Being Fat, Looking Fat, and Getting Thrown Off a Plane | Bleader

Monday, February 15, 2010

Being Fat, Looking Fat, and Getting Thrown Off a Plane

Posted By on 02.15.10 at 01:53 PM

It's confusing that Smith was thrown off the plane at all: he could buckle the seat and put down the armrests completely, the latter of which keeps him out of SW's "definitive gauge" for being a "customer of size." That makes no sense. Something left him vulnerable to that decision by the flight attendants, who cited pro forma and vague safety concerns of "the pilot," standard issue stuff for SW's size policies. Why he was subject to them at all is not clear, except that maybe he just fit the profile (with fat, as ever, it is actually a greater sin to look fat than be fat).

Elizabeth Tamny has a very good post on Kevin Smith v. Southwest. But to answer one of her questions:

Maybe this is all about money.

Yes. The airline industry is a low-margin industry, now more than ever. When I was growing up I used to drive or take the train as affordable alternatives to flying. I flew once when I was 16 and didn't fly again until I was in college. But now the difference in price isn't big enough to make up for the convenience (you can still save some money by taking the bus, but it's an unpleasant way to travel more than a few hours). So for all the complaints about the airlines' customer-unfriendly policies, from making "customers of size" buy two seats to charging for extra luggage (on the bright side, a tax on people who pack badly) to the cramped accommodations in coach, they've helped the airlines maintain customer-friendly stagnant prices.

Put simply: customer service won't improve without an increase in fares.

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