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February 14, 2010 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Filmmaker Kevin Smith was booted off a Southwest Airlines flight last night for being too fat. Oops, sorry, for some sort of nebulous "safety risk". Needless to say, Southwest is rapidly discovering what happens when you mistreat a customer with 1.6 million Twitter followers and a lot of spare time (not to mention a movie coming out).
posted by Bluecoat93 (375 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
fatasteriskss?
posted by dunkadunc at 3:11 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry, should have mentioned that many (if not most) of Kevin's tweets are rather profane, especially on this subject. The Consumerist has a bit more. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any "traditional" media sources on this, at least partially because it sounds like he's not all that anxious to give interviews about it.
posted by Bluecoat93 at 3:12 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


If he, and that moron friend of his were only booted out of movie theaters...
posted by jsavimbi at 3:15 PM on February 14, 2010 [8 favorites]



SouthWest's Blog has some info about the situation here.

It says, in part :

"You've read about these situations before. Southwest instituted our Customer of Size policy more than 25 years ago. The policy requires passengers that can not fit safely and comfortably in one seat to purchase an additional seat while traveling. This policy is not unique to Southwest Airlines and it is not a revenue generator. Most, if not all, carriers have similar policies, but unique to Southwest is the refunding of the second seat purchased (if the flight does not oversell) which is greater than any revenue made (full policy can be found here). The spirit of this policy is based solely on Customer comfort and Safety. As a Company committed to serving our Customers in Safety and comfort, we feel the definitive boundary between seats is the armrest. If a Customer cannot comfortably lower the armrest and infringes on a portion of another seat, a Customer seated adjacent would be very uncomfortable and a timely exit from the aircraft in the event of an emergency might be compromised if we allow a cramped, restricted seating arrangement. "

Which sounds a whole lot more reasonable than the FPP made it sound.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:16 PM on February 14, 2010 [63 favorites]


I'd be more interested to see how a company treats somebody who doesn't have 1.6 million Twitter followers and if they make any distinction between the two.
posted by tallthinone at 3:19 PM on February 14, 2010 [28 favorites]


"Customer of Size"?
posted by knapah at 3:20 PM on February 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


we feel the definitive boundary between seats is the armrest. If a Customer cannot comfortably lower the armrest and infringes on a portion of another seat, a Customer seated adjacent would be very uncomfortable

This is the contentious issue. One of Kevin's arm rests was up. The airline claims that was because it couldn't be lowered. Kevin claims it was already left up by another passenger, and he simply hadn't lowered it yet.
posted by Jimbob at 3:21 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


To be fair, most of Kevin Smith's Twitter followers are probably assholes.
posted by Artw at 3:21 PM on February 14, 2010 [28 favorites]


As a certified fatass, I want to hate Southwest's policy, but I actually find it the most fair of any airlines' customer-of-size policy. I've never, not once, not been refunded the fare for my second seat, not even last weekend when half the airports on the eastern half of the country were shut down and they were offering people vouchers to get off my flight. Even then, it was refunded, and every Southwest employee I've ever dealt with, from booking to the employee who spotted me at the gate and approached me to check if I was aware of their policy, has been polite and respectful.
posted by ferociouskitty at 3:22 PM on February 14, 2010 [22 favorites]


I have no horse in this race other than being a fan, but I've been reading Kevin's tweets most of the day on this (in between doing actual productive things), and he more or less refutes their entire statement.

He'll be the first to tell you he's fat and tends to poke fun at himself at length about it, but in this case (at least according to him), he still fits within the bounds of his own seat, with the armrests down, and without a seatbelt extender. He also does buy first-class on longer flights when it makes sense from a cost-benefit perspective.

I'm quite sure there's two sides to this, but this isn't exactly the first time Southwest has done something like this. It's just the first time the've done it to somebody famous enough to get attention.
posted by Bluecoat93 at 3:22 PM on February 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


The key error here is that Southwest seated a passenger and then embarrassed them in front of a whole bunch of people by forcing the passenger off the plane.

Southwest should have dealt with this at the gate before seating, especially since they knew that he had booked two seats and they only had one free standby seat on the plane in question.

The bigger screwup of course is that Southwest, and other carriers, design seats that do not accomodate a significant percentage of their customers, and so get into situations like this.
posted by zippy at 3:23 PM on February 14, 2010 [10 favorites]


if we allow a cramped, restricted seating arrangement.

Well, that would describe just about every seating arrangement on every plane I have ever been on, and I'm a very tiny person.
posted by Orb at 3:24 PM on February 14, 2010 [41 favorites]


via Twitter

ThatKevinSmith
Dear Other Airlines (including Oceanic, sans Flight 815): I'm in the market for a flight east this Thurs. Which one of you likes fat people?


+1 for being a LOST fan.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:25 PM on February 14, 2010 [8 favorites]


Ok, stupid question, but as a non-twitter-user who sometimes ends up having to look at twitter feeds for whatever reason, is there somewhere I can go to understand how to understand the metalanguage of twitter posts? I get that @ refers to another user, but I'm seeing via and all this business and it kind of confuses me.
posted by threeants at 3:25 PM on February 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


design seats that do not accomodate a significant percentage of their customers, and so get into situations like this

Well, it would still be a matter of percentages, unless they make all seats wide enough for the largest possible customer, which would drive up ticket prices for 99.9% of passengers (fewer seats per plane = higher cost per ticket, and one of the big reasons people fly Southwest in the first place is price). There is certainly room for debate over where the line should be drawn, but Southwest's policy (as stated) doesn't seem unreasonable. [of course Smith is alleging they didnt follow the policy, which is a different issue]
posted by wildcrdj at 3:26 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


apropos of nothing, but I stumbled onto Kevin Smith's twitter stream last week and I was amazed by how he uses it. If you look at this profile, almost everything is a reply to a fan asking a question. He treats Twitter as basically a public email stream, answering hundreds of questions per day in multiple sessions clustered around each other. It's like every two hours he hammers out 30 replies, then does it again and again.

It's kind of freaky and he seems kind of obsessed with it. I have no prob with ultra celebs just using twitter as a one-way communication device.
posted by mathowie at 3:27 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


He's flying Southwest? I know he hasn't had a hit in a while, but damn. Points for keeping it real, I guess, but dude: You can afford a flight with bigger seats!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:28 PM on February 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


I guess the real question is whether he actually fits in a seat with the armrest down.

If so, he should have been asked to lower it.

If not, and the flight was full, he doesn't have the right to kick someone else off the plane.

It's not complicated.
posted by effugas at 3:30 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


mathowie: yeah, he used to do the same thing on his web site message board (and still does to a lesser extent). He'll pretty much answer any question that won't get him sued from anybody that asks. It's similar to his college Q&A appearances, where he'll stay on stage for between 4 and 10 hours in order to get to everybody that wants to ask something.

He also tends to be ... um... embarrassingly open about his life, e.g. "[wife] and I just got done with an awesome session of [x] and I [y]'ed her [z] until she [n]". He'll be the first to tell you he loves attention, because "I grew up fat."
posted by Bluecoat93 at 3:31 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Except it's not 99.95% of customers since under current guidelines, the majority of Americans are "overweight".
posted by serazin at 3:35 PM on February 14, 2010


Filmmaker Kevin Smith was booted off a Southwest Airlines flight last night for being too fat. Oops, sorry, for some sort of nebulous "safety risk".

I dunno, it seems like they're acknowledging that he was denied boarding for being too large to fit into a seat, but the question is whether they followed their own policy by letting him test whether he could fit into the seat, or just took a look, filed him under "fattie," and booted him.

In his Tweets, he says he can fit into the seat without incommoding other passengers, which should be the deciding factor -- both according to Southwest's policy, and according to common sense.
posted by palliser at 3:35 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not complicated.

Yeah, I was reading about this earlier today and I guess I was an am still confused. I like Kevin Smith, like fat people generally, like Southwest just fine, and don't really have the answer to the basic question: was he given an opportunity to sit in his seat with the armrests down? They have a policy. Did they follow it?
posted by jessamyn at 3:38 PM on February 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Poll: Airlines Should Charge Obese Passengers More.
"About 76% of respondents to a poll by a travel Web site said airlines should charge obese people a 'fat tax' when they fly."
Airlines' Answer to Obesity - Pay for an Additional Seat.

As Obesity Grows, FAA Sticks to 170 Pounds.
posted by ericb at 3:38 PM on February 14, 2010


He's flying Southwest? I know he hasn't had a hit in a while, but damn. Points for keeping it real, I guess, but dude: You can afford a flight with bigger seats!

It's more that direct flights in and out of BUR are almost all served by Southwest. I occasionally try to find alternative carriers but they always want to do something insane like fly me from San Jose>Dallas-Fort Worth>Burbank for a total flight time of 8 hours.
posted by jamaro at 3:39 PM on February 14, 2010


Kevin Smith has enough fans that they probably could have promoted his being on the flight and charged a fanboy EXTRA to be smushed in next to him. Southwest's shareholders should punish them for not maximizing shareholder value.
posted by haveanicesummer at 3:41 PM on February 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


You can swear on Metafilter and don't have to type "*ss". Just saying.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:43 PM on February 14, 2010 [13 favorites]


was he given an opportunity to sit in his deat with the armrests down? They have a policy. Did they follow it?

I think he says no (the armrest just happened to be up, but he could have put it down), and they say yes (he couldn't put it down).

The sort of hard thing to me is that it seems like it would be a lot more embarrassing to be seated, and then undergo this "test" in front of fellow passengers, and then be deboarded, than to somehow deal with it at the gate. But I guess it's the "somehow" that's the problem -- no other way to do it.
posted by palliser at 3:44 PM on February 14, 2010


I'd be more sympathetic to the airlines if they could figure out a way to redesign their seats so that someone the height of an average Dutchman (I'm 6'1'') could fly comfortably.
posted by kozad at 3:44 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


"I know he hasn't had a hit in a while, but damn."

Clerks 2 worldwide gross: $26,983,776
Clerks 2 DVD rentals/sales : approx. $6 Million in just the first week.

Production Budget: $5 million.

Somehow, I don't think that Kevin Smith, his investors, or the Weinstein Brothers would complain too much about a film with a 700% ROI.
posted by markkraft at 3:45 PM on February 14, 2010 [15 favorites]



Yeah, I was reading about this earlier today and I guess I was an am still confused. I like Kevin Smith, like fat people generally, like Southwest just fine, and don't really have the answer to the basic question: was he given an opportunity to sit in his deat with the armrests down? They have a policy. Did they follow it?

The FPP is unclear on this point. But according to SW's blog, Kevin had bought two seats as he usually does, but then elected to fly standby on an earlier flight. That flight only had one available seat, not two, and Kevin could not fit in it to the satisfaction of the Captain. He was then asked to leave that flight and take another under SW's policy.

It seems like the error here is in SW letting him board when only one standby seat was available. It also seems like Kevin Smith is sort of overreacting, but I will admit he probably didn't realize that this story would get so big.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:45 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a picture lloating around that he took of himself sitting on the plane, but he's framed it so you can only see shoulders up. Did he take one from the chest down so we can all see exactly how much space he was taking up? He could have easily done that, couldn't he?

It might be a more compelling argument for him if he provided evidence that he wasn't hanging over into the seat right next to him. It'd quickly put to bed how reasonable or unreasonable Southwest was being.
posted by MegoSteve at 3:46 PM on February 14, 2010


He's apparently talking about it on a podcast in 20 minutes or so. It'll be interesting to see how much his version contradicts theirs. Personally I think it's a dumb policy - or at least one that should be modified based on weight data. 170 lbs is a joke.
posted by cashman at 3:46 PM on February 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


>:
You can swear on Metafilter and don't have to type "*ss". Just saying.


That's nothing. Remember Satrath Patlonen?
posted by dunkadunc at 3:47 PM on February 14, 2010


It's more that direct flights in and out of BUR are almost all served by Southwest. I occasionally try to find alternative carriers but they always want to do something insane like fly me from San Jose>Dallas-Fort Worth>Burbank for a total flight time of 8 hours.

Ahh, okay.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:48 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Questions: (1) Did the TSA separate him from his baby? (2) Did he have an emergency Xanax to calm himself?
posted by ericb at 3:49 PM on February 14, 2010 [18 favorites]


Twitter, and Kevin Smith. Two things metafilter vehemently hates together in one neat little post. I do believe this post is one Sarah Palin short of achieving singularity.
posted by hellojed at 3:51 PM on February 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


There's no one to root for here. It's like hearing that Pol Pot had an Astrovan and once bailed on giving Hitler a ride.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:51 PM on February 14, 2010 [39 favorites]


Somehow, I don't think that Kevin Smith, his investors, or the Weinstein Brothers would complain too much about a film with a 700% ROI

I saw an interview with him a while back (I think it was just after Jersey Girl bombed) where somebody brought up the "why the heck do they keep letting this hack make movies?!" argument. His answer was basically that he doesn't make movies with huge budgets or tons of SFX, and he has a gigantic DVD market, so all his films make their money back and then a tidy profit. Even Jersey Girl made back its production budget.
posted by Bluecoat93 at 3:51 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


As Obesity Grows, FAA Sticks to 170 Pounds.

Actually, Obesity isn't growing in the U.S. anymore because we seem to have reached peak fat
posted by delmoi at 3:54 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Instead of kicking him off the flight, they should have forced him to sing 'We Are the World'. Now that would generate some quality Meef snark.
posted by dgaicun at 3:54 PM on February 14, 2010


Oh, and as for Zack & Miri...

Worldwide theatre gross: $41,985,547
Total DVD Sales: $21,029,503

Production Budget: $24,000,000. A 260% ROI.

(So... I've got a bit of money to invest. Where do I sign up?!)
posted by markkraft at 3:56 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


There seems to be some dispute about the specific implementation of the policy here, but in general, I'm most definitely behind the idea that you have to fit in your own seat. I had a very bad experience on a transatlantic charter flight 15+ years ago when I was seated next to a gigantic lady. Not tall, but very fat. So fat that in order to plug in her headphones, she had to use 2 hands to hold up all of her flesh whilst her husband rooted around underneath looking for the socket. Me and my SO were crammed into 1.5 seats, while she took up the other 1.5. What really drove me mental was that her skinny husband was seated across the aisle from her. He wasn't prepared to sit next to her, but was quite happy to see me there and made no effort to swap. It turned what was looking like a fairly cramped and uncomfortable 6 hour bucket flight into 6 hours of squashed misery.
I was young and new to travel and put up with it. If the same thing happened today, I would discreetly take one of the cabin staff aside and request that either the lady or I be relocated. The seats on flights nowadays are small enough without someone else taking up a chunk of yours.
posted by Jakey at 3:58 PM on February 14, 2010


1.6 million Twitter followers and not one personal trainer?
posted by fuq at 3:58 PM on February 14, 2010


The interesting thing is that even though he is a "celebrity", he is trying to make sure that people don't see him as such, but as just another paying customer. He reiterates that point many times on Twitter, and refuses to do interviews with news channels. He's just using his (larger then average) soapbox to make a point. Point blank, the Southwest PR people handled it badly, but I don't see this episode changing much.
posted by Derek at 4:00 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yet another reason not to have anything to do with twitter, or cell phones, or IRC, or shopping malls, or airlines, or.....

