Buy one ticket, get two free — if you’re fat enough to fill the seats, that is.
The world’s largest low-cost flight merchant, Southwest Airlines, has introduced a “customer of size” policy that will provide obese flyers one or even two extra free seats to accommodate “[c]ustomers who encroach upon any part of the neighboring seat(s).”
The Texas-based company’s lengthy policy for obese flyers tells “persons of size” to “discuss [their] seating needs with the Customer Service Agent at the departure gate prior to take off. If it’s determined that a second (or third) seat is needed, [they’ll] receive a complimentary additional seat(s).” Customers can also pay for two or three seats in advance, and request reimbursement later.
Among the more concerning components of the policy is the suggestion that passengers may be required to give up their seat in the event a “customer of size” who did not provide advance notice announces he or she requires extra room at the gate.
One media outlet lauded the move by Southwest as “humane,” while numerous “fat acceptance” activists took to TikTok to encourage other obese persons to take advantage of the freebie seats.
“Hot take: every airline should have a customer of size policy like Southwest Airlines,” posted obese TikTok user @jaebaeofficial.
Another TikTok user boasted about taking a preferred seat away from other passengers in a video uploaded to promote the Customer of Size policy.
“I picked a bomb seat; you know everybody wanna be towards the front of the plane, and they’ll even take a middle seat next to a fat person to get it… But here’s the thing—they can’t! Generally it’s going to be you versus the people on the plane,” plus-size beauty influencer @thehighyellowbrickroad said.
Southwest’s “Customer of Size” policy has led to some expressing concerns that the modern obesity epidemic is being subsidized at the behest of “fat acceptance” activists, with many noting that obesity is largely the result of an individual’s choices surrounding food.
“This isn’t deserving of praise. Morbid obesity is a self inflicted disability and society needs to discourage people from doing this to themselves. This is not a natural body type,” one user wrote in response to news about Southwest’s policy.
Some users questioned why similar policies weren’t in place for tall passengers, considering height is an immutable characteristic, while others wondered if the “complimentary extra seats” would simply be subsidized by non-obese passengers having to pay more in ticket fees.
Last year, Publica co-founder Sydney Watson went viral on X (formerly Twitter) for live-sharing her ordeal being wedged between two morbidly obese passengers on an American Airlines flight.
“This is absolutely not acceptable or okay. If fat people want to be fat, fine. But it is something else entirely when I’m stuck between you, with your arm rolls on my body, for 3 hours,” she wrote.
Watson later received $150 in compensation from American Airlines, and also penned an essay about the ordeal in Newsweek.
“As society gets fatter and airplane seats get smaller, we find ourselves at an awkward impasse: do we continue to normalize obesity, expecting other passengers to accept uncomfortable, personal-space invading travel, rife with non-consensual touch for the sake of kindness?”