Airline sparks debate by giving out free seats to plus sized passengers

Southwest Airlines, a US carrier, has sparked a debate with its policy offering up free extra seats to plus sized passengers. The airline has decided to make accommodations to both disabled and larger passengers which has caused people to both compliment its inclusion and accuse it of "rewarding obesity".

The airline’s 'Customer of Size' policy allows passengers whose body takes up more than one seat on a plane to take up "the needed number of seats" for free. This means that any plus sized passengers who fear spilling into a neighbour’s space can get an added seat for no extra charge.

The policy noted that any whose body "encroach[es] upon any part of the neighboring seat(s)" may buy the extras and have them refunded at check-in. The policy also includes accommodations made for disabled passengers who need additional room.

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The Southwest Airlines policy says: "Customers who encroach upon any part of the neighboring seat(s) may proactively purchase the needed number of seats prior to travel to ensure the additional seat(s) is available… The purchase of additional seats serves as a notification of a special seating need and allows us to adequately plan for the number of occupied seats onboard. …

"It also helps us ensure we can accommodate all Customers on the flight for which they purchased a ticket and avoid asking Customers to relinquish their seats for unplanned accommodation. Most importantly, it ensures that all Customers onboard have access to safe and comfortable seating. You may contact us for a refund of the cost of additional seating after travel."

Apparently, if you discuss the issue with a customer service worker they will even help you to book a second, or even third, additional seat for free if needed. Plus sized influencer, Jae'lynn Chaney, makes use of customer of size policies – she is a 6XL – and said: "There's a spectrum of fatness. And as a super fat individual, you start needing different accommodations…

"I just felt really happy that there was something like this for people. I hope to see more airlines implement customer-of-size policies. The Southwest customer size policy helps many travelers offset the disproportionate costs that we incur because of needing extra room. And so, it's not just about physical accessibility. It's also about financial accessibility."

Other social media users complimented the airline’s "accessibility", but not everyone was thrilled with rows of seats being handed out for free. Some pointed out that extra tall passenger who need extra legroom are often not accommodated and have to shell out for more expensive seats.

The policy states that the armrest is the seat boundary and so "If you’re unable to lower both armrests and/or encroach upon any portion of a seat next to you, you need a second seat". The may not mean that those with long legs are able to secure extra room.

On Twitter, one user said: "They’ve never offered me the seat in front of me because I’m 6’6" and my legs don’t fit? Sorry but this is b*******. You need the extra space you pay."

Another added: "Glamorising obesity is not a good look." However, others would prefer their seat neighbours not to spill into their space and so could see the logic of the policy.

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