(* moves back into cave and lights oil lamp *)
posted by warbaby at 4:01 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


delmoi's NYT link quotes a DR. DIETZ???? you can make that stuff up!!!
posted by supermedusa at 4:02 PM on February 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Clerks 2 DVD rentals/sales : approx. $6 Million in just the first week.

Hey, fair enough -- I was judging from the fact that it didn't appear to have a second week. Smith is someone whose work of the last decade has pretty much passed me by completely, but it's clear he still has fans. I was less trying get a dig in than I was legitimately just surprised that someone I'm sure is very, very rich was flying a bargain airline.

If I were ripping on Kevin Smith, you'd know all about it; there's a lot of material. I'm mostly just disappointed by how little he seems to have matured...but hell, I'm disappointed by how little I seem to have matured. Let's be honest here: I am disappointed in us ALL.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:02 PM on February 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


doh! can't make it up...can't
posted by supermedusa at 4:02 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I never heard of this dude till now.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:03 PM on February 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


"It's like hearing that Pol Pot had an Astrovan and once bailed on giving Hitler a ride."

Ridiculous, bureaucratic airline = Pol Pot?
Director of amusing slacker comedies = Hitler?!

Whatever you say, Mr. Godwin.
posted by markkraft at 4:03 PM on February 14, 2010 [9 favorites]


And I gotta say, with their lack of baggage fees policy and now their anti-Kevin Smith policy, I'm on the verge of making Southwest Airlines my official sky niggas.
posted by dgaicun at 4:03 PM on February 14, 2010 [18 favorites]


The worst part is, he wasn't even supposed to be there that day.
posted by Ratio at 4:04 PM on February 14, 2010 [62 favorites]


>: I never heard of this dude till now.

That's like my mom, born in the '50s, not finding out about Bob Dylan or the Velvet Underground until 1983.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:05 PM on February 14, 2010 [23 favorites]


What the fuck?
posted by cashman at 4:08 PM on February 14, 2010


I never heard of this dude till now.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:03 PM on 2/14

Okay.

posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:09 PM on February 14, 2010 [24 favorites]


(Am I the only one who thinks it's cool that Kevin Smith doesn't always buy 1st Class tickets, just because he can?!)

And yeah, maybe Kevin Smith -- and his fans -- haven't grown up quite yet... but we so don't have a problem with that.
posted by markkraft at 4:11 PM on February 14, 2010 [9 favorites]


The policy seems completely reasonable. If you can fit into the seat with the armrests down, awesome. If not, buy a second seat. That they'll refund that second seat if there's extra room on the flight seems very fair.

So it's basically a question of whether or not they followed their policy.

Right now Kevin Smith's complaining on twitter about how no one said anything to him before the flight... ? I don't know if he wants people to weigh and measure him before he gets on, because that sounds way more humiliating than just trying to be aware of how much room you take up. That doesn't line up with what some posters here are saying about how being totally aware that he's overweight and that he usually buys second seats. Sketch.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:12 PM on February 14, 2010


I've always thought that the two seats for overweight people controversy was weird and unfair, but it was only today that I realized how many times I've heard people bitch about having to share space with fat people on planes -- and the conversation always goes that way.

How the hell did we all sign off on the notion that seats should be so teeny as to have no give at all for someone bigger? All populations have some people bigger than others. Somehow instead of railing against airlines for packing people into their seats like cargo, the industry got people to get jacked up and moralistic about obesity instead of going 'wtf, huge, multinational sprawling corporation--maybe take ten seats off each plane, space it out better, and see how it goes?'

Don't even get me started on restaurant square footage.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:13 PM on February 14, 2010 [32 favorites]


Maybe they should just cut a hole shaped like the fattest person you can fit in a seat in a board and make everyone walk through it to get on the plane.
posted by MegoSteve at 4:16 PM on February 14, 2010 [47 favorites]


Southwest Airlines: If your ass don't fit, you cannot sit.
posted by MegoSteve at 4:18 PM on February 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


How the hell did we all sign off on the notion that seats should be so teeny as to have no give at all for someone bigger?

Well, if you're going to make the seats bigger someone needs to pay for the decreased # of seats. So:

(a) the smaller people all pay for room they don't need, (not that it wouldn't be nice, but there's a reason most people don't fly first class) or
(b) the bigger people pay for the room they need.

Seems like a pretty simple solution.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:18 PM on February 14, 2010 [8 favorites]


"Baby...you know I used to be able to fly but I can't fly no more, baby. But baby, you...? You too fat to fly."
posted by bwg at 4:19 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, someone has to "pay" for those bigger seats, namely, the bazillionares who own the airlines.
posted by serazin at 4:20 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


* Not that seats couldn't be a little bigger, but there will always be someone who won't fit in them. So that doesn't exactly reduce the need for some kind of policy as to what happens in that case.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:21 PM on February 14, 2010


Worldwide theatre gross: $41,985,547
Total DVD Sales: $21,029,503

Production Budget: $24,000,000. A 260% ROI.


Smith talked about that on one of his A Night With videos. He said he doesn't make the best movies but they do so well as dvd rentals/sales that he still gets work as a director. I mentioned the same thing here about Shyamalan and some asshole told me I don't know what I'm talking about. I surely don't, but I'm just as positive that person didn't either. So to cut it short, shitty directors get work because they make people money.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:21 PM on February 14, 2010


Shit I'm 6ft, 85 kilos, not exactly terribly obese and yet I find seats on buses and planes uncomfortably small. I'm with a terrible Llama, seats need to be bigger for all of us instead of this notion that it's good to be treated like battery hens.
posted by twistedonion at 4:21 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, someone has to "pay" for those bigger seats, namely, the bazillionares who own the airlines.

Okay, sweet, you should totally go e-mail Southwest and suggest that to them. You can even organize a strike of all the airlines. That is, since everyone flies purely for pleasure and it's not like people are at their mercy or anything.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:23 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


the industry got people to get jacked up and moralistic about obesity

I don't think it's the airplane industry flogging that particular topic, myself. I'd be curious to know if airline seats have gotten smaller width-wise and if so, by how much.

Even 5'2" me can tell that there's less legroom than there used to be and it's really weird lately to fly Continental and all be packed into the back of the plane because no one decided to cough up the extra $20 to sit in the slightly [inches!] roomier seats up front and then watch the stewardesses try to explain that there's any reason other than revenue generation why we can't all spread out some. The last time I travelled the explanation was "fairness."

It's a sucker's game but for a lot of people you have to suffer these low level indignities to make money in your chosen profession and it's a set of nested choices. Sounds like people were pesty to Kevin Smith who had made some last-minute plan changes and we're in a situation where it comes down to one or two people's judgment and they went what seems to be the wrong way. It will be itneersting to see if they can make it right and, hopefully, adjust their policy, if needed, so these sorts of things don't come down to he said/she said.
posted by jessamyn at 4:25 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why not just charge everybody, fat people and skinny people a fee that scales somewhat linearly based on how much you weigh? Make it work out so somebody a little heavy at 170lbs pays a fee that brings the ticket up to exactly what tickets normally cost now, and more than that is a little extra and less than that works out to a bit of a refund.

Should be pretty easy to calculate how much it costs to fly things per pound, shipping companies do it that way and nobody has a problem with it.
posted by floam at 4:25 PM on February 14, 2010


Speaking as a fellow 6'4" 300 lb. person, it's not the parts of my body that are likely to shrink were I to drop a mess of weight that make air travel uncomfortable for my. My femurs are going to stay about twenty inches long and the points of my shoulders about twenty-two inches apart. If I do buy the seats around me do I get to rip them out and leave it on the tarmac?

If not, I suggest the people who want a fat tax consider a "let the wookie win tax." It's better than having some guy who's built like a linebacker pull your arms out of socket.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:26 PM on February 14, 2010 [17 favorites]


Was he wearing that giant pair of jean shorts?
posted by chococat at 4:27 PM on February 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


maybe take ten seats off each plane, space it out better, and see how it goes?'
The problem is width, so on, say, a 737, making the seats any wider would require getting rid of 1/6th of the seats (to make each row 3 and 2). An alternative would be a new class for big people, but then you have the same enforcement problems.
posted by planet at 4:27 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think he wears anything but that giant pair of jean shorts.
posted by stavrogin at 4:28 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Somehow, I don't think that Kevin Smith, his investors, or the Weinstein Brothers would complain too much about a film with a 700% ROI.

This is not how film financing works. You do not magically receive everything over and above the production budget as profit.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:31 PM on February 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'd be curious to know if airline seats have gotten smaller width-wise and if so, by how much.

The Standard Airline Seat: 17.2 Inches Wide; 31-32 Inch Seat Pitch
"During the development of the 777 family of planes, Boeing took their findings and decided to add 5 inches to the width of the plane. It permitted them to put in wider, 18.5" seats without diminishing the overall capacity. The standard airline seat is 17.2" wide, while seat pitch ranges from 28" on some short-haul, down-and-dirty charters, to 33-34" on some planes."
Previous MetaTalk on the subject in response to this MeFi FPP: 'Forced to buy second seat on Southwest Airlines?'
posted by ericb at 4:33 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Production Budget: $24,000,000. A 260% ROI.

Movie accounting doesn't work like that... It's a bit voodoo economics but once you add in the cost of advertising and other promotional costs, prints, the theatre's cut etc Zack and Miri looks like a disappointment money wise.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:33 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually can't Kevin's fans carry from place to place like a Roman emperor or something.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:34 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


*the subject in response to this MeFi FPP*

Err -- I meant previous AskMe.
posted by ericb at 4:34 PM on February 14, 2010


Hey, where's my airline seat? -- "Seeking compensation after an uncomfortable flight next to an XL seatmate."

Squeezed to meet you. -- "As waistlines grow, passengers must deal with ‘seatmates of size’"
posted by ericb at 4:36 PM on February 14, 2010


Airline service used to be a lot better, and a lot more expensive, due to regulation. Since ticket prices were going to be high no matter what, airlines competed on amenities. Since the industry was deregulated somewhat, airlines are competing primarily on price.

That's what I've heard anyway. Smaller seats are cheaper seats, and people want cheap seats.
posted by delmoi at 4:36 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


mathowie: It's kind of freaky and he seems kind of obsessed with it. I have no prob with ultra celebs just using twitter as a one-way communication device.

I really wouldn't call Kevin Smith an "ultra celeb," personally. (I'm aware you might not have been doing that either.)

A Terrible Llama: How the hell did we all sign off on the notion that seats should be so teeny as to have no give at all for someone bigger?

No way in hell I will support widening the seats before they space them out to give at least a little leg room to the taller-than-5'3"-crowd.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:37 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the podcast he says that he was able to (and did) put the armrests down.
posted by Stewriffic at 4:37 PM on February 14, 2010


Yeah, someone has to "pay" for those bigger seats, namely, the bazillionares who own the airlines.
posted by serazin at 4:20 PM on 2/14


As they often say in the aviation business, there's only one way to become a millionaire by running an airline: start as a billionaire. Airlines are notoriously unprofitable, and spend most of their time under Chapter 11. Even if Southwest is a rare exception to this rule, your comment seems singularly ill-informed.
posted by Skeptic at 4:37 PM on February 14, 2010 [11 favorites]


From the sounds of this podcast, some Southwest employee(s) just got pissed at him personally. The "fat" thing was just the policy they used to be jerks to him.

Also, regarding the "bought two seats before" thing - he says he buys extra seats and sometimes all the seats in a whole row, for privacy.
posted by cashman at 4:39 PM on February 14, 2010


And yeah, maybe Kevin Smith -- and his fans -- haven't grown up quite yet... but we so don't have a problem with that.

What this reply presupposes is...maybe you ought to? I mean, I hate to say it, but at a certain point Smith fandom started to feel less like a striving-youth kind of thing and more like a weird juggalo-esque phenomenon. I think it has a lot to do with why so many people who used to consider themselves his fans now don't.

Of course, a lot of Insane Clown Posse songs crack me up, and I'll be the first to say that, so like I care about somebody's fanbase. My thoughts about Smith are kinda complicated: I think he was a filmmaker of great potential who made at least one legit classic, and then seemed to squander his talent. I guess...that's not that complicated, really, but there you go. Success seemed to do great things for him personally and not-so-great things for him creatively, which is a pretty old story.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:42 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd have a little more sympathy for the arguments in favor of charging fat people more if the seats were a reasonable size. I'm 6 feet tall, and wedging myself into an airplane seat makes me want to smack an airline CEO.
posted by Mavri at 4:42 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh please, no one who owns an airline lives a middle class - let alone working class - existence. I don't give a fuck about billionaire's money losing woes.
posted by serazin at 4:42 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


If airlines are so unprofitable, why do people buy and operate them?
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:44 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have no brand loyalty when it comes to flying. I just go with the cheapest plane ticket. Of course, if SW was racist, I would stop flying SW, mainly out of fear of being mistreated myself, and encourage others to not fly SW. But since they aren't racist (unlike Cracker Barrel), I can't say I would do much more than just shrug.
posted by anniecat at 4:46 PM on February 14, 2010


Oh please, no one who owns an airline lives a middle class - let alone working class - existence. I don't give a fuck about billionaire's money losing woes.
Southwest is publicly traded, you know.
posted by planet at 4:46 PM on February 14, 2010 [10 favorites]


I'm sorry planet, but the vast majority of US citizens do not own stocks either.
posted by serazin at 4:47 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry planet, but the vast majority of US citizens do not own stocks either.
Start by reading about CalPERS and CalSTRS. Then think for a bit about what a 401k plan is.
posted by planet at 4:50 PM on February 14, 2010 [11 favorites]


Even 5'2" me can tell that there's less legroom than there used to be

Heh...I always pictured you as some sort of Amazonian-warrioress librarian.

...

Anyway, on the real topic...a friend of my wife's was (I think) the first "victim" of Southwest's policy in this regard. She made the TV and newspapers across the world.

As a fairly big guy...nearly 6' and 250lbs (wider shoulders than belly, but I'm no bodybuilder), I dread this shit happening to me. Not only is it inconvenient, but I would be extremely embarrassed to be asked to leave...enough so that I would never allow it to happen again, simple by flying a different airline for approximately the same price (there are many).
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 4:50 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


planet, do you think most Americans have 401k plans?

