Skift Take

A little sensitivity training for flight attendants is in order here.

A man claims he was asked to disembark a Southwest Airlines aircraft for being overweight.

Matthew Harper, who weighs about 24 stone (154 kg), was reportedly asked to step off the flight from Chicago to Denver after being told it was overbooked.

He alleged a cabin crew member asked whether the 34-year-old was aware of the company’s “customer of size” policy, which encourages passengers who “encroach upon any part of the neighbouring seats” and cannot fit in the 17-inch space between the armrests, to purchase a second seat prior to travel.

Mr Harper told the official he was aware of the policy, but pointed out there was still an empty seat remaining between his brother and himself. He was eventually allowed to board the plane again following further discussion.

The Texas resident, who was addressed publicly in front of other passengers, said he had “never been humiliated like this in my life,” and that he “felt like a criminal” when asked to leave the flight, according to Denver-based local TV station KDVR.

“I mean, when I got back on the plane, the only thing I could do was put my head down,’ he added.

Mr Harper filed a complaint with Southwest Airlines, a low-cost US domestic carrier, but refused the £65 ($100) in compensation he was offered. He is reportedly planning instead to take legal action.

A spokesman for Southwest Airlines has said the company plans to examine the incident.

“We sincerely regret Mr Harper’s unhappiness over his experience,” said Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz.

“We have personally called Mr Harper to offer him our apologies and better understand his concerns. It’s important to clarify that he did travel as scheduled—we did not deny him boarding. Our Employee informed him of our policy, and he proceeded to travel as scheduled.”

But Mr Harper argues he was frustrated for being singled out.

“What made it worse was there was two guys on there that was bigger than me, and they didn’t get pulled off the plane,” he told KDVR.

In 2011, Southwest was criticised for telling a passenger and her mother that they were “too fat to fly” when they asked cabin crew about weight restrictions on the flight. The passengers were questioned about their weight and what size clothing they wore in the presence of more than 100 other passengers, according to MSNBC .

Earlier this month, Samoa Air, the Pacific national airline, became the world’s first airline to charge passengers by their weight, asking passengers to pay a fixed price per kilogram, which varies according to the length of the route.

The head of Samoa Air, Chris Langton, claimed the new system was fairer and that families with small children were now paying substantially cheaper fares.


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Tags: airline seats, health, southwest airlines

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