Southwest took a lot of heat when they announced the enforcement of this policy that has been on their (and most other airlines) books for quite some time. The "solution" proposed by the groups that opposed this policy was for the airlines to "simply" provide wider seats. They didn't say what the airlines should do about recovering lost revenues caused by the loss of seats on their aircraft. The most vocal group was NAFAA, and at one of their conferences, they invited representatives from Delta, American, and Southwest to address the topic. Southwest explained the program, and explained that if the flight were not sold out, those passengers who paid for two tickets would recieve a full refund (even for nonrefundable tickets) for the "unused" seat. The whole idea was to have those who won't fit in a seat that is 17 inches wide to go ahead and purchase a second seat in advance...saving themselves the "embarassment" of being denied boarding on the day of the flight should the flight prove to be full.
A big hoopla was made about "selling" a second seat at the gate, and the decision for requiring the seat was to be made by the gate agent. But they didn't address the concept that IF
the flight was not sold out, they would be refunded the price of the second ticket - and they didn't address how on earth one was supposed to buy a second seat on a flight that was sold out. At the NAFAA conference, the reps from Delta and American kind of danced around the issue, although the NAFAA members applauded their "sensitivity". Basically, what AA
and Delta said was that they would only do something if someone else complained
...in other words, make the customer out to be the bad guy, not the airline. But AA
and Delta were avoiding the issue of a full flight. And if you read their responses closely, would subject the obese person to even more humiliation, since they proposed trying to find someone who would not object to sitting next to the obese person while everybody was already on the plane
. If no volunteers could be found, the obese person would be placed on the next available flight out. WMUpilot sort of responded the way that they did....we'll just give you your own row. But what do you do if there aren't any empty seats on the plane? Whose "rights" or more important, the obese person who needs to share your seat, or the person whose seat is being shared?
As for the policy on other airlines, should an obese person who paid for a rock bottom fare be given priority for a first class seat over an "elite" customer looking for an upgrade? Whose goodwill is more important - the occasional obese passenger, or the passenger who flies you on a weekly basis?
[Edited 2003-10-01 15:36:50]