I'm just not going to muster up a bunch of sympathy for airlines. They're not a public service, they're a private business. They could choose to make seats that fit more people, and they don't, so they can make more money, or, if you will, save money. And until airlines are nationalized (not happening), I continue to fail to have any sympathy for their CEOs, stock holders, or upper managers.
posted by serazin at 4:52 PM on February 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry planet, but the vast majority of US citizens do not own stocks either.

I'm too lazy to look it up, but this is very easily refutable. I think maybe you're thinking of "stock traders", but I cannot think of a single household that doesn't own stock somehow. Who doesn't have a 401K, IRA, education fund of some sort?
posted by floam at 4:52 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


But since they aren't racist (unlike Cracker Barrel), I can't say I would do much more than just shrug.

I've heard this before, but I've been to about 5 different CBs during my travels and have seen both customers and staff who were black and/or hispanic. I'm curious where this comes from.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 4:52 PM on February 14, 2010


Well, if you're going to make the seats bigger someone needs to pay for the decreased # of seats

There's no such thing as an "acceptable" level of profits for a corporation. Especially in a highly competitive field such as air travel, you can be absolutely assured that people are trying to shave every penny off of every expense possible, and maximize revenue to the utmost limit. This necessarily means people with needs out of the main will be forced to put up with more, or pay more. If people didn't complain, they would just conclude they aren't squeezing hard enough.

Obviously here, Kevin Smith is just at the edge of the line as far as the airline is concerned. If he, and others, didn't push back, the airlines would assume they haven't pushed far enough, and would continue to squeeze until someone else loudly and publicly complained. We can jabber about whether we are being fair to the airline day and night, but they don't see it that way. To the executives, it is only a cost benefit analysis. Saying Kevin Smith should shut up about this, ultimately, will only serve to increase airline profits at the expense of consumer comfort. Those people who push back ultimately do all of us a service, by holding back the constricting cost-cutting measures before they squeeze the rest of us.

I haven't even gotten around to thinking about that whiff of moral hazard coming off the idea of charging fat people more money for being fat.

Also, according to this page, the average weight of Americans was 191 pounds in 2002, so if 170 is chosen as the middle-ground then most people will be paying more for tickets, with a disproportionate percentage of those being men.
posted by JHarris at 4:53 PM on February 14, 2010 [21 favorites]


They could choose to make seats that fit more people, and they don't, so they can make more money, or, if you will, save money.

You seem to be admitting here there's an economical reason to keep the seats small — they're not just trying to stick it to the fat people because we don't like them.
posted by floam at 4:54 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who doesn't have a 401K, IRA, education fund of some sort?

Are you kidding?
posted by serazin at 4:55 PM on February 14, 2010 [29 favorites]


In 2002, 49.5% of American households owned stock. Now, that's not the majority, but it's pretty damn close, and I sure as heck wouldn't say that the vast majority don't.
posted by floam at 4:56 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


planet, do you think most Americans have 401k plans?
How often do people who don't have any of their wealth in the public equity markets actually fly?
posted by planet at 4:57 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


How about we just sell a normal seat as a block of 2?

As an option, if you only take up 1/2 of that you can choose to buy 1/2. For a smaller price of course, since you're freeing up that other 1/2. Sounds fair to me.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:57 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


He gets points for bringing up Don Logan in the podcast.

"He touched my front bottom."
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 4:57 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


In 2002, 49.5% of American households owned stock. Now, that's not the majority, but it's pretty damn close, and I sure as heck wouldn't say that the vast majority don't.
That doesn't appear to include pension plans (both private and public), all of which represent an interest in stock. It just includes mutual funds, which will include a large portion of retirement plans, but not nearly all.
posted by planet at 4:59 PM on February 14, 2010


floam, of course there is an economic reason. They are a fucking business. They exist to make money off you and me. If everyone demanded that they had bigger seats, they would eventually have to do so or go out of business.

It's not our job to help corporations make money, and if you're a customer of a business, why should you suck up their unfair policies, just because those policies make money for the business?
posted by serazin at 5:01 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


People don't seem to have a basic grasp of what would be required to make airplane seats wider. This isn't rocket science folks. You can't just take out 10 or 15 seasons and make all the seats a little bit bigger.

There are these things... you know... that you walk down? Called aisles? Which can't get any narrower? So how, exactly, do you propose to make the seats all wider without removing a seat out of every single aisle. Are we all willing to pay 20% more for plane tickets so really fat people don't have to buy a second seat? I'm not.
posted by Justinian at 5:02 PM on February 14, 2010 [17 favorites]


swimmingnaked: Mostly just stories I'd come across. I'm sure they're mashed up in my head with stories of racism at Denny's or whatever. It doesn't help that they're called Cracker Barrel, which makes me imagine of a barrel of Pat Robertsons and Falwells and company.
posted by anniecat at 5:02 PM on February 14, 2010


searzin: You have a very poor grasp of the airline business.

Secondly, the policies are not unfair. Personally I think they're extremely fair. They're refunding the second seat if the plane isn't full! That's actually much more fair than I expected! It's a good policy.
posted by Justinian at 5:03 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's not a good policy if it isn't based on reality. Why not just make kid sized seats and make you sit in that? They could add tons more chairs! Prices would be $20 (sait) per flight! I've sat in kids chairs before and its doable. If I could get a $20 flight from Atlanta to Portland, I'd sit in a kid seat. It's not based on reality, so why not go hog wild with it. Lets make sure those executives are ballin.
posted by cashman at 5:08 PM on February 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


So Justinian, you think it's fair if airlines reserve the right to make the majority of their male customers buy a second seat?
posted by serazin at 5:08 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's not our job to help corporations make money, and if you're a customer of a business, why should you suck up their unfair policies, just because those policies make money for the business?

Okay, no one is actually sympathetic to business. You keep talking about how we shouldn't "let" them charge what they do. What's your plan that we've all got to follow to make airlines take out a seat from every row to give us more room, without raising costs?

Because for a lot of people that sort of boycott involves them giving up jobs that require business travel, or traveling to nice vacations, or visiting their families. I don't think that's at all a realistic thing to expect of most people.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:10 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


floam, of course there is an economic reason. They are a fucking business. They exist to make money off you and me. If everyone demanded that they had bigger seats, they would eventually have to do so or go out of business.

It's not our job to help corporations make money, and if you're a customer of a business, why should you suck up their unfair policies, just because those policies make money for the business?


I guess I don't see making money "off me" as a bad thing. For hardly any money at all, I can sit in a reclining chair in the sky with little nozzles that blow air on my face, can look out the window and be above clouds and see the country from miles up, and hop on the Internet if I so choose. I pay them, they make money, I get to the east coast in mere hours and it's all good.

I don't think it's unfair that if I became the size of two of me that I might have to pay more for it. They do have a solution to the seats being too small — you can raise the armrest, buy another (or more likely get it for free, as long as there's room), and have a crapload of room.

And I guess this is getting kind of arguey so I'll just make full disclosure: I own stock, am 6'1 and 145lbs, and have never really had a bad flying experience and haven't ever been humiliated while trying to fly, so maybe my point of view is just pretty useless for this discussion.
posted by floam at 5:10 PM on February 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


So Justinian, you think it's fair if airlines reserve the right to make the majority of their male customers buy a second seat?

It's really telling that you have to try to find a euphemism for what they're actually doing to make it sound more objectionable. It's totally fair that people buy space on an airline based on how much space they use.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:11 PM on February 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't get how whether stock holders fly or not is relevant. I don't care about making life better for stock holders or CEOs, so I don't want my fat friends to have to absorb the cost of their "extra" seat.

Less than half of Americans are invested, directly or indirectly, in the stock market. Of those invested, only half of them have a significant investment in the tens of thousands. Pension plans that are invested in the market may never make it to the workers who hold the pensions since business are increasingly cutting pension benefits. I just don't give a damn about keeping the stock market running smoothly and I don't think fat people (who are poorer than thin people - if you're going to talk in averages) should have to pay to make stock holders rich.
posted by serazin at 5:12 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


So Justinian, you think it's fair if airlines reserve the right to make the majority of their male customers buy a second seat?

If the policy was "Men must pay more for a second seat", no. If the policy was "People who don't fit in a seat of size x" and most of those people happened to be men, yes.
posted by Justinian at 5:13 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm confused, what's the euphemism here?
posted by serazin at 5:13 PM on February 14, 2010


I don't get how whether stock holders fly or not is relevant. I don't care about making life better for stock holders or CEOs, so I don't want my fat friends to have to absorb the cost of their "extra" seat.

Jesus. So who do you wan't to absorb the cost? We're talking about removing between 1/5 and 1/7 of the seats. So you're losing 1/5 to 1/7 of the revenue.
posted by Justinian at 5:15 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


floam said:
"Who doesn't have a 401K, IRA, education fund of some sort?"

I can count 47 people in my family and closest friends - including myself & my partner - who do not have any of these things. Or stock in anything else.

If I were to widen this count to my neighbourhood, that number would go up significantly.

So, to answer your question, lots of people don't have any of those. Why would one assume that everyone does?
--------

As to Mr. Smith's issue...I think he's being a bit dramatic, but he may have a point in how they applied the policy. It does sound like a grumpy crew went a little off the customer service rails.

I'm a rather plush individual with the benefit of compactness - if they weighed me, I would be charged extra, but I fit in my own seat better than slender tall people (agh! shoulders & elbows coming at my eyes again!) - and I'm somewhat dreading my upcoming SW flight, as I'll have pregnancy girth to contend with & no extra funds for another seat, even if it'll be refunded.

Planes should have a humanely crafted passenger area. 17.2" is not comfortable for most folks, based on the moaning and kvetching I see on SW flights from even the very fit. They don't, though, so I'd rather deal with the generally more fair practices of Southwest than any other airline.
posted by batmonkey at 5:16 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just don't give a damn about keeping the stock market running smoothly

I would invest in some sort of underground shelter with enough room for all your friends and family and a few lifetimes worth of food, because if our stock market fails we're all utterly fucked.
posted by floam at 5:17 PM on February 14, 2010


I would invest in some sort of underground shelter with enough room for all your friends and family and a few lifetimes worth of food, because if our stock market fails we're all utterly fucked.

Yeah, it's been a fun decade ain't it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:23 PM on February 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


Some people in this thread need a hug. If my arms don't fit around you I will have to charge you for two.
posted by peeedro at 5:25 PM on February 14, 2010 [26 favorites]


It's a bit voodoo economics but once you add in the cost of advertising and other promotional costs, prints, the theatre's cut etc Zack and Miri looks like a disappointment money wise

Oh, really?
By 2003 the studios were taking in almost five times as much revenue from home entertainment - television, videos, DVDs - as from movie theatres.
Zack and Miri probably made money just fine.

If you haven't listend to his podcast, he lays out the whole story. He even put down the armrest. It sounds like it was one of those things where someone said something and instead of apologizing and backing down they just decided to boot him.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:26 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


protip: Most airlines which advertise "roomier" seats are talking about "pitch". That is, they're advertising that the seats are further apart front to back. More leg room. They will usually still be the same width.

If your primary concern is width, you need to fly the newest airlines. Because they fly newer planes which are often wider.JetBlue, for example, has seats over an inch wider than most airlines because they fly Airbus A320s. Which are something like seven inches wider than a 737.

Those are the kind of margins we are talking about here. Inches. You can't juts handwave extra width into the plane.
posted by Justinian at 5:28 PM on February 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't care about making life better for stock holders or CEOs, so I don't want my fat friends to have to absorb the cost of their "extra" seat.
Yeah, and I don't want to have to absorb the cost of my single seat, as it turns out. It would be great if big business would give me stuff for free, just because I'm me, but come on.
posted by planet at 5:33 PM on February 14, 2010


There's a stunning lack of basic knowledge of economic facts in this thread.

Most airlines aren't "owned" by billionaires; they're owned by thousands or millions of stakeholders. The median number of stocks owned, via collective investment tools such as 401ks, is probably on the order of a few shares, or well under $1000 investment.

Fact: there is a set amount of room for passengers to sit on a given airplane. Fact: if you increase the amount of room per passenger, you decrease the number of passengers that can ride on that plane at once. Fact: if you decrease the number of passengers per flight (increasing demand), you must either increase supply (by somehow finding more room on the airplane; IOW, this is impossible), or the price will go up.

The Big Bad Airlines aren't holding down the poor fat man. The Big Bad Customer who doesn't want to pay more for more room (that is, you the complainer) is suggesting that non-fat customers copay their tickets.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:38 PM on February 14, 2010 [12 favorites]


Less than half of Americans are invested, directly or indirectly, in the stock market.

This, like pretty much everything you've posted in this thread, is laughably incorrect.
posted by dhammond at 5:40 PM on February 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


You can't juts handwave extra width into the plane.

Next you're going to say you can't handwave payments into the bank accounts of pensioners either
posted by palliser at 5:42 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems that some are arguing people have a right to fly 1). for a fare of their choice, and 2). for a seat width of their choice. Where does this sense of entitlement come from? In what other customer experience do you get to name your price and your amenities, without an expectation that there just might be a tradeoff between the two?

Flying isn't as dignified as it was in the 1960s when very few people could afford to do it. That sucks, in a way, but it means air travel is affordable to most people. It's obvious that most people who fly are willing to give up every extra ounce of comfort for another twenty dollars off their fare. That's the way airlines have been heading for decades now, and in fact is the explicit model Southwest was built on ("we won't treat you as well, but you'll fly cheaper!"). Skinny (relatively to the current average American) seats are just another aspect of that.

The airline industry is one of the most difficult to make a profit in. If the fact that they occasionally do turn one is enough for serazin to root against them, that's fine. But it's still idiotic to ignore the fact that struggling industries are more likely to look for ways to scrimp and save. That's how they go from having a 1/3 chance of going bankrupt in the next decade to having a 1/7 chance.

Southwest's actual policy in this area seems to be OK enough, relative to other airlines, but not as enlightened as it could be. Even if their policy were closer to perfect, I'm sure they'd have flight attendants and ticketing personnel screw up in the application every once in a while...with the inevitable result being situations just like this blowing up in their face. Little sympathy there...that's the cost of running a huge business.

As for a more perfect policy, they could probably do better at notifying passengers repeatedly during every step of purchasing tickets/waiting at the gate/boarding/etc. They could give guidelines ahead of time like "if your waistline is greater than 45 inches (or whatever), it is likely you will be unable to sit between two armrests. See our lengthy 'customer of size' policy below." They could have a 5' x 5' screened off area behind the desk at each gate with a test seat for passengers to try out before boarding. But they're never going to solve the problem of "people are bigger than they used to be, but want to pay less."
posted by aswego at 5:42 PM on February 14, 2010 [18 favorites]


They should have thrown him off the plane for Jersey Girl
posted by fire&wings at 5:44 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


That's like my mom, born in the '50s, not finding out about Bob Dylan or the Velvet Underground until 1983.

Dear god. No. It's like your mom not finding out about Anthony Newley until 1983.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:45 PM on February 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


Fact: human beings have a remarkable capacity for justifying their own ill treatment.

