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Southwest Airlines’ Surprising Solution for Obese Passengers: Free Extra Seats, But at What Cost?

Southwest Airlines’ policy catering to obese passengers, offering them an additional seat at no extra cost, has drawn a mix of applause and critique.

Instead of declaring it loudly, Southwest’s “Customer of Size” policy became known to the public through TikTok users sharing helpful content about how to take advantage of it.

The criteria for receiving a complimentary extra seat might seem a bit ambiguous, as highlighted by Zero Hedge. According to the airline’s FAQs, the decisive factor is the armrest, which serves as the boundary between seats. If a passenger can not lower both armrests or encroaches upon the adjacent seat, they require an additional seat.

As this policy gains traction and more individuals of larger size take advantage of it, there’s speculation about the potential introduction of test seats at Southwest gates, resembling the luggage size-testing boxes, to ascertain eligibility.

It’s not required, but the airline recommends that passengers who need more space book an extra seat in advance. This helps the airline plan the flight better and ensures that everyone with a ticket has a seat, without having to ask other passengers to give up theirs at the last minute.

There’s a potential snag in the policy, though, when it comes to situations where a passenger of standard size might be ousted to make room for someone who’s larger. For instance, a family consisting of a mother and her teenage boys found themselves without a place to sit after being informed that their flight was overbooked and that they ‘d have to give up their seats for a passenger who required more space. This particular scenario was highlighted by the New York Post.

This unique free seat policy offered by Southwest seems unparalleled among other domestic carriers. As highlighted by a self-identified “fat solo traveler,” Southwest stands alone in providing a second seat at no added expense, even on fully booked flights.

Some critics view this policy as emblematic of a larger societal issue, arguing that it incentivizes self-destructive behavior and spreads the resulting costs across everyone.

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