been embarrassing for me. If I had ever been pulled aside and told I was too fat to fly in one seat I would have been mortified and probably would have given up flying all together.

    What they did to you (TWICE now) was horribly wrong and I will not be flying Southwest again because of it.

    Also as a side note. After losing my weight I no longer need a seat belt extender, but I still can’t cross my legs like you did in your picture and I can still fly in one seat!? You should have not been charged an extra seat. Not only were they rude, but they were WRONG. Keep up the fight and please let us know if you hear back from that rep that now owes you a flight on another airline!

  • Reply
    Mimi
    December 3, 2011 at 7:58 am

    OMG! I’m outraged over this. I’m so sick of size prejudice being accepted in this country. I know the feeling. I was told before by a store clerk, “um your size is over there.” Ugh. Where do people get off thinking this
    Is ok???

  • Reply
    Willow
    December 3, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Hi Kenlie!

    Like everyone, I’m so sorry you had this experience but am so grateful that you are willing to write about it. I’m mostly commenting in the hopes that someone from SW is monitoring this post so I can add that I too will NEVER fly SW. Nor will my family. Nor will my friends. I will encourage my co-workers (I work in a research deprtment of a large university and our people fly all the time) to choose any carrier besides SW.

    I hope the media picks up on this like they did the first time it happened so SW can get some more public shaming (let them know how it feels).

    Please don’t let this spoil your holiday season. And rock on!

  • Reply
    Tanya
    December 3, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Echoing the comments of many…I will never fly SW…ever. They have some nerve treating people like that!!! Don’t let this one go!!!

  • Reply
    Nina Patricia
    December 4, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    This is ridiculous and disgusting. I said before after your first post: I will never flight with them. My Hubs is not a small man and he has NEVER been asked to do such a ridiculous things.
    SHAME ON YOU SW.
    I’ll make sure to forward this article to my friends and family.

  • Reply
    deb
    December 4, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    As a minority woman, I can tell you that Southwest has no problem enforcing their “person of size” policy on us. As a matter of fact, it was “suggested” to me that I buy an extra ticket when I travel because of my size in 2008-before the policy officially went into effect.

  • Reply
    beanfruit
    December 5, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    This is absolutely disgusting and the reason that I refuse to fly Southwest. I will drive 3 hours to a different airport and pay more money for a ticket on another airline simply because I do not want a single cent to go to this company. If they want to have the policy for “safety reasons” (which I bet is really 5% safety and 95% just want to make extra money – because really, how many times do you need to make an emergency exit from a plane), then fine. But, they need to enforce their policy fairly, consistently, and in accordance with the privacy that their policy dictates. I’m so sorry this happened to you.

  • Reply
    kjpugs
    December 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    I am appalled by this story. Having such an open ended policy is absolutely asking for trouble. Why not make it like luggage- they have a spot at many gates where you can see if your luggage fits, meaning it will fit overhead. Why not have a chair so you could PROVE that you are fine? It seems so subjective and ridiculous. After how hard you have worked, this surely stings. Not that it helps but know I have never flown SW and now, never will. ((hugs))

  • Reply
    Eric
    December 8, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Since there is a possibility that this could happen on other airlines maybe you should carry those pics of you only using one seat so as soon as they start you can pull out the pics showing you only use one seat and don’t need an extra ticket.

  • Reply
    LISA M
    February 19, 2012 at 12:40 am

    my daughter and i are both women of size. we fly at least once a year and were contemplating flying southwest for our upcoming trip. after reading how you were treated my daughter and i, along with my entire family will never set foot on a southwest plane again. thank you for being so informative. i am so sorry you had to go through that.