Fact: Rich people make insane amounts of money compared to the rest of us.

Fact: Thin people tend to think they're better than fat people.
posted by serazin at 5:50 PM on February 14, 2010 [9 favorites]


Fact: Medium-fat people think they're better than obese people, according to that same article.

serazin, what are you trying to have a discussion about?
posted by jessamyn at 5:52 PM on February 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


This, like pretty much everything you've posted in this thread, is laughably incorrect.

Feel free to site your source. Current studies indicate slightly less than half the US population owns stocks in any form.
posted by serazin at 5:52 PM on February 14, 2010


Although the strength of weight bias decreased as respondents’ body weight increased, a significant degree of anti-fat bias was still evident among even the most obese group of respondents, highlighting the pervasiveness of this bias.
posted by jessamyn at 5:52 PM on February 14, 2010


How about we just sell a normal seat as a block of 2?

As an option, if you only take up 1/2 of that you can choose to buy 1/2. For a smaller price of course, since you're freeing up that other 1/2. Sounds fair to me.


I recall reading someone (William Saletan, maybe? Some other obnoxious contrarian? Not that I'm calling you an obnoxious contrarian...) suggested this when a lot of this Extra Seat stuff first came up a few years ago. I think he argued that the airlines should make an easy system where anyone who doesn't want the three extra inches near the armrest can opt-in and offer it to someone who needs it for something like a $25 transfer in their ticket costs. I'm not sure how well that could be implemented, and I'm really skeptical that there is a wide enough variety of passengers in every flight for this type of market-based-solution to actually work. But I did appreciate that someone was willing to get creative in solving a problem instead of falling into the usual bickering.
posted by aswego at 5:53 PM on February 14, 2010


"I cannot think of a single household that doesn't own stock somehow. Who doesn't have a 401K, IRA, education fund of some sort?"

I know, right? And why's everybody so upset about airlines, anyway? Everybody I know has their own personal jetpack that's fueled by doubloons and disdain for the working man. Damn plebes...
posted by Toby Dammit X at 5:55 PM on February 14, 2010 [11 favorites]


serazin: Except it's not 99.95% of customers [who already fit in a single seat] since under current guidelines, the majority of Americans are "overweight".

Uhhh, citation please? Keep in mind that BMI crapola has nothing to do with airplane seating. Southwest's policy has a very concrete test: whether you fit in a single seat. You could weigh 90 pounds and still need two seats, if you were 90 pounds and very wide.

Solon and Thanks: How about we just sell a normal seat as a block of 2? As an option, if you only take up 1/2 of that you can choose to buy 1/2. For a smaller price of course, since you're freeing up that other 1/2. Sounds fair to me.

I like this idea because it's indistinguishable from the way airplane seats are sold already.
posted by hattifattener at 5:55 PM on February 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hm. I just measured my computer's keyboard. It's 17" across. That's big for a keyboard and pretty damn small for a seat.
posted by jamaro at 5:55 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Maybe they should just cut a hole shaped like the fattest person you can fit in a seat in a board and make everyone walk through it to get on the plane.

I thought that's what the metal detectors were for.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:56 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fact: the human head weighs eight pound. Fact.
posted by Justinian at 5:59 PM on February 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Serazin, for the love of all that is good and holy in the world, please tell me where the extra space for these seats is coming from.
posted by Justinian at 6:01 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like this idea because it's indistinguishable from the way airplane seats are sold already.

Mhm. But it removes the thing apparently most people are objecting to, which is the perception of being called fat.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:02 PM on February 14, 2010




Hm. I just measured my computer's keyboard. It's 17" across. That's big for a keyboard and pretty damn small for a seat.


I just sat on my keyboard and [saHGIHG=64S7D68AS6ADHIKDSKL;HGN 'JSDIG]IDPSHGW[0t38q7902=
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:03 PM on February 14, 2010 [34 favorites]


"The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly, requires significant capital to engender the growth, and then earns little or no money. Think airlines. Here a durable competitive advantage has proven elusive ever since the days of the Wright Brothers. Indeed, if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down."

-Warren Buffett, annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders 2008.
posted by edverb at 6:04 PM on February 14, 2010 [4 favorites]




Fact: Thin people tend to think they're better than fat people.

Oh, just sit on them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:14 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you can't fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you, you have to be checked through.

But seriously--why not make one or two rows of larger seats where larger people can be seated? They'd only have to remove about four seats to do this.

On a personal note--I'd gladly pay for two seats if, in exchange for doing so, the airline would guarantee that there wouldn't be any goddamned babies or toddlers on the flight.
posted by tzikeh at 6:24 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Kevin Smith engendered a few comments on his MacWorld appearance last week on the San Francisco news site.
posted by telstar at 6:24 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


i'm sorry sir, but we have a policy to enforce and you're delaying the flight.

Are you under the impression he was flying on a toilet?
posted by P.o.B. at 6:25 PM on February 14, 2010


Question: Do the people who think that larger people should have to pay for two seats, also feel that those who are taller / have a larger skeleton should have to pay extra too? Should they pay more if their extreme height forces them above some predetermined acceptable weight? What if they don't exceed such a weight, but simply need two seats in order to fit?

I mean, space is space, right? Why shouldn't any elderly person or disabled -- including wounded veterans -- who requires a wheelchair, walker, electric cart, or other medical devices be forced to pay a one-seat premium, too?

What if a obese person is obese due to underlying medical reasons, or is considered disabled or elderly? Should they be forced off the plane, or forced to pay more?
posted by markkraft at 6:28 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


You might expect a MeFite who named themselves after their corpulence to have the solution. I do.

Take out all the seats, drug the passengers prior to boarding, and stack them like cordwood - fatties on the bottom, of course. Revive upon landing.

Profits for the airlines, equal treatment for all, and fights terrorism too.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:34 PM on February 14, 2010 [15 favorites]


But seriously--why not make one or two rows of larger seats where larger people can be seated? They'd only have to remove about four seats to do this.

because people would get seriously huffy about being seated in the fat ghetto. unless that fat ghetto happened to be in first class.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:35 PM on February 14, 2010


Question: Do the people who think that larger people should have to pay for two seats, also feel that those who are taller / have a larger skeleton should have to pay extra too?

What the what are you talking about? The whole policy is to prevent people from taking up their neighbor's space.

Do people with wheelchairs store typically those wheelchairs on their neighbors lap, or something?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:35 PM on February 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't get it, there is an area of the plane with bigger seats: business and first class. If - for whatever reason - you're not happy with economy seats, you're welcome to fly there. No one has an inalienable right to cheap flights.
posted by smoke at 6:38 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


The guy is pretty big. I'm a big guy, but I still manage to squeeze into Dash 8 seat next to a burly wildcatter coming back from the oil fields up north. Smith could never do that.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:38 PM on February 14, 2010


Question: Do the people who think that larger people should have to pay for two seats, also feel that those who are taller / have a larger skeleton should have to pay extra too? Should they pay more if their extreme height forces them above some predetermined acceptable weight? What if they don't exceed such a weight, but simply need two seats in order to fit?



What if a obese person is obese due to underlying medical reasons, or is considered disabled or elderly? Should they be forced off the plane, or forced to pay more?

There is no predetermined acceptable weight. You can be pretty overweight and still fit in one seat fine, I know some of my fairly overweight family members have never had to consider buying an extra seat. What matters is a purely boolean can-you-fit-in-one-seat-or-not attribute, which is going to be determined only by width or girth.

As far as the reason, I don't see why that would affect things. I think you're looking at this like it's some fat tax, punishment for being a Bad Fattie, which is obviously how some here feel about it but that's certainly not how I see it or the airlines see it. The way things work out, you can't give a tall person extra room just by removing the seat in front of them, they just have to cross their legs more and be uncomfortable. A person with a wide girth can be so wide that there's no way they'll physically fit without giving them somebody elses seat, so that's what is done, and more seats cost more money. Space is space, and the only way it'd makes sense to charge tall people is if the person was so tall they somehow needed to be given a special seat with extra room in the front. It would totally make sense to me to charge extra to be moved up to the front where there's more room if they required it, or to first class.
posted by floam at 6:42 PM on February 14, 2010


What if a obese person is obese due to underlying medical reasons, or is considered disabled or elderly? Should they be forced off the plane, or forced to pay more?

The whole point is that they're trying to make this as value-neutral as possible given the current constraints. There's been almost no "hey you ate too much, pay for the extra seat because you're a bad person" talk here at all, and it would be nice if you wouldn't start any. It doesn't matter why you don't fit, period.

I think it would be interesting to have larger seats available for larger people in any dimension. The thing is they have that, it's called First Class on most airlines. SW doesn't have that option and so they have this other policy. And the issue is, whether airlines should make all their seats bigger [with the downsides that people are pointing out] or have this expensive First Class or buy-two-seats option.

Of course, if you're too tall, two seats doesn't really solve your problem anyhow. Have you travelled with someone who uses a wheelchair? They get a special chair to assist them to their seat and their chair is checked, usually. If you want your wheelchair to sit next to you, it needs to pay for a seat.

I'm not arguing that flying is frequently degrading for all manner of different people for all sorts of reasons. I'm just saying let's look at the realistic situation here and see what might realistically help. SW will apologize to Kevin Smith and he'll maybe not fly standby next time if he's a guy that normally buys two seats for himself. They'll have some sensitivity training for their staff and the question of what to do with the widening American population will remain an open question.
posted by jessamyn at 6:43 PM on February 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


Question: Do the people who think that larger people should have to pay for two seats, also feel that those who are taller / have a larger skeleton should have to pay extra too? Should they pay more if their extreme height forces them above some predetermined acceptable weight? What if they don't exceed such a weight, but simply need two seats in order to fit?

Well, obviously weight is only a rough proxy for width, which is the real issue. Southwest doesn't have weighing stations at every gate. And while taller people may be uncomfortable in current seating arrangements, they aren't as likely to actually affect the comfort of seatmates as wider people are. The analogy breaks down there. As for the elderly, disabled, wheelchair-bound, etc....if their wheelchair or oxygen tank has to go in the seat next to them then yes, they theoretically would be forced to pay for the extra seat. If the accoutrement were positioned elsewhere, they wouldn't.

What if a obese person is obese due to underlying medical reasons, or is considered disabled or elderly? Should they be forced off the plane, or forced to pay more?

The airline doesn't care about reasons why. It's not punishing wider people because it mistakenly thinks they did something wrong. It's trying to make a flight that doesn't lose money. There is no value judgment. Nuns don't get discounts.
posted by aswego at 6:43 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm a big dude. I'm a really, really big dude. I'm so big my fat ass isn't as much of a problem side-to-side as it is front to back - and my legs are relatively stumpy. It's just that my butt is so big, it jams my knees into the back of the seat in front of me. On the commuter rail, if I sit in a three-by, it will only have to riders, even if it's standing room only. No-one wants to share orbit with this butt.

I flew to Spain in April (before I got the bicycle bug), and was at my stress-eating-biggest, and had a seat in cattle-class. I could lower the armrest, and fly in discomort and misery while the normal people beside me (my wife and some random guy) could settle in without worry, and the woman in front of me could put her seat-back all the way back with only my poor knees knowing the difference.

I once met Kevin Smith. I doubt he remembers me, as he was standng sullenly in a corner being besieged by every film-school sorority sister who wanted to sleep her way to the top in the Northeast, while I was running up and down the fire stairs with Marvel artists/writers who(m) shall remain nameless, belting out the Spider-Man theme song, because they had an open bar comprised of a keg of Steel Rail Pale Ale, and it was only me and the creative types who were drinking it and arguing over Kirby covers and subsequently abusing our guest privileges at Kevin's museum.

Short story long, Kevin Smith is tiny. Munchkin-like. He's here to represent the Lollipop guild. If he were to grow to Jabba the Hutt proportions, he could still fit into any worthless-scum airline seat I've ever plopped my supersize keister into, nevermind the Southwest business-class sized seats.

Which leads me to believe he got liquored up at the airport bar, and then abused the flight attendants to the point where they shoveled his munchkin ass off the plane under whatever excuse they thought would piss him off the most. His ass ain't that big... his mouth, on the other hand, is.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:46 PM on February 14, 2010 [17 favorites]


(Not that Kevin, the other Kevin, the one who started out with comics.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:48 PM on February 14, 2010


And as someone who works in customer service: If I had to guess who started whatever friction that resulted in this fiasco - a flight staff who deals with fat people all day long or a Hollywood director accustomed to having toadies available to wait on him hand and foot - I'd say Smith is the culprit here.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:50 PM on February 14, 2010


There's no such thing as an "acceptable" level of profits for a corporation.

No, but there is such a thing as an unacceptable level of profits: if the corporation has to spend more than it earns, then you don't want to invest in that corporation.

Yahoo says that Southwest Airlines last reported a trailing-twelve-months profit margin of 0.96%. Not 96%, but 0.96%. As someone who used to own a little LUV stock, it would have bothered me if they decided to increase their expenses by 20+% without a corresponding increase in revenue. For that matter, as someone who still enjoys cheap Southwest airfares, it would bother me greatly if they decided to make their flights more costly, no matter whether they pass those costs on in higher fares or just commit corporate suicide.

To any rich people who happen to be reading along: if you want to make my life better, I would prefer donations to be made directly in cash or check form, not indirectly by following bad advice and running your companies into the ground. Thank you.
posted by roystgnr at 6:50 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


(Errr, who owned the museum, that Kevin isn't this Kevin, but isn't the Kevin who Alan Moore likes, which isn't to say Alan Moore dislikes this Kevin, the one with the museum (since closed), or even the other Kevin (who became a movie mogul just so he could write Daredevil), it's just that he never worked with either. Glad I could clear that up. Edit button?
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:50 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Should be pretty easy to calculate how much it costs to fly things per pound, shipping companies do it that way and nobody has a problem with it.

I like the sound of this, Mr. Floam! Yes, this has certainly been our most productive meeting this quarter. Here's my vision for enacting our totally paradigm-shifting new vision of airline travel:

Passengers -- or in the parlance of our brave new aviation industry, 'Meat Units' -- will be stripped, weighed, and measured at the gate. From there, the Meat Unit will be placed on a conveyor belt, assuring a safe and orderly path of ingress to the cabin.

Prior to take-off, each Meat Unit will be offered a convenient Friendly Flier's Foodcessory™, chock full of malty, corny goodness, which can be easy affixed to the back of the ears. Kiddie sizes will also be available, featuring WOW-cool fun-time characters from Dreamworks Pictures' upcoming Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2: The Engorging!

Our super-cool airplane cabin will ensure the comfort and convenience of all MUs, as will our new under-arm hook apparatuses. Forget all about those stinky old seats and ride in style on our iElevateYOU Suspension Hooks!

