Man Threatened With Ejection from Flight for Being Too Fat Solves Problem in Unconventional Way

This story is bizarre, but not even for the reason that you think.

Last Friday an American Airlines passenger preparing to depart Dallas Fort-Worth for Orange County was asked to leave the plane “for being too big.” He’s 6 feet tall, 260 pounds, which seems like a weight and height of a person who flies every day without incident.

He was seated in a middle seat, and the woman sitting in the aisle got up and walked to the front, spoke to a flight attendant, and that’s when cabin crew approached to eject him from the aircraft.

Passengers of size are always a controversial issue. Seats are tight, and how much space one person may take up versus another brings out heated debate. I tend to think that a passenger should be entitled to the space in between the armrests. But what about the armrests themselves? Who gets that?

I rather like Southwest’s policy of making passengers of size purchase two seats — and then have one seat refunded to them if the flight isn’t full. Southwest therefore tries to accommodate them with enough space for free if they can, but on a full flight the passenger has to pay for enough space so as not to encroach on the space of others. This policy draws substantial fire quite regularly.

Kevin Smith made headlines in 2010 over Southwest Airlines’ customer of size policy, vowing never to fly the airline again. He flew them again in 2011 and had another altercation over the policy.

Here’s what’s strange about this case: the complaining woman had the aisle seat. She “agreed to simply switch to the middle seat, so he could lean into the aisle.”

That turns everything I know completely on its head.

  • When you want more room, you take the aisle so you can lean into it.

  • You do not want the middle seat ever.

  • The middle seat is more cramped, with passengers usually on either side of you.

You do not trade a middle seat for an aisle seat, especially with someone whom you are complaining is too big to sit next to you. Who gives up their aisle seat, preferring a middle, when they’re complaining of not having enough room?

From the middle of November through the beginning of January, strange things happen on airplanes. Strange things indeed.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Southwest changed their policy some time ago and now will refund the cost of the extra seat even if the flight is full.

  2. @Ken–“Southwest changed their policy some time ago and now will refund the cost of the extra seat even if the flight is full.”

    Then why even charge for the 2nd seat in the first place???????????????

  3. I was waiting for an Lax -den flight. Saw a really large guy waiting also.
    Dreading he would be in Econ + next to us. Boarding started and there he was in first at the window. Still filled every last sq in. And looked very uncomfortable. I’d wound buy 2 coach seats and be able to spreadddd out

  4. Granted the guy is big but when the FA does not resolve the problem before there is an issue than it is really an issue with the FA and not the passenger. The old lady could have been accommodated on another flight first and that usually shuts them up. Follow f by moving the COS to first free. But never give in to a rude passenger

  5. Why switch to middle seat? Because she was KIND and GENEROUS. Is this honestly such a foreign concept to you? I’ll venture a guess that you are not (originally) from the South.

  6. Airlines need to stop making coach seat as if all of us were 17 year old models. Trouble is they’re not particularly interested in our comfort.
    How about making the last two rows on either side of the aisle in bench seat
    configurations? This way if someone needs more space, it’s available.
    It could cost more to help the airline’s lost revenue.

  7. Kindness, compromise, and generosity are foreign concepts to libertarians, like Gary.

  8. Gary — Thanks for the history lesson about this guy — I think there may be more to the story.

    I did not know about his earlier issues with SW, but I definitely remember reading about this recent issue and two things that I do recall were that he had the middle seat AND he claimed to have elite status with AA.

    Now, I thought it strange that an elite member would get a middle seat — especially someone of size — but things do happen, so I chalked it up to misfortune.

    I should also add that the article that I had read made the little old lady as the bad guy in this — it did not state that she decided to switch seats with him so that he could have more room — rather, that he was encroaching on her space and she wanted him off.

    So, I am now wondering if this guy did not deliberately put himself in the middle seat to make waves — just as he had done apparently TWICE in the past.

    Would be interesting to note if he had elite status and just how this thing occurred, seeing that he had this issue with SW before — I know if I had this run in twice, I would be really hesitant to take a middle seat, anywhere, anyhow — unless I wanted to make a public stink about failure of people to accept people of girth.

    Might be worth some additional sleuthing…

  9. Sad thing is I was reading the other day the airlines are making their seats even smaller in their newer planes.

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