Issues on overweight flyers

In the news there have been a few stories relating to overweight flyers and what consequences they should face if they can’t fit comfortably in a seat. Director Kevin Smith getting kicked off of a Southwest Airline flight has caused a big stir, while another story of an anonymous flyer getting kicked off an American Airline flight for obesity has gone somewhat under the radar in comparison.

The comment boards have been where most of the controversial issues have come up. Some people find it incredibly unacceptable for overweight people to fly because it inconveniences other passengers, while others are defending themselves or others who are obese but feel they should have the right to fly like everyone else. Several airlines now make it mandatory for overweight people to buy a second seat, saying that it is a safety hazard if a seat belt extender is needed, or if the arm rests cannot be lowered down. Not only has this become an issue over airline safety, but a larger issue about discriminating obese people overall.

Michael Kimmel from the Huffington Post blogged about the issue. His argument was that people should be complaining to airlines about uncomfortable conditions, and ridiculous fees for luggage rather than pointing the finger at fat people. He also points out all the other several kinds of passengers that can be an inconvenience (e.g. smelly people, talkative people, or babies) and again brings up the issue of discrimination.

The issue with Kevin Smith turned into a publicity stunt involving several apologies by Southwest that Smith decided to reject. He was asked to take another flight where two seats would be available to him. The anonymous flyer was also asked to fly on another flight where he was given an entire row of seats.

I am not sure where I personally stand on the issue. I agree with Kimmel that there are several other people besides overweight passengers that would bother me during a flight. I can also see the argument for the rights of obese people, since many of them cannot control it and could argue they are being discriminated for a disability. Making them pay for an extra seat if they NEED it seems a little extreme, though asking them to sit in two seats does not seem out of the question. What are your thoughts?