Friday, February 10, 2006

1 large person + 1 small plane = big trouble...

OK, here we go again. The background is (please feel free to follow the link and review for your self) a large woman is upset at Southwest for requiring that she purchase a second seat ticket before they would let her board the plane. Part of her complaint is that the policy is applied in a non-uniform manner (valid) and that the decision to require or not require the additional seat is made by the gate attendant (not valid and I will tell you why) and that the policy was difficult to locate on their web site (valid). What really got me though was this passage:

But you know what? I didn’t choose the plane. The airline did. This situation is caused by the space, not by my body, just like access to public spaces for people with mobility impairments is impeded by curbs and stairs and narrow bathroom doors, not by the wheelchair itself. Of course, the airline is under no obligation to design a plane that suits me, but if they are offering a particular service which I purchase a ticket for, and I am willing to suffer temporary discomfort for the benefit of traveling swiftly to a distant destination, isn’t that my decision, not theirs?

What? “This situation is caused by the space, not by my body…” You mean to say that you are one of those rare individuals who actually have a glandular disorder and it is through absolutely no actions on your part, that you are the size you are? If that is the case, you may have a point and please accept my apologies and you can stop reading now.

Then there was this gem: "Why is any other passenger’s comfort and right to travel affordability more important than mine"?

OK, first off, the ability to freely travel is a right, but there is no right to air travel. Today, most people assume it is but it is not. You use the airline at their discretion and they have the right to refuse service to anyone. If you do not feel that it was fair that they refused you service, you have the right to sue them for redress. Also, you are not the only one on the plane. There will be others there as well that will need to maneuver in the same area that you do. Someone will need to sit next to you (if you do not purchase a second set) so what about their expectation to be able to make use of all of the space that they have paid for? If you are of a size that a belt extender is needed, that means that you will not easily fit into the set dimensions. You will “over flow” to the sides. That means that the person that is seated next to you will not be able to have full use of their space. How is that fair to them? I have had the occasion to ride on an airplane next to a larger than average person on more than one occasion and it is NOT fun. I am not referring to the individual persons, I am referring to being turned into a sardine in MY seat, the seat that I paid for and do not get full use of. The extra seat (you did not want to buy) was to give everyone ample (or at least their expected) room.

As to your issue with the gate attendant making the call as to the need for a second seat, the gate attendant is the guaranteed last person to see the passengers before the plane leaves. They are in the best position to know the capacity of the plane and the availability of seating. They should make the call.

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