  • Reply
    The Law Suit
    May 3, 2012 at 2:28 am

    […] It’s not about money.  I didn’t seek damages in the law suit that I filed Pro Se (on my own.)  And when this is over Southwest won’t owe me a dime, but they will (hopefully) owe overweight and obese Americans a clear definition of their rules at the point of purchase.  Eyeballing people at the gate won’t cut it as I’ve said on a few different occasions (here and here.) […]

  • Reply
    John Pendley
    May 3, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    The same thing happened to me I started in Nashville had a stop in Chicago they came on the plane and told me I would have to buy another seat. The flight attendent and pilot both appolgized and when I reached Las Vegas they meet me at the gate and again appolgized. After talking with SWA they told me they owed me nothing. I’m crazy enough to try it again. I have lost 130 lbs hope that’s enough

  • Reply
    Ashley
    May 21, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    As someone who has sat next to people who definitely needed a second seat, I would love to sit next to someone as considerate as you! As per your pictures, you clearly fit into one seat, without encroaching on anyone else’s space. Since I am a petite person, I have had people lift the armrest to sit on part of my seat, without even asking(Which drives me crazy because I paid for my whole seat!) It is apalling that you would be treated badly, no matter what the situation.

  • Reply
    Mary Beth
    July 18, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Good for you. I am a big fat gal who can nonethless lower the armrests on an airplane seat , but was randonly harrassed by Southwest personnel until I STOPPED FLYING SOUTHWEST! There is no airfare bargain worth the purposeful humiliation their policy apparently requires. The worst part is the arbitrariness. I have been thin enough on the outgoing flight, then suddenly too fat for the trip home. Shaken down by gate agents on the way onto the plan (“Fat check on Line B!” shouted across the boarding area) jsut for the sake of embarrassment, then waved on board when no supervisor appeared. Most importantly, this is something that happens exclusively on Southwest – or used to.
    The last straw for me with Southwest was being approached by a flight attendant on the plane who told me I would have to buy an extra ticket for my return flight (again despite the fact my armrests were lowered and my seat belt fastened). She then stood in the aisle and fended off people trying to take the seat next to me. (“I’m sorry sir, you can’t sit there. Can’t you see she’s fat? This is for your own good, sir.”) I remember thinking, “Lady no matter how big or small I am, that middle seat is not going to get any bigger!” Anyway, as it was a short flight within the State of Claifornia , I DROVE home and never got on another Southwest plane. And I never will, no matter how thin I may get. I travel a great deal for business and pleasure and United, Delta, American, Air France, Continental, Quantas, Air Hawaii, Frontier and other airlines have never found it necessary to harrass me.

  • Reply
    Melissa
    November 29, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Well I wish I’d read this before booking my flight. I was approached a few minutes ago by a southwest agent asking for my boarding pass so he could reserve the seat next to me for everyone’s comfort. I’ve never had this happen before even with them and it was embarassing to say the least. I already have another flight booked with them that i will desperately try to cancel. I fit in my own seat with the belt buckled and the armrest down.

  • Reply
    Polly
    March 29, 2013 at 9:45 am

    There policy is so arbitrary! I think they just want to make more $ and sell more seats. When we fly we need to be kind and courteous to one another. I don’t love sitting by people who smell like cigarette smoke because I have allergies and asthma but I’d put up with it. They don’t charge those people more! It should be up to you, heavy or thin, to decide if you want to be more comfortable and pay to keep the seat next to you empty! That said, I’ve also had to witness a lady across the aisle giving her teenaged (son?) a wierd, enthusiastic, long back scratch under his shirt for like 30 min!!!! Ahhh the joys of flying. I’d like you on the seat next to me anytime! Oh yes and I think southwest is cheap and subpar. I swear I saw the same baggage handler fixing something mechanical on the plane thru my window! This did not make me feel safe!

  • Reply
    Polly
    March 29, 2013 at 9:55 am

    I meant to write that you could sit in the seat next to me anytime! What I wrote sounded wierd. Boy reading the other comments above makes me really hate southwest. They are morons! What total A-holes! If a person wants to sit next to someone they can and if they don’t they can quietly find another seat! What is next seating people by color, age, intelligence, religion? Give me a break! Southwest can stick it where the sun doesn’t shine (in my oppinion). They should give a personal formal appology to everyone they have insulted. I mean a face to face heartfelt appology.

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