Woman Says She Was “Stranded Outside The Country” Because A Large Passenger Needed Her Seat On Southwest

A woman shared her story of flying Southwest Airlines from Montego Bay to Baltimore to Denver where she was refused boarding in Montego Bay, she says, because because the flight was overbooked and they were treating her as a standby passenger. She was traveling with two teenagers on the full flight, and the airline learned that a passenger of size needed an extra seat but hadn’t purchased one. So she was “stuck outside the country” to make room for that other passenger.

The video ends with a Southwest Airlines customer service agent in Baltimore saying that “even if there are not enough seats, we have to accommodate that customer of size.”

It’s odd that she says she was stuck outside the country, yet she had to “spend the night in Baltimore” and identifies the taped conversation with customer service as taking place in Baltimore. So it’s sounds like her connecting flight was the issue.

Meanwhile, according to a Southwest Airlines spokesperson, “from a regulatory sense, there was not a denied boarding on the flight referenced as there was an error with one of the reservations.”

They offered that the airline’s customer service agents “followed established procedures for both the Customer of Size and reaccommodating these Customers.” And said that they “compensated the Customer for interim expenses, offered three LUV vouchers as a gesture of goodwill and booked them for the following day when seats were available.”

We’ve recently seen a plus-sized influencer demanding free extra seats from airlines for passengers who need the space, and a plus-sized woman shaming a passenger who moved seats in order to have more room, when she overflowed into their space.

I think we can all understand being frustrated with the tight fit of an aircraft. Southwest Airlines generously gives more legroom than other U.S. airlines in their regular economy cabins. But the width of the seat is pretty much fixed by the size of the Boeing or Airbus fuselage. Passengers who need more space should reserve that space for themselves in advance – and pay for it as necessary.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Maybe it’s an update on the “Sunset Boulevard” quote, “I got big. It’s the pictures (seats) that got small.”

  2. Plus sized passengers are not going to pay for something the airline gives for free.

  3. Other than people from Pacific countries like Nauru, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, we are the most obese country in the world.

    Mexico and Kuwait are rapidly catching up. But we are so very much fatter than anyone else in the West. Not surprisingly, even with our spending much more on healthcare and smoking at lower rates than say the French or Germans, we die sooner. Our life expectancy is almost three years shorter than our competitors

  4. Absolutey ridiculous. People choose to be fat…make them pay extra for seats like they do the large Mcmeals.

  5. I’m curious to know why a party of 3 was denied boarding if only one seat was needed. There clearly was something else going on.

  6. Tell me you were the last to check in without telling me you were the last to check in. Last checked in, first one bumped. Not fair? maybe. But you have to be faster than the person who doesn’t know the definition of gluttony next time.

  7. This sucks for someone no matter what, but I imagine it would be a bigger PR nightmare if SW denied boarding for the other person and hopefully it just came down to that the lady was the last to check in so she got denied first.

  8. Usually I see so many complain that the airlines only care about their bottom line. Now we see a case where the airline opted for the less profitable path. Where’s the praise? Lol.

  9. This article doesn’t discuss Southwest’s customer of size policy correctly. If you buy an extra seat in advance they will refund it after your trip regardless of how full the flight is! I do this all the time for my partner who qualifies for it. It makes Southwest our airline of choice. If you don’t buy the extra seat in advance they will block one for you at check in (which we used to do) until we realized how easy getting the refund is because it simplifies things at check in.

  10. possibly last checked in
    3 seats needed, but only 2 available.
    split the party of 3 up? or give the seats to the one passenger the could accommodate?
    sounds reasonable to me?

  11. I’m a person of size who flies Southwest. I can get by with a belt extender because thankfully, my bum isn’t the problem. I have checked in case it was and can assure you, this woman’s extra seat was not complimentary nor should it be.

    It’s not fat shaming to charge for an extra seat. If you need two seats, you pay for two seats. A parent with a baby is expected to hold him or her the entire flight, there’s no free seat for them. Also on Southwest, a person of size can pay for an extra seat in advance and get a refund if it’s not needed.

    On a side note: I appreciate the discussion being only adults so far. No fat shaming, name calling or immature comments like before. At least before I started writing…

  12. If you have a reservation, check in on time, but are not permitted aboard the ticketed flight, it is IDB. SW is telling us that “technically, this wasn’t IDB,” so someone isn’t telling us the whole story. We’re told these were paid reservations, so did they not check-in on time? The oversized passenger may be why the flight was unexpectedly oversold, but doesn’t explain the whole story.

  13. Based on recent personal experience with SW (in Pittsburgh and Baltimore), I am convinced that most SW personnel have no clue what the airline’s extra seat policy regulations entail. Worst of all, SW defends their inconsistent policies and aggressive, clueless agents to the end.

    A word of advice……a passenger can purchase an extra seat through a SW telephone agent specifically for a medical accommodation (pre or post surgery) but then be harassed and told the extra ticket is invalid at check in because there is no “visible” medical disability….”You know…like a cast or something.” And, if your “stop” becomes a “plane swap,” you will endure a second round of humiliation and questioning of your extra ticket despite the fact that all 3 seats are listed on the “plane swap” manifest. SW needs to get their collective act together soon!

  14. Jay,

    When you fly SWA thru, ALL legs are checked in at the same time, so “checking in late” doesn’t fit this scenario.

    Methinks there’s more about the obese pax than the article mentions,,,

  15. Jay,

    Do you suppose that the woman that was accommodated actually has a disability or valid medical reason and was covered under ADA regulations and so they had to give her an extra seat? Maybe she boarded in Baltimore and the woman, even though she was already on the first leg got bumped from her second leg because she was simply last or one of the last to board.

