Even living in the provinces of the Philippines, I am aware that Southwest Airlines has a “buy two seats if you are too big” policy.

So now, an overweight Hollywood guy that only the “hip” have ever heard of has decided to milk the policy for all it’s worth. If the guy is so “hip” and well known, why is he using this to get publicity?

Because he is all over the news, and is planning to discuss this on Larry King Live (and yes, we get CNN International here in the provinces of the Philippines too).

The media is all over it, including questioning why he was taken off one flight and then promptly given a seat on another flight.

Well, the NYTimes cuts through the publicity stunt and explains:

In its statement Southwest said that Mr. Smith, right, originally bought two seats for a flight from Oakland, Calif., to Burbank — “as he’s been known to do when traveling on Southwest” — but went standby on an earlier flight, where only a single seat was available. The pilots decided that Mr. Smith needed more than one seat…

This is a safety decision, not discrimination.

Someone who is (how should I put this gently) morbidly obese (the term we use in medicine) often has his or her body impinge on the comfort of those sitting in ajoining seats. Fully packed airlines are bad enough without worrying that every move you make will result in elbowing the guy next to you, or having his or her elbow settle on your bosom because it has nowhere else to go. Then there is the problem of meal service, and bathroom breaks.

The UKTelegraph has a nice photo HERE of the problem. And there is an interesting discussion about the photo and the problem at FlightGlobal.

A lot of the comments expose the hatred of obese people, which in the health conscious US is now a big “sin”, while the obese and largeboned post back with the PC idea that “obesity is a disability/illness and you aren’t allowed to discriminate”. Others, who are big boned and tall, point out that maybe the seats themselves are part of the problem.

All of this is beside the point. Your “rights” stop at my face, and this includes your “right” to a single airline seat if you are obese, big boned, or otherwise larger than average so that it means you take up part of my seating space and make my flight miserable.

But, in case of an accident, this becomes a safety hazard, both for the overweight person and for those sitting next to him.

As for me: my definition of hell is the 12 plus hour flight over the Pacific.

I’d be happy if larger seats, more leg room, and allowing us to walk up the aisles whenever we wanted so we don’t get deep vein thrombosis.

On the other hand, if airlines did that, the tickets would be so expensive that few of us on limited incomes could afford to travel.

As for Mr. “silent Bob”: he’s milking it for all the publicity that it’s worth. Of course.

But the dirty little secret is that, if SouthWest Airlines sticks to their guns and insists their policy on two seats for the morbidly obese is correct, they will end up with a lot more customers.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She writes on medical matters at HeyDoc Xanga blog.

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