For $20 more, MUs may opt to be suspended upside down for the duration of the flight. (Recent research suggests that the rush of blood to the head is said to increase levels of Worker Productivity Hormone™ by 0.5% percent!)
posted by ford and the prefects at 6:50 PM on February 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


Seems very easy to solve to me. Two steps.
1. If you can't fit in a seat because you are too wide, you must buy two seats. Otherwise it's not fair to the person next to you.
2. Every passenger gets a weight allowance, let's say 210lbs as an example. If your combined body weight plus your luggage (carry on and check in) exceeds that weight, you pay extra. If it is less, you get a discount. Otherwise, lighter people are subsidizing heavier people, since a large percentage of an airlines cost is fuel, and it takes more fuel to move more pounds.
I"m quite tall (6'3"), but weigh only about 160lbs. Why should I subsidize the price of another passenger who is overweight but gets exactly the same baggage weight allowance as I do?
posted by conifer at 6:50 PM on February 14, 2010


-Airline seats are teensy. Fact. I'm a 5'5" size 8 woman, and I feel as if I've been crammed into a soup can. I don't care whether they have to make money and are limited by size, because it's freaking awful sitting in one of those things for more than about twenty minutes.
-The guy sitting next to me on the plane paid a different price than I did, because airlines are engaged in the weirdest pricing system. He might have paid $1000 when I paid $160, or vice versa. Well, I never pay $1000 except when flying to New Zealand or Moscow.
-The margin of profit for airlines is teeeeeensier than the seats. And the people who work for airlines are increasingly stressed and bonkers, because the passengers are getting testier.
-The passengers are getting testier because the airlines are charging for everything they can, such as half-frozen boxes of cheese food and crackers, such as checked baggage, so the passengers are packing their lunches, and hauling rolling coffins onto the plane and shoving them into the overhead bins. They also had to take off their shoes and their overshirts and their hats and their belts, and have some cranky TSA person ask them to explain something they forgot they had in their luggage.
-The people working your plane are now completely insane, and so are the passengers. The pilots are locked into a small confined space, so no one knows whether they're insane or not, but that announcement about flying over the Grand Canyon when you're going from Philly to Tampa was a little fishy.
-That baby is screaming. And the dude with the Blackberry and the netbook didn't bother to shut them down when they told him to.
-Kevin Smith walked into a buzzsaw.
posted by Peach at 6:55 PM on February 14, 2010 [16 favorites]


anyone who's been on the other side of the armrest from the "customer of size" appreciates Southwest's policy and wishes other airlines would do the same. god forbid somebody like that falls asleep on youl
posted by cogneuro at 6:55 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


So Justinian, you think it's fair if airlines reserve the right to make the majority of their male customers buy a second seat? -- serazin
Well, any weight-based system is going to impact men more then women as it is.
if you're a customer of a business, why should you suck up their unfair policies, just because those policies make money for the business? -- serazin
Because I'm not fat? These polices don't just benefit shareholder and CEOs, they also benefit people who end up paying less for a ticket because the seats are stuck together.

--
This side discussion (derail?) about whether regular people are or should be invested in the stock market is an interesting one. My feeling is that way to many people are. The stock market, apparently, performed very well from the 70s to the 90s, leading people (mistakenly) to believe that stocks are good long term investment. The stock market hasn't gone up at all in the past decade. Everyone who invested was risking their money for nothing. And the crash in '08 could have been worse. There's also the option of investing in bonds, or, uh, mortgage derivatives.
I would invest in some sort of underground shelter with enough room for all your friends and family and a few lifetimes worth of food, because if our stock market fails we're all utterly fucked.-- floam
That's a bit excessive. And pardon me if I ignore financial advice from southwest airlines shareholder
I know, right? And why's everybody so upset about airlines, anyway? Everybody I know has their own personal jetpack that's fueled by doubloons and disdain for the working man. Damn plebes... -- Toby Dammit X
Lol.
Kevin Smith engendered a few comments on his MacWorld appearance last week on the San Francisco news site. -- telstar
Wow, he actually looks really fat in that picture. He looks like he's wearing a screen-printed snuggie.
posted by delmoi at 6:56 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why should I subsidize the price of another passenger who is overweight but gets exactly the same baggage weight allowance as I do?

Because if you think security theatre is bad enough now, imagine how much worse it'd get if people took to swallowing condoms full of helium to minimise their weight on the airfare checkin scales.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:57 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'd gladly pay for two seats if, in exchange for doing so, the airline would guarantee that there wouldn't be any goddamned babies or toddlers on the flight.

Sounds like there's going to be at least one baby on any flight you're on.
posted by palliser at 6:59 PM on February 14, 2010 [28 favorites]


Take out all the seats, drug the passengers prior to boarding, and stack them like cordwood - fatties on the bottom, of course. Revive upon landing.

Take it one step further and strip them naked. Free admission to the Mile High Club every time your plane hits turbulence.
posted by mannequito at 7:06 PM on February 14, 2010


He was in a first class seat. Aren't first class seats really big? Isn't there a sort of console between the seats, and not just an armrest? I guess it varies from airline to airline, even plane to plane. I'm looking forward to Smith's version of the story on his next Smodcast.

Now this picture is of an obese man who shouldn't have been allowed to ride. I doubt anyone would argue with that.

Sounds like a rather simple communication problem here, the fault being Southwest's. If they knew he was overweight, when he asked to get on the earlier flight, the gate crew should've handled the situation right then and there. Must be an awkward conversation to have, "Hmmm...you look overweight. We'll have to charge you more. Sorry."

And let it be clear--airlines have absolutely shrunk the seats in recent years. They will take a plane and rip out all the seats, then add in a row or two (or three), and at the same time they will put three seats on the left and right side, whereas before there might've been only two. Last summer I flew across the Pacific from Japan to Dallas and I got to the airport "late"*, so I got stuck in a fucking window seat for 11 plus hours. Few things in this world make me as claustrophobic as flying in a window seat, especially next to strangers. I had to kind of meditate and crawl into my own mind on that flight because it was impossible for me to get comfortable in any way (I'm 6 feet, average build and weight).

At this rate, flying is just going to get more and more obnoxious. As a kid I used to love flying. Now it's like a shitty part-time job you hate and have to pay for as well.
posted by zardoz at 7:13 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, I have to say that I haven't enjoyed a thread this much since balloon boy took to the skies. This comment has had me laughing for five minutes straight. Metafilter, keep up the good work!!
posted by mannequito at 7:14 PM on February 14, 2010


* and by "late" I mean I checked in an hour before the flight. I guess I should've gotten there two hours before the flight.
posted by zardoz at 7:15 PM on February 14, 2010


serazin: "Feel free to site your source. Current studies indicate slightly less than half the US population owns stocks in any form."

According to the "Survey of Consumer Finances" [pdf] (Federal Reserve, 2009), it shows that more than 50% of Americans hold stock, either directly or indirectly.
1998 - 48.9%, 2001 - 52.2%, 2004 - 50.2%, 2007 - 51.1% (Table 7, pg A27)
posted by rider at 7:18 PM on February 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Movie accounting doesn't work like that...

Well to be fair, according to "movie accounting" no movie makes a profit. This is why you get gross participation rather than net.
posted by empath at 7:20 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


OK, just looked at the MacWorld pics. He's really, really fat. He's still 5'5" in cuban heels. I'm 6'3" in stocking feet (don't tell my wife it was me that did that to her stockings), and was easily that fat in April, when I flew to Spain in a seat clearly designed for children to ride kidde-roller-coasters. Serious. I went to a MeFi meetup, and plates of nachos flew out of the waitstaff's hands to settle into orbit around my butt, and Katullus looked at me weird.

My money's still on the right headline being, "Jersey Jerk Opens Huge Mouth For Something Other Than Burger, Kicked Off Plane For Being From Jersey."

(Tho I will note that the most odious character from Jersey Shore is actually from Rhode Island. Johnston, represent!)
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:21 PM on February 14, 2010


We won't have to worry about this after the singularity.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 7:22 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Which leads me to believe he got liquored up at the airport bar

He doesn't drink.

He was in a first class seat. Aren't first class seats really big?

There's no first class on Southwest.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:22 PM on February 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


I want to hear more about what happened to duncadunc's mom in 1983. It sounds like that was one hell of a year for her.
posted by No-sword at 7:24 PM on February 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


"He was in a first class seat. Aren't first class seats really big?"

Said jessamyn: "it's called First Class on most airlines. SW doesn't have that option"
Smith also said on his Twitter that it was all one class on the flight. So no, he wasn't in a first class seat.
posted by edd at 7:25 PM on February 14, 2010


"He's still 5'5" in cuban heels."
According to IMDB he's 5'9.
posted by edd at 7:27 PM on February 14, 2010


As a kid I used to love flying. Now it's like a shitty part-time job you hate and have to pay for as well.

Well, of course the seats seemed bigger when you were a kid, everything does.
posted by delmoi at 7:29 PM on February 14, 2010


"He's still 5'5" in cuban heels."
According to IMDB he's 5'9.


yeah and allen iverson's cards say he's 6'0". who you gonna believe, me or your lyin' eyes?
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:33 PM on February 14, 2010


According to IMDB he's 5'9.

Oh, good, then I'm 6'8". Let me update my IMDB profile... Dustin Pedroia's pushing six foot, now, according to the Red Sox press book! IMDB knows all, so Lucy Lawless is six I mean five eleven I mean five ten and a half, and since I'm now 6'8", I no longer have to look up at her when she wears '90s style chunky-heeled boots like that one time. (Another long, rambling story that does not involve anyone named Kevin at all, so far as I know. She will go on and on about guys begging to be under said boots, tho. Smile, nod, go meet friends at poker table.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:39 PM on February 14, 2010


I have a solution that will accomodate everyone's needs: a catapault with ample leg room.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:43 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know, if this had happened to me, I would have just told them to forget about the whole thing - but only if I could meet that baggage handler who says "it's on!", because he seems like a real neat guy.
posted by yhbc at 7:52 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why not just charge everybody, fat people and skinny people a fee that scales somewhat linearly based on how much you weigh? Make it work out so somebody a little heavy at 170lbs pays a fee that brings the ticket up to exactly what tickets normally cost now, and more than that is a little extra and less than that works out to a bit of a refund.

Oh, fuuuuuuuuuuuck that.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:53 PM on February 14, 2010


You know, I think these upset fat people would be less likely to get their gullets engorged over these practices if these policies were consistent through society. Show up large and in charge at a restaurant? Guess what, you are taking up too much space and stopping the establishment from possibly serving another sit-down customer - you pay more. Wanna see that movie and you are more than the seat can handle without flab flopping over while you feed your face with food? You pay for 2 movie tickets. I think buses shouldn't even make concessions. Just make all the seats small. You tubs could stand to expend some energy by not being seated. If you really want to sit, pay for 2 seats. MLB games, NFL games, NCAA Basketball games. Sitting in the bleachers at spring training, high school games, track and field events. Outdoor holiday events with paid entry. Taxis - why should you weigh the weight of two people and get the fare of one? Double fare. The opera, comedy shows. The main issue is that you're causing your neighbor to be physically uncomfortable. After we get the lardies in place, then we can move on to the scary black woman that makes me sweat, the gay guy who I swear is going to give me an MCI as I fear contracting some communicable disease, and Mexicans. They always make me nervous and I get physically sick being very close to them. So anyway, if we can just keep things consistent across domains and keep the weirdos out, us good and clean folks can enjoy life without all these hassles.
posted by cashman at 7:55 PM on February 14, 2010


Oh, good, then I'm 6'8". Let me update my IMDB profile

That's just like how today's size 10 was a 12 last year, and a 14 the year before that.

Personally, I think it's great how everybody is getting slimmer & taller all the time. I passed six foot just the other year, and my BMI is now that good, I should be in the movies.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:57 PM on February 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've flown a few times in the last few years. From Boston to Paris, Miami, San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, and back. On none of these trips did I have a negative experience with security. Lines moved smoothly and I did not feel that any of the measures taken were invasive or irritating. On the planes themselves, I was very comfortable. I flew coach, but the seats were fine and I felt that I had enough leg room. The flight attendants were attentive and generally affable. The movies weren't great, but on some of the flights I got to watch "30 Rock," which was a nice surprise. The actual flying was excellent. On my flight to New York, we were delayed on the tarmac 30 minutes but they must have kicked up the engines because we got to there right on time. The flights to and from Paris were smooth; six or seven hours, felt more like riding in a big bus than hurtling through the air across the ocean at several hundred MPH. Returning from Miami, we flew right into an ice storm and even though it was quite hairy, the pilot handled the plane well and when we touched down, all the passengers applauded for the pilot.

I really enjoy flying. I could spend hours with my head pressed against the window looking at the ground. It's beautiful. When I'm on the ground, I sometimes look up and see a plane overhead and get really overwhelmed, thinking about how it's full of people hanging there in the air, and when I fly I like to think about all the people who might be looking up at the plane I'm in. The science of how such a large, heavy thing can stay aloft is so simple and elegant and magical.

I want you to know that this post is sincere. I'm not writing it to be sarcastic or in response to any particular sentiment in this thread. It's not meant to undermine or invalidate, counteract or contradict. I know that flying is a pain for a lot of people. I just felt compelled to talk about my own flying experiences because I'm not sure it's one that gets expressed too often. And I think it's easy to get so caught up in the little inconveniences that it's easy to forget how convenient it really is.
posted by mpbx at 8:09 PM on February 14, 2010 [38 favorites]


Kevin Smith's latest Smodcast, where he discusses this incident with his wife, was released earlier today. It's about an hour and a half long, but as he promised it gives his side of the story.
posted by armage at 8:12 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a solution that will accomodate everyone's needs: a catapault with ample leg room.

All right, listen here Mr. Smarty Pants. I took Physics in college, and I don't really remember anything, but if you're trying to tell me that a catapult wouldn't have to be adjusted to fling a fat person the same distance as a skinnier person, well then, just call me Armin Tamzarian and launch me away.
posted by graventy at 8:16 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't get it, there is an area of the plane with bigger seats: business and first class. If - for whatever reason - you're not happy with economy seats, you're welcome to fly there. No one has an inalienable right to cheap flights.

Southwest is a one-class airline.
posted by armage at 8:26 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I want you to know that this post is sincere. I'm not writing it to be sarcastic or in response to any particular sentiment in this thread. It's not meant to undermine or invalidate, counteract or contradict. I know that flying is a pain for a lot of people. I just felt compelled to talk about my own flying experiences because I'm not sure it's one that gets expressed too often. And I think it's easy to get so caught up in the little inconveniences that it's easy to forget how convenient it really is.

I'm no more thrilled by the security theater bullshit than anyone else, but my experience of actually flying hasn't been diminished at all over the last decade. On one flight, a perky and dorky-cute stewardess sang us all a song about how happy she was to be on our flight. This happened. I am not making this up! It was a Southwest flight, no less.