    It would be against the law to give her any info on the other woman, making the reason of it being about her size just an assumption.

  16. There are more frequent stories regarding “pax of size” than ever. I sympathize with them for having to deal with pretty modest standard seat sizes in “coach.” On the other hand, I am a Senior and of “normal” size and height. I have had to feel very uncomfortable and “squeezed” in my seat by a “passenger of size” seated next to me…trying to accomodate themselves in one single seat. I don’t understand the complications (i.e., rules and regulations) of purchasing/reserving an extra seat for being large, but I completely support such rules in favor of fair treatment for those of us (like myself) for whom one seat is sufficient… I would hope the airlines apply their rules consistently.

  17. I think she was probably the last to check in, too. And that sucks.

    But she/they weren’t stranding [sic]. Stranded is getting kicked off with no way to get home. They were given a hotel room for the night, a flight out the next day, and vouchers for future travel.

    This poorly written article was just poking at fat people flying, since it mentioned other instances but doesn’t say anything about when people buy two seats because they are big and get pressured into giving up one of them.

  18. I think the “person of size” issue should be addressed for what it is. If you are larger than a single seat, you pay for the additional room. If you didn’t make arrangements before hand, you take a different flight where you can be accommodated. The “who checked in first or last” as to being bumped is no excuse. The person who “checked in last” had still paid equally for their reservation, and reserved exactly what was needed, the person who needed accommodated had not. It’s a “reservation”, not “a buffet”. I have had a similar situation. I am a “person of height” (something I have no control over). I have had to pay for “economy comfort” or “premium economy” at almost double the fare for years in order to accommodate, not for comfort, but to actually fit, my legs. I recently experienced an “equipment change” on AA flying out of Philadelphia. The aircraft had only standard economy. I was beyond grateful that it also had no beverage service as I had to fly angled in the seat with one knee in the aisle (years ago airlines would intentionally put tall people in emergency row seats, now it’s a profit center, not a safety issue). If I had not been able to, should someone else have been bumped because I couldn’t fit? Once on Delta I had booked an emergency row seat (extra legroom, extra cost) on an old MD80. A “person of size” was moved to the window seat in my row because they couldn’t fit in their assigned seat (the middle seat in my row was empty). The whole flight I was wondering what would happen if that exit had actually been needed. It was effectively blocked. My point being, make proper arrangements, or wait until you can be accommodated. Your lack of planning should not be my emergency. A funny aside. I once flew on an aircraft with a 3 – 3 configuration. They put 3 of us (we didn’t know each other) who were all 6’+ in one row. We flew an hour and a half overlapping like a hand of cards. Luckily we all had a good sense of humor about it (as tall is not considered a reason for accommodation, and we all knew the drill). Maybe have specific rows with wider seats to specifically accommodate “people of size” and charge proportionately? Sounds very familiar to me.

  19. W.J Fatass should have been told sorry tubby one seat per ass not one seat per ass cheek

  20. Clark,

    The woman was bumped in Baltimore. She indicates in several places that’s where she was.

    It sounds like she’s assuming the woman was given priority because of her size. She would have no idea if it was because of ADA regulations ie the woman had a disability or valid medical issue. Lastly, the woman might have paid for her second seat in advance or at the very least, it was blocked for her.

    The woman that was bumped does a bit of guessing and speculating. She doesn’t come across very credible imo.

  21. Fatness is covered by ADA regs? I did not know that. Being fat is a disability?

  22. This is obviously someone responding to the recent coverage of the story discussed here https://viewfromthewing.com/plus-sized-woman-shames-passengers-who-moved-seats-to-have-more-room-on-flight/ by grifting and not even bothering to research a plausible story. This just “happened” to occur to someone with a TikTok account who cries on cue and can’t put together a narrative about it that makes any sense? Some of the commenters here need to develop a slight bit of sense about how the world works before someone sells you magic beans.

  23. I prefer a different term than “person of size”…I like calorically enhanced.

  24. @Richard, thanks for speaking up for those of us who are not a person of size. My question is: is it fair if a person of size manages to squeeze their pelvis between the the two armrests, but their flesh in the midsection overflows into my space by several inches, and at the shoulder level, their shoulders extend into my space by at least 6 full inches, making me list to the left 30 degrees for the entire flight? @Gary, do I have any rights in this situation?

  25. Is there really such a thing as “person of size?” How about “person of criminality?” Maybe “person of unfortunate appearance?” Call it what it is and we can all agree about what is being discussed. The fat person may need two or maybe even three seats, but other passengers shouldn’t have to pay for them.

  26. Tom K from Seattle says
    Other than people from Pacific countries like Nauru, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, we are the most obese country in the world.

    Tom K are you saying that is is OK for these people in these 10 countries to be FAT?
    This is the List from 2018

    USA #11, notice a number of middle east countries
    Canada #26
    Russia #70
    North Korea #163 chance of death is high from other things.
    China #169 — well this is what happens under Communist Rule

    Nauru 61.00
    Cook Islands 55.9
    Palau 55.3
    Marshall Islands 52.9
    Tuvalu 51.6
    Niue 50.0
    Tonga 48.2
    Samoa 47.3
    Kiribati 46.0
    Federated States of Micronesia 45.8
    United States 41.9
    Kuwait 37.9
    Jordan 35.5
    Saudi Arabia 35.4
    Qatar 35.1
    Libya 32.5
    Turkey 32.1
    Egypt 32.0
    Lebanon 32.0
    United Arab Emirates 31.7
    Bahamas 31.6
    New Zealand 30.8
    Iraq 30.4
    Fiji 30.2
    Bahrain 29.8

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