That said, I am 5'9" and (currently) weigh somewhere in the magic neighborhood of 165-170 pounds. I went through an unpleasant heavy period for a couple years there (about 210 from late '05 to early '08), but I didn't fly at all in that time, so I have no idea whether I'd have had any problems. I'm sure I would have had found something like what happened to Smith both infuriating and humiliating -- regardless of whether the reasoning was sound.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:27 PM on February 14, 2010


That's just like how today's size 10 was a 12 last year, and a 14 the year before that.

Personally, I think it's great how everybody is getting slimmer & taller all the time. I passed six foot just the other year, and my BMI is now that good, I should be in the movies.


good for you motherfucker; I am now shopping in the children's department.

{/}!
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:34 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Airplane seats are sized perfectly to fit the average American. Living in 1960.
posted by SilverTail at 8:39 PM on February 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


because people would get seriously huffy about being seated in the fat ghetto.

Oh, it would be such a frabjous day if I could sit in the fat ghetto. I'm not fucking kidding. Then at least I wouldn't be concerned that I could be kicked off the plane because some skinny jerk is afraid I might touch them with my fat thighs and give them the nacho virus.
posted by sugarfish at 8:43 PM on February 14, 2010 [15 favorites]


Airplane seats are sized perfectly to fit the average American. Living in 1960.

By 2060, the average commercial airline flight will consist of a single person covered in oil, jammed into a C-5 Galaxy.
posted by mpbx at 8:45 PM on February 14, 2010 [16 favorites]


Do people with wheelchairs store typically those wheelchairs on their neighbors lap, or something?
Wheelchair user here, and the answer is no:
They put you a really weird-ass airplane wheelchair, strap you in like you're goin hanggliding, and take you to your seat.
My own chair is checked like baggage, no extra charge last time I flied

Lemme tell you though, having to get strapped into the fucking plane chair is no treat. It's a bit humiliated, as if your Hannibal Lecter or something. So I really sympathize with K. Smith. Having your whatever physical failings sort of advertised like that is no picnic.

Dunno what they could do to change it though. My solution: Don't fly. It fucks the planet up anyway.
posted by angrycat at 8:46 PM on February 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


By 2060, the average commercial airline flight will consist of a single person covered in oil, jammed into a C-5 Galaxy.

"Third-stage Guild Navigator"
posted by Artw at 8:50 PM on February 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


I've flown a few times in the last few years.

I love flying too, but I don't do it very often and it's only for vacation. But everyone I know who has to fly often for business -- they build up the hate real quick.
posted by emeiji at 8:54 PM on February 14, 2010


Are we all willing to pay 20% more for plane tickets so really fat people don't have to buy a second seat? I'm not.

The fat thing is a total red herring. As I pointed out before, no matter how much weight I loose... Fuck, if you put my flensed skeleton in a typical airline seat, the points of my shoulders are going to stick out past the edges of the seats on both sides and my femurs are still going to stick out to the sides.

Stop acting like your frailty is an indication of your righteousness.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:56 PM on February 14, 2010 [11 favorites]


give them the nacho virus

I love nachos. you can sit by me.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:05 PM on February 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


They should just start putting in bench seating and then sit the fat guys (*raises hand*) next to the kids and small women.

Problem solved!
posted by Bonzai at 9:19 PM on February 14, 2010


What's your plan that we've all got to follow to make airlines take out a seat from every row to give us more room

Take the train. You get first-class quality seating, an observation car, a restaurant, a bar, the option of getting up and stretching your legs, and a lower carbon footprint, all for half the price. Yeah, it takes a little longer, but I usually count that as part of my vacation.

If more of us start doing it, maybe we'll get some fast European trains here.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:19 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Seriously, cashman?

There's a difference between seating in a restaurant, where the staff can just rearrange the seats and tables a bit as necessary, and an airplane, where the seats are bolted to the floor. The comparison doesn't make sense.

In the great majority of everyday situations, there are accommodations that can be made for very large people, for the benefit of themselves or for those around them. Some of which are actually pretty subtle and go unnoticed. (Movie theater seats, for instance, have gotten deeper and wider over the years. If you're used to sitting in a modern theater with big seats, the old ones feel…cramped.) Economy airline travel is in many ways a special case, precisely because there aren't any accommodations to be made. There's just no extra room, in a fully-loaded plane.

This is the flip-side of the 'democratization' of air travel that's occurred as prices have fallen. People have chosen price over everything else, again and again. It's easy to buy a larger seat if you want one — there's always been First Class, and then Business, and now some domestic carriers have a sort of intermediate extended-legroom Coach seat for a few bucks extra — but most people don't care. Given the choice between paying extra or enduring a few hours of misery in a cramped seat, travelers (or the people paying for those travelers' tickets) pick misery. This is why Southwest doesn't even have First Class; they know what people are willing to pay for, and that's exactly what they deliver.

If Southwest, or any one of the other airlines, decided to increase seat width tomorrow (by going from 3+3 across to 3+2), even setting aside the huge reconfiguration cost, they would probably go out of business. Their seats would cost more than the competing airlines' uncomfortable seats, and most travelers shop exclusively or near-exclusively on price.

Personally I loathe the domestic airlines with a passion, and there won't be a person happier than I when they finally get run out of business by a decent passenger rail network. Or sub-orbital transports. Or teleportation. Or whatever. But the airlines as entities are often just convenient whipping boys, used to avoid acknowledging that we — that is, the flying public, everyone who's ever fired up PriceLine or Travelocity or Kayak to search for a "cheap fare" — pretty much brought this on ourselves.

If anything, the major carriers have been surprisingly resistant to market forces. For years they persisted in serving food that nobody really wanted to eat and served mostly as the punchline for bad jokes. Even now, they maintain First Class cabins that rarely get filled with full-fare passengers (generally they pad them out with upgrades). They should have been going Southwest's route twenty years ago; the fact that they didn't is one of the reasons why most of them are on life support now.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:21 PM on February 14, 2010 [17 favorites]


The flights to and from Paris were smooth

Yeah, I like European airlines, too. When you're doing a flight with one leg American and one leg European, the contrast is almost hallucinatory.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:25 PM on February 14, 2010


I'm actually a little surprised he wasn't booted off the flight as a result of them showing one of his movies on the plane.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:34 PM on February 14, 2010


The 170 lbs weight limit seems odd to me, given the assortment of body types and the fact that people carry weight differently. Air France has a very similar policy to Southwest's, but their unit of measure is waist size: 53-inch waist for cabin, 59 inches for Premium, and 79 inches for First Class. It seems to me that girth, not weight, is a better measure of whether someone might need a second seat.
posted by Heretic at 9:40 PM on February 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I like European airlines, too. When you're doing a flight with one leg American and one leg European, the contrast is almost hallucinatory.

The flight was on American Airlines.
posted by mpbx at 9:42 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


markkraft: “Worldwide theatre gross: $41,985,547 ... Total DVD Sales: $21,029,503 ... Production Budget: $24,000,000. A 260% ROI.”

Yeah, 'production budget' nowadays is often less than the marketing/publicity budget. Putting commercials on television - even during off-hours, even on cable channels - costs a lot of money. I remember seeing a number of commercials for Zack and Miri, and the dual-title release has to have taken a bite out of that, given that it was publicized both as Zack and Miri and Zack and Miri Make A Porno - and that's not counting the cost of getting a film out to all those theaters. So, though it's almost impossible to know the specifics, you could expect at least around $24,000,000 more was spent on marketing the film. That means the actual budget was probably around $50 mil. Which means that, until it went out on DVD (and did remarkably well there) the film was likely a few million in the hole.

(What's interesting to notice here is that theatrical releases are something of a crapshoot, in and of themselves. It's possible to make a fantastic amount of money on a feature release in theaters, but the market is such that it's much less likely and takes (a) a buttload of publicity and/or (b) star power/a proven name/etc and/or (c) a really great buzz and a ready and willing public. DVD sales are a lot steadier, they don't require the logistics of staffing theaters and sending out copies of a film and all that overhead, they're a direct product, and in general they're just more mathematical and rational. But in the US, releasing things 'straight to DVD' has a pretty big stigma attached to it, so even the big chunk of people making movies which do better on DVD - the 'indie' scene, say, and Kevin Smith too - are forced to take the hit of releasing things theatrically just to produce a DVD that sells at all. Hollywood seems to still be very focused on trying to make the theater profitable, pushing for only the most likely to be sure-fire theatrical releases - notice that Hollywood will only make major releases nowadays within a small set of popular categories: 'sequel-of-popular-thriller,' 'reboot-of-old-favorite,' and 'media-crossover-of-established-hit' i e bestselling books, TV shows, video games , comic books, etc made into films. Hollywood seems to want to stick to those obvious movies that play to the lowest common denominator every time. Most of Asia has gotten past this, and some of the best directors over there - Takashi Miike, for example - make a great living producing stuff that's mostly straight-to-DVD, and that sees theatrical release only when somebody somewhere sees the DVD and decides they like it enough to play it to a crowd. Anyway...)

I'm guessing for this movie there was around a 100% profit, about $24 mil. Still not a bad proposition, but there are always a couple of months there where everything looks like you might end up barely breaking even. And it seems like that's happened on the last few movies of his. So he's apparently a pretty solid bet owing to his fan base, but with the market how it is right now, who knows? I'm sure he's not hurting for work, though. And he's the type of dude who's comfortable moving in different directions, media-wise; his longstanding affinity for message-boards, and now Twitter, demonstrates that.
posted by koeselitz at 9:45 PM on February 14, 2010 [4 favorites]




It's easy to buy a larger seat if you want one — there's always been First Class, and then Business, and now some domestic carriers have a sort of intermediate extended-legroom Coach seat for a few bucks extra — but most people don't care. Given the choice between paying extra or enduring a few hours of misery in a cramped seat, travelers (or the people paying for those travelers' tickets) pick misery.

Part of the reason for this - it seems to me - is that the benefits of Business & First Class just don't stack up economically for the average traveller.

Business Class fares are in the order of 3 times the price of Economy, and First Class around 5 times or more. For that, you get space, service & food not 3-5 times better, but more like 1.3-1.5 times better, insofar as it's possible to quantify these things.

In other words, it's a pretty piss-poor marginal return on the extra fare paid - especially for short flights, when you might as well just grit your teeth & bear the temporary discomfort - which is why the higher classes are really only ever used by three kinds of passengers:

- those with so much money that they simply don't care how they throw it around,
- business travellers who don't pay for their own tickets, and
- upgrades, eg through frequent flyer points or airline staff discretion
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:18 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


And while taller people may be uncomfortable in current seating arrangements, they aren't as likely to actually affect the comfort of seatmates as wider people are. The analogy breaks down there.

Well, not entirely true. If your knees are being squished from the front - particularly if, say, that bastard in front of you has his seat reclined - and maybe you had to put your carryon back under the seat in front of you because the bins were full... Well, there's really nowhere your legs can go but sideways.
posted by ubersturm at 10:24 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


particularly if, say, that bastard in front of you has his seat reclined

There is a special place in hell reserved for people who recline their airline seats more than an inch or two. Seriously, fuck them. I've flown many, many, many times and never reclined the seat. Even on 14 hour flights. It's just not cool.
posted by Justinian at 10:47 PM on February 14, 2010 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I like European airlines, too. When you're doing a flight with one leg American and one leg European, the contrast is almost hallucinatory.

This is true. Air New Zealand economy leg room is on a par with United business class leg room.

It seems to me that girth, not weight, is a better measure of whether someone might need a second seat.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's SouthWest's policy: if you spill into a second seat, for whatever reason (LOLfattiees, LOLbodybuilder, whatever), you pay for a second seat. The problem is the people who feel entitled to a de facto share of their neighbour's seat, or a second seat, for free (or rather, at the expense of the other fliers).

Then at least I wouldn't be concerned that I could be kicked off the plane because some skinny jerk is afraid I might touch them with my fat thighs and give them the nacho virus.

That's exactly what it is. Oh, no, wait, it isn't at all. Get off your cross.
posted by rodgerd at 10:50 PM on February 14, 2010


I have sat with fat people next to me on buses and on planes, It was nothing compared to the 5'6" guy with 20" shoulders who sat next to me on my last flight.

I am going to take the train, if at all possible, until they perfect dirigibles and the skies become civilized again.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 10:56 PM on February 14, 2010


serazin: Yeah, someone has to "pay" for those bigger seats, namely, the bazillionares who own the airlines.

The wealthy owners won't put in bigger seats, because that means less revenue. In most cases, it would throw the airlines into insolvency. Since none of those wealthy people and/or corporations are particularly eager to LOSE money running an airline, it becomes a question of small seats, or no seats at all.

While it's true that it takes a great deal of wealth to buy and run a reasonable-sized airline, they're really not moneymakers anymore, and haven't been for a long time. That's why they have those stupid 'checked bags' fees... they're absolutely scraping the bottom of the barrel to try to make a little more cash.

Warren Buffett has said numerous times that he really likes the idea of the airplane business, but it never makes money, and he's essentially always regretted investing in it. He's into NetJets now, which is a partial-ownership scheme for corporations to split the cost of private jets; I don't know how well that's gone. But mass-market air travel, from his perspective, is a bad business.
posted by Malor at 11:08 PM on February 14, 2010


It's already been said, but should we tax tall people too? If you're over 5'10'' regular airline seats are murder on your knees. And then the asshole in front of you leans his seat back. That's something that shouldn't be allowed.

Also, tax babies. Fuckers are always crying and need their diaper's changed. Ya hear me airlines?!
posted by bardic at 11:12 PM on February 14, 2010


By 2060, the average commercial airline flight will consist of a single person covered in oil, jammed into a C-5 Galaxy.

LOL.
posted by delmoi at 11:31 PM on February 14, 2010


Hammocks. Three-high, oriented athwartships in two columns, with your head by the window.
I'll take the top.
posted by ctmf at 11:40 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that Southwest's cargo happens to be people doesn't change the fact that they have the same hard costs associated with space and weight that any other cargo transporter does. Shipping cargo always end up being "X dollars for Y size, with a max weight of Z," because that's what it costs to transport stuff. Take up too much space or weight, and they will have to drop other customers, so your bill changes accordingly.

The airline shouldn't have to suck up your costs so that you can feel like life is fair. And I say this as a pretty big dude who would be ecstatic to have larger seats in coach. If you don't like their policies, you can 1) find another airline, 2) lose some weight, or 3) lobby the government for overweight ticket subsidies.
posted by chundo at 11:53 PM on February 14, 2010


By 2060, the average commercial airline flight will consist of a single person covered in oil, jammed into a C-5 Galaxy.

Wasn't this depicted in a Matthew Barney film?
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:55 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, people in this thread seem to be arguing with different sets of facts. The policy seems to be to make anybody over 170lbs buy 2 seats, regardless of whether they can fit in one. I'm 6'2" and 210lbs but I can fit into an airplane seat just fine... it looks like Kevin Smith can too, but he was excluded due to his weight. As a person who isn't excessively corpulent and - like a few others in this thread - would NOT GET ANY LESS WIDE even if i were a flensed skeleton, this kind of thing is pretty offensive to me.
posted by tehloki at 12:20 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The policy seems to be to make anybody over 170lbs buy 2 seats, regardless of whether they can fit in one.
"You've read about these situations before. Southwest instituted our Customer of Size policy more than 25 years ago. The policy requires passengers that can not fit safely and comfortably in one seat to purchase an additional seat while traveling. This policy is not unique to Southwest Airlines and it is not a revenue generator. Most, if not all, carriers have similar policies, but unique to Southwest is the refunding of the second seat purchased (if the flight does not oversell) which is greater than any revenue made (full policy can be found here). The spirit of this policy is based solely on Customer comfort and Safety. As a Company committed to serving our Customers in Safety and comfort, we feel the definitive boundary between seats is the armrest. If a Customer cannot comfortably lower the armrest and infringes on a portion of another seat, a Customer seated adjacent would be very uncomfortable and a timely exit from the aircraft in the event of an emergency might be compromised if we allow a cramped, restricted seating arrangement.
Blind or functionally illiterate? People of metafilter, you decide!
posted by rodgerd at 12:46 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Has Kevin Smith been issued a dialing wand yet?
posted by telstar at 1:03 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm tall and thin. I've always thought that requiring people who need two seats to pay for it themselves was the fairest policy. But reading through this thread, trying to imagine how it would feel to have to pay for two tickets whenever I fly, was kind of an eye-opener. That would be a huge bummer. I wouldn't be able to fly anywhere if I had to pay twice as much as I do now. So would I pay to subsidize extra seats for big people? Sure, why not? What are we talking, probably about 1% of a ticket? That doesn't seem like a big deal. I already do that every day -- I pay more for restaurant portions than I want because most people eat more than I do; I pay (well, employer pays) higher premiums for my health insurance; I pay more for clothes that fit me well (most clothes are too baggy). As people have said in this thread, in almost all aspects of society, we really don't price things according to people's weight.

I guess my only question is: how do you implement that? Do you just have big passengers indicate that they want two seats when they book their ticket? You can't really expect people to be honest about that. As others have said, it's not a matter of just increasing the width of the seats. Newer planes are wider, but I imagine that turnover in planes is extraordinarily slow (judging by the fabric patterns on most AA flights I've been on).

Southwest's compromise really seems about as fair as you could get. I suppose the only other option would be to figure out if an extra seat is needed for a big person when they show up and, if the flight's not full, just give it to them. If it is full, offer a free voucher for anybody willing to be bumped. That would result in slightly higher ticket prices for everybody, although those vouchers have so many limits, I'd be surprised if they ultimately cost airlines that much(?). Maybe limit the vouchers to non-full flights. You become known as a "fat-friendly" airline and maybe end up with more business. Just because an airline hasn't done this yet doesn't mean it's not profitable. Profitability seems like the most likely explanation, but maybe it's more of a pain in the ass to implement than just making large people buy an extra seat.

Regardless, it must suck to have to pay twice as much for an airline ticket. I'm sorry to those who do.
posted by one_bean at 1:07 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


One_Bean says:
But reading through this thread, trying to imagine how it would feel to have to pay for two tickets whenever I fly, was kind of an eye-opener. That would be a huge bummer.

Oh boohoo. Let's feel sorry for the people spilling over their seats into those of their neighbours, and not for those people who through know fault of their own are getting squished.
If they hadn't sucked up so much food, they wouldn't have to suck it up for an extra seat. All actions have repurcussions.
posted by conifer at 3:17 AM on February 15, 2010


Yes! I say we punish people for everything they do that could be caused by any kind of moral failing or genetic predisposition whatsoever. What the heck. Let's start with people who buy lottery tickets. Or who buy the latest phone when their old one is still working. I've got a little list, they never will be missed . . .
posted by Peach at 3:49 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not fat. I think I'll book an extra seat for, like, my bags and stuff, and then get the money back if the flight's not full. Thanks Southwest!
posted by dave99 at 3:56 AM on February 15, 2010


we feel the definitive boundary between seats is the armrest

Me too. In fact, next time I'm seated on a flight next to some arsehole who feels it's his* right to splay out all over both armrests for the entire time, and with his elbows etc jutting into my personal & paid space, I'm gonna call the cabin crew over & demand that they charge him for my seat **

* it's always a 'he'

** or maybe i'll just spend the entire flight passive-aggressively farting. that's how these little wars of attrition can play out.

posted by UbuRoivas at 4:00 AM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe I am not understanding the outrage here correctly but let me get this right. Some fat person who acknowledge they need two seats goes on standby and only one seat is subsequently available and then is surprised when (as per defined airline policy) is asked to vacate the airplane. Why should a 'celebrity' (what ever the hell that means) expect anything different to Joe Bloggs.

As for this genetic predisposition to obesity - perhaps someone can be born with an inate disposition to obesity but this doesn't make you fat. It is really a simple equasion - if you eat 4000 calories and do sweet FA then you will put on wait. If you posess a modicum of discipline and watch your intake you wont. Simple really. Its interesting how this so called genetic predisposition is not statistically evident uniformly across the globe. Seems to largely (no pun intended ) effect our gluttonous north amercian cousins. And as time goes on Western Europe more and more.

Connifer : absolutely. 'All actions have repurcussions'. The only frickin 'victim' in this is the poor bugger who is sat next to the fat bastard whose flagrant abandon of any sense of responsibility or self control results in the self-pitying whine and diversion to making the problem something other than themselves.
posted by numberstation at 4:06 AM on February 15, 2010


Thanks numberstation, I was waiting for the "all fatties are lazy" argument! My faith in jackasses is restored!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:09 AM on February 15, 2010


Brandon: Again, whilst someone may well have a genetic disposition this in itself does not make you obese. Yes there are disorders (hormonal for example) that make weight gain more likely but this can be controlled by a proper diet and physical activity. But yo if you want to trill the same old line thats fine by me. I note you did not respond to my query as to why obesity rates are not uniform across the globe. Obesity itself is caused by overeating. Or are you seriously trying to suggest otherwise?
posted by numberstation at 4:29 AM on February 15, 2010


Restrict the troll to less than 4000 calories.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:32 AM on February 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think fat people should be encourage to fly. The fatter the better. I mean if you got into a Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 type situation there'd be more to eat.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:36 AM on February 15, 2010


Nthing numberstation about the geographic distribution. When I was growing up in the US, I always thought I was skeletal. Moving abroad, I found I was normal. To any poster who haven't left the US, you live in a place where the view of normal weight is totally skewed.
When are people going to start taking responsibility for their actions? Smokers pay more for insurance, bad drivers pay more for insurance, why shouldn't overweight people pay more for using more of a service? Airlines and health insurance included. I'm sick of subsidizing these people for something they have control over.
posted by conifer at 4:46 AM on February 15, 2010


Folks are barking the wrong tree here. I see three problems:-

a) Kevin Smith fit into Southwest's stated policy, that passengers should fit within the armrest and buckle his seat-belt up.

b) Seems to me there's no way a potential passenger can ever know in advance whether they will "need" two seats or not. You'll have to somehow buy two tickets and get one refunded at the gate. That to me sounds extremely unfair.

c) The Southwest staff clearly effed up on their policy and lied to Smith. The stated reason, at least according to the podcast, is "security reasons".

I fly extensively out here; thrice in the previous week. As someone who got bumped out of an Air Asia flight for fictitious reasons (Air Asia said I wouldnt get visa-on-arrival in Laos; had to call the foreign ministry in Laos and the immigration department at Vientiane to confirm that they do indeed), I can't help but empathize with Kevin Smith's plight. Airlines might get cheap or they might go completely cattle-class, but there's absolutely no reason for them to freaking LIE.
posted by the cydonian at 4:51 AM on February 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Some fat person who acknowledge they need two seats goes on standby and only one seat is subsequently available and then is surprised when (as per defined airline policy) is asked to vacate the airplane. Why should a 'celebrity' (what ever the hell that means) expect anything different to Joe Bloggs.

Smith says he regularly flies single-seat, and indeed, fit into the single seat as per Southwest policy even here. Regardless of the merits of the two-seat policy, the fact is that they violated their own guidelines.
posted by the cydonian at 4:59 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I'm flying a 7-hour overnight flight, I'm reclining my seat. Huff behind me all you want; I don't care. I'll be asleep.
posted by Windigo at 5:02 AM on February 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


the cydonian : this does not seem to tally with the official statement from Soutwest

'Mr. Smith originally purchased two Southwest seats on a flight from Oakland to Burbank – as he’s been known to do when traveling on Southwest. He decided to change his plans and board an earlier flight to Burbank, which technically means flying standby. As you may know, airlines are not able to clear standby passengers until all Customers are boarded. When the time came to board Mr. Smith, we had only a single seat available for him to occupy.'

If he purchased two seats then clearly he knows the dealio. I would have thought his lawyers would be all over an official statement from southwest if this was untrue.
posted by numberstation at 5:08 AM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Palliser: Sounds like there's going to be at least one baby on any flight you're on.

Oh snap!

You fly Chicago to L.A. eight-to-ten times a year, 4.5 hours each way, with a baby (or three) screaming the whole way there, or a three-year-old kicking the back of your seat (no matter how often you *politely* ask the parent if they could stop the kicking), and get back to me on how much of a baby I am. No earplugs or iPods or noise-canceling headphones stand a chance against the screech of a baby, and unless parents stop treating their children's obnoxious behavior as "darling" or "just what kids do!", there's nothing that combats kicking either.

I didn't say parents with babies and toddlers shouldn't fly; I said I would pay extra to secure a flight without them.
posted by tzikeh at 5:25 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


As mentioned in the title, Smith has a movie coming out next week. He is also a master of self promotion.

Unlike the subject of this story, any chance of this being a coincidence, is vanishingly slender...
posted by fairmettle at 5:37 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


If he purchased two seats then clearly he knows the dealio.

And when he buys the entire row for privacy, does that prove he really needs three seats then?
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:03 AM on February 15, 2010


>: I want to hear more about what happened to duncadunc's mom in 1983. It sounds like that was one hell of a year for her.

She got involved with a man she met on vacation, started meeting people who weren't her family/weren't ridiculously square, and didn't go home when the vacation was over.
Apparently my grandfather said some rather nasty stuff at the time about the father of his future grandchildren.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:03 AM on February 15, 2010


Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's SouthWest's policy: if you spill into a second seat, for whatever reason (LOLfattiees, LOLbodybuilder, whatever), you pay for a second seat. The problem is the people who feel entitled to a de facto share of their neighbour's seat, or a second seat, for free (or rather, at the expense of the other fliers).

and

Blind or functionally illiterate? People of metafilter, you decide!

I am neither blind nor functionally illiterate, rogerd. I was responding to the myriad comments concerning the weight of the passengers. I continue to think that girth is a better indicator than weight of the need for a second seat. If that is indeed Southwest's policy, then that's a good policy, as far as this matter goes. I don't fly Southwest, but I do fly Air France, so I am familiar with their policies and decided to comment on them to offer a comparison within others' discussion of Southwest's policies (particularly since someone mentioned Southwest's policy of refunding the price of the second seat as being unique). I'm not sure I understand the problem here, but I'm also not entirely sure I care, which I assume is a byproduct of functional illiteracy.
posted by Heretic at 6:04 AM on February 15, 2010


But I am apparently blind since I spelled rodgerd's name incorrectly.
posted by Heretic at 6:08 AM on February 15, 2010


Seems to me there's no way a potential passenger can ever know in advance whether they will "need" two seats or not.

Passengers are parcels to be delivered. You have to check the dimensions and weight before you set the price.

"This aircraft has seats in three standard sizes. Sit in one of these test seats and we'll figure out which one is for you. At the same time, the seat will weigh you. Your ticket will be priced according to a base rate [kids and dwarfs don't ride for free], the seat width you need [if you spill over enough to push out the spring-loaded walls of the test seat, you're bumped up to the next size], and your weight at boarding [if you weigh twice as much as the parcel next to you, you shouldn't expect to be delivered for the same amount]."
posted by pracowity at 6:33 AM on February 15, 2010


Movie theater seats, for instance, have gotten deeper and wider over the years. If you're used to sitting in a modern theater with big seats, the old ones feel…cramped.

Good post. It's odd - you'd think they'd use that same excuse that they need to make money. I thought I'd seen posts around here about how movie theaters are hurting because of the fees the studios charge, and that's why food prices are so high and what not. I obviously hamburgered a bunch of that but I do think that buses and taxis use more gas to transport heavier people. I've been passed up by buses before that were too full, and it's probably a certainty there was at least one person taking up 2 seats with girth.

But really (even though this Kevin Smith thing isn't even relevant at this point since he just seems to have gotten on the bad side of some employees pissed at him) it seems like the question is about other passengers, not overweight ones.

Other passengers who were screamy kids themselves but now magically refuse to be anywhere near kids. Other passengers who have overweight moms and dads but refuse to sit next to them on a plane for an hour. Other passengers who start to view themselves as acceptable, and others as unacceptable, which is what my obviously sarcastic post was leading into.

I'd love to say "everybody knows they have these policies, so just don't fly!", but it's obviously more complicated than that when families with new babies live across the country from grandparents, business require employees of all sizes to fly somewhere for a meeting, and family events or issues necessitate hopping on a plane.

I'd just feel bad for the man or woman stuffed uncomfortably into a seat for a couple of hours, than be mad that their elbow or leg touches me every so often. Similarly, I'd feel bad for the parent trying to figure out how to quiet their kid for a couple of hours, rather than scowl at them like they actually want their baby to scream.
posted by cashman at 6:37 AM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe I am not understanding the outrage here correctly

You're not.

He buys additional seats on occasion for privacy's sake. This one flight, he chose to forgo that because the plane was already full and he preferred to be on that earlier flight so he could get home sooner, rather than take the following flight where he'd get his additional privacy seat.

They asked him to leave because they said he wasn't capable of fitting in the seat according to their guidelines. But he was sitting in the seat already and comfortably so.

In addition, his real outrage is that they did the same thing to a woman sharing the following flight with him not two hours later. When there was an empty, paid-for seat between them.

It was self-righteous bullying on the part of the airline employees, not a fat guy who doesn't like to be called out on his heft. What the fuck are you (and all the dickheads going on an on about "serves the fat fuck right") not getting?




Also, he has no "handlers" or "yes men", so all these remarks about the "spoiled rich film director" are ignorant.
posted by grubi at 6:38 AM on February 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


the cydonian : this does not seem to tally with the official statement from Soutwest

'Mr. Smith originally purchased two Southwest seats on a flight from Oakland to Burbank – as he’s been known to do when traveling on Southwest. He decided to change his plans and board an earlier flight to Burbank, which technically means flying standby. As you may know, airlines are not able to clear standby passengers until all Customers are boarded. When the time came to board Mr. Smith, we had only a single seat available for him to occupy.'

If he purchased two seats then clearly he knows the dealio. I would have thought his lawyers would be all over an official statement from southwest if this was untrue.


1. Yeah, the corporation has no reason to lie. Sure.
2. He could fit into the seat, regardless of past purchases.

Any questions?
posted by grubi at 6:41 AM on February 15, 2010


As mentioned in the title, Smith has a movie coming out next week. He is also a master of self promotion.

Unlike the subject of this story, any chance of this being a coincidence, is vanishingly slender...


Which is why nowhere on any of the television advertisements for his film is there a single mention of his name. Which is why his films don't do all that well at the box office.

Because he's a "master of self-promotion." Riiiight.
posted by grubi at 6:42 AM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


'Mr. Smith originally purchased two Southwest seats on a flight from Oakland to Burbank – as he’s been known to do when traveling on Southwest. He decided to change his plans and board an earlier flight to Burbank, which technically means flying standby. As you may know, airlines are not able to clear standby passengers until all Customers are boarded. When the time came to board Mr. Smith, we had only a single seat available for him to occupy.'

If he purchased two seats then clearly he knows the dealio. I would have thought his lawyers would be all over an official statement from southwest if this was untrue.


From his podcast, he says he's flown Southwest on a single seat before; that while he did buy an entire row, it's because he was expecting his wife to be around as well, and that he didn't do this before last week.

Basically, according to Southwest's own policy, he shouldn't have been ejected, and he certainly shouldn't have been told that it was for "security reasons", which is as clear a lie as it can be. The fact is airline employees suddenly have discovered the power to lie without consequences; that's when you stop feeling any sympathy for their side of the story.
posted by the cydonian at 6:49 AM on February 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


I hadn't seen it mentioned so far in the comments here: the rest of his story on the podcast tells of his two-seat flight home, in which a larger woman was seated in the third seat in his row. She was removed from her seat, warned that she might not be allowed to fly, and basically told she had to go back and ask Smith if she could overflow into his extra seat even though she could put her armrest down.

That, as he points out, was unnecessary humiliation (for her, and for him - it's not anybody's business that he bought two seats, though he didn't mind telling her that). He said he was willing to just be pissed about his treatment and also joke about it to get over his own humiliation and move on, but seeing it happen a second time starts to smack of a fat-shaming policy.

As Smith said in telling the story, being fat can suck and there are people in the world who hate you for being fat. And some of those people like to do you a favor by making you feel bad so that you'll know you're fat, because you probably didn't realize it or you wouldn't be fat. That may personally feel good to the people who do it, but it's shit customer service.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:03 AM on February 15, 2010 [21 favorites]


(Lyn, I did mention it, but not in such detail.)
posted by grubi at 7:08 AM on February 15, 2010


Disclaimer: I am fat. I am not "too fat" to fit in a seat yet.

Fuck off, Southwest. Come talk to be about a "fair seating policy" when you account for those fucking ex-linebackers with 65" chests and 25" waists who squeeze me against the window and then loudly complain to the stewardess that 1 mm of my flesh is squeezing against "his" armrest.
posted by muddgirl at 7:08 AM on February 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


When are people going to start taking responsibility for their actions? Smokers pay more for insurance, bad drivers pay more for insurance, why shouldn't overweight people pay more for using more of a service? Airlines and health insurance included. I'm sick of subsidizing these people for something they have control over.

[citation needed]

But you knew that, you were just trolling.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:08 AM on February 15, 2010


buys the entire row for privacy

Last I flew SWA, they (still) did not have seat assignments, so there would be no way to buy a "row."

This would make the whole "buying two seats" thing awkward, come to think of it, because there would be no way to stop people from sitting in your "second" seat without telling them "sorry, I bought two seats" and then getting into the whole metaphysical discussion of where your "second" seat is when you don't have seat assignments, plus highlighting the fact that you are a passenger of size.
posted by Mid at 7:16 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, seriously, the guy has to be a multimillionaire. What is he doing on Southwest? He can't take a car service down to LAX and fly in first class on the carrier of his choice? (Avoiding all "size" issues.)
posted by Mid at 7:21 AM on February 15, 2010


FFS Slap*Happy you link to some 15 line abstract on a paper to do with obese diabectic patients and you have the gall to imply this proves that obese have no control over their obesity. In fact even the abstract makes clear that treatment resulted in reduced loss for all patients involved. You are also quick to point the finger at conifer for alleged trolling but perhaps he just has an opinion that is different to yours huh?
posted by numberstation at 7:26 AM on February 15, 2010


Folks, if you want to take this plane to "fat people can/cannot control obesity" land, you're going to have to do that in MetaTalk. Wheels up, that's it.
posted by jessamyn at 7:30 AM on February 15, 2010


What is he doing on Southwest? He can't take a car service down to LAX and fly in first class on the carrier of his choice? (Avoiding all "size" issues.)

Because he chose to. What about his choice or his solvency fails to entitle him to adequate customer service?
posted by grubi at 7:31 AM on February 15, 2010


People don't stay millionaires by hiring car services and flying first class.

Apropos of nothing, I saw James Cromwell flying stand-by to Burbank when I was flying through LAX this winter. Our flights were at the same gate and he was clearly waiting to be recognized.

All I could thing was, "Damn, I'm glad I don't have to sit next to someone that tall."
posted by muddgirl at 7:33 AM on February 15, 2010


Mid: he was flying from Oakland to Burbank. Southwest is apparently the only sane choice for that route if you want a direct flight. He said he normally will buy first-class or business-class tickets for longer flights but that it just made no financial sense to do so for a one-hour flight from SF-LA or LA-Vegas.

On the "he's got a movie coming out" thing: he's turning down interviews left and right. Good Morning America apparently showed up at his house last night after he turned them down for an on-set interview and he still said no.

From what he said on SModcast, he didn't "buy an entire row" so much as buy two seats for himself (for privacy) plus one for his wife who was then later unable to take the trip.

On preview: what grubi said
posted by Bluecoat93 at 7:44 AM on February 15, 2010


The flight attendant assumed he was buying two seats because of his FATNESS. Like poor fat "regular" people do.

Kevin's motive for buying two seats was for privacy. Like rich famous people do.

The flight attendant didn't know he was a rich famous person and assumed he was buying two seats because he was a fatass.

She threw her power around in order to remove him from the plane.

For two reasons:

1) He insisted on a refund for the one ticket he wasn't using. (you can tell this made her mad a bit when kevin explains it on the podcast, she was hurried already)

2) She assumed he normally flew the fat man two seat rule and was trying to skirt the rules.

But Kevin has a point, he was able to sit in a seat with the armrests down and not protruding onto the other passengers. Southwest rules use this as the guide marker.

The flight attendant couldn't see past the "normally two seats" because she had no idea that she was dealing with someone who could afford an extra seat for privacy.

The third person in the story is apparently a guy who stooged Kevin out as he was boarding the plane. The flight attendant still feeling spurned from Kevin insisting on the ticket refund THEN saw the opportunity to throw her power at a fatty. She then lied saying the captain had seen Kevin and told him he was a risk (strengthend by her two ticket assmption).

So if I was a judge I'd have to rule in favor in Kevin.

The attendant made an incorrect assumption in assuming the second seat was for fatness.
posted by andryeevna at 7:57 AM on February 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


I just measured my perfectly ordinary office chair. 18.5" between the armrests. A 17" airline seat sounds like a perfectly reasonable standard width to me — for the cattle-class seating, at any rate.

Isn't it odd how most of the rest of the world isn't obese? Americans must have some very unusual genetic thing going on.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:02 AM on February 15, 2010


I just sat on my keyboard and [saHGIHG=64S7D68AS6ADHIKDSKL;HGN 'JSDIG]IDPSHGW[0t38q7902=

Using a sheet of A3 paper and my own keyboard for reference I have mapped out your ass and can only assume that you shifted somewhat during the process and that you are not using an ergonomic keyboard.
posted by longbaugh at 8:09 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, FFF, since we're playing the numbers game, my perfectly ordinary and standard office chair is 20" between the armrests.

And it's ridiculous to pretend that an office chair (that ONLY YOU sit in) and a typical tiny-ass airline seat (which is crammed next to two others) are in any way comparable.
posted by muddgirl at 8:11 AM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]




if there's any more stock footage of old ladies clapping I shall clear the court!
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:32 AM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I mentioned the same thing here about Shyamalan and some asshole told me I don't know what I'm talking about. I surely don't, but I'm just as positive that person didn't either. So to cut it short, shitty directors get work because they make people money.

Just seen this
yeah, that asshole was me... and yeah, you don't know what you are talking about.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:00 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think we'll ever know exactly what went down on the plane. Sounds like Kevin got a raw deal, but as a fan of his podcast, I know he can be a huge drama queen over things. Sucks for all involved.

My comment is regarding "airplane seats are unfair, AMIRITE" sentiment.

As a frequent flier of average size (5'9" 165#). I find my small personal space frequently compromised by larger people. I really, really dislike it. The space we get is small enough as it is and to have that infringed upon by a stranger is very uncomfortable.

I don't really care if it's 6'5" linebacker or an overweight person or a squirmy kid. They should stay out of my space. Don't blame the airlines for your impact on me.

To blame the width of seats or the fact that there aren't variable sized airplanes or a complicated pricing policy or any other excuse for people that don't fit within the seat is ridiculous.

People should be responsible for their own behavior and impact on others.
posted by Argyle at 9:02 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


SWA must have gotten stricter about enforcing this policy in the past nine years.

First, I'm a big (fat) guy. No doubt about it. In March of 2001 when my wife and I flew on SWA from Austin to Chattanooga for our wedding (and then to Baltimore for the honeymoon), all I did was ask for a seatbelt extender. This was graciously provided, and not once (in the 5+ flights I took in that one-week period) did a flight attendant mention having to pay for another seat.

In June of last year, my mother and I flew Delta from Houston to Chattanooga. I preemptively got two tickets, got my two seats, a seatbelt extender, left the armrest up (although it was not necessary), and was comfortable as possible considering I was on my way to bury my wife.
posted by mrbill at 9:04 AM on February 15, 2010


As disheartened as I am by the bitterness expressed against overweight people when these debates come around, I'm disappointed that people so willingly do the airlines' dirty work for them here. The solution to the obesity problem is obviously more complex than simply telling people to eat less and exercise--considering, you know, that hasn't worked--but so many non-obese people still oversimplify it. I always find it interesting the change in perspective when skinny people I have known start to gain weight as they get older.

But setting aside the kind of moralizing we would find offensive in any other context, the fact is that obesity has increased, while at the same time airlines have not acknowledged this and have insisted in minimizing per-passenger space available. We would fault any other business for not accommodating such real-world trends. (I was similarly bothered when AT&T recently tried to officially cite 'bandwidth hogs' as reasons for network overload, and people took the bait, casting dispersions on file sharers and video streamers, as opposed to blaming AT&T for selling 'unlimited' access). Yet so many people tend to frame this in the classic right-wing-talk-radio terms that some group out there is trying to take away what you deserve, and so they blame other passengers instead of, for instance, the company that is taking your money to provide you with the shittiest, most un-futuristic flying experience you will have, at least until the next time you fly.

I keep trying to undertand the reasoning behind it, but I wonder if it's just as simple as the fact that we always need some target group of people to be repositories for our hostility.
posted by troybob at 9:08 AM on February 15, 2010 [11 favorites]


I don't really care if it's 6'5" linebacker or an overweight person or a squirmy kid. They should stay out of my space. Don't blame the airlines for your impact on me.

But Argyle, the airline's policy will ONLY prevent a very specific type of "overweight" person from staying out of "your space".

A woman with wide hips will have to buy two seats, because her hips are wide. A man with narrow hips but a big ol' belly and big ol' shoulders will NOT have to buy two seats, because the airline's policy ignores the fact that people are 3-dimensional.

Think of this another way - if you want more room in an airplane, then why can't you buy the more expensive ticket? Capitalism in action!
posted by muddgirl at 9:09 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I keep trying to undertand the reasoning behind it, but I wonder if it's just as simple as the fact that we always need some target group of people to be repositories for our hostility.

I think you've hit it there. I notice for one thing that, in addition to having some of the largest people on the planet, us-ians also have one of the largest "personal space" concepts in the world.

nowhere is this more apparent to me than in a line - particularly a fast-food restaurant line. the restaurants that have cattle gates approaching the service counter (BK, Wendy's) tend to have a fairly orderly queue of people because they have been told where to be, and space be damned.

the ones without - I'm looking at you, Chick-Fil-A - have the following distribution: four registers with one or two people in front of each of them, one person standing on point waiting for the next free cashier, and a mill of singles and clusters waiting for the line point to free up, calculating their temporal position in the notional line (I saw him there when I came in but she came in after me) and trying not to look at or stand too close to anyone else.

weirdly, at McDonalds, which also eschews cattle crushes, people form into four equal-length queues in some outlets but form the funnel-mass peculiar to Chick-Fil-A at others.

in summary, huge personal space requirements plus lots of big people equals hurt feelings all around.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:17 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


if you want more room in an airplane, then why can't you buy the more expensive ticket?

because on Jan. 15 when I buy my seat for April 9, I don't know if they're going to seat me next to Uncle Al or Mr. Greenjeans. I'm also not getting the "we refund your money if you don't spill into two seats" policy. why would a company ever refund my money once they had it, short of a failure of service on their part?
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:19 AM on February 15, 2010


Uncle Al for values of Uncle Al that equal Captain Kangaroo, sorry
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:20 AM on February 15, 2010


But it's clear that you don't want anyone to impinge on the rectangular box that you are paying for, and it is impossible to assume that you will only be seated next to someone with a 34" ass or less.
posted by muddgirl at 9:23 AM on February 15, 2010


so, wait, you're saying I should expect to pay extra just to not share my seat with somebody?
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:28 AM on February 15, 2010


I have a better idea - I'll pay the regular fare and you pay the regular fare, and when we sit down, however much of my seat you overhang, you pay me that percentage of what I paid for my seat. I'll show you my receipt.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:29 AM on February 15, 2010


to be truthful, I don't fly enough for this to actually impact my quality of life. what I really hate is when I request the window seat and don't get it.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:31 AM on February 15, 2010


I can't believe I read the whole thing! oof.
posted by clockwork at 9:35 AM on February 15, 2010


mathowie wrote: "... I stumbled onto Kevin Smith's twitter stream last week and I was amazed by how he uses it. ... almost everything is a reply to a fan asking a question. He treats Twitter as basically a public email stream, answering hundreds of questions per day in multiple sessions clustered around each other. It's like every two hours he hammers out 30 replies, then does it again and again."

Hmmm, maybe he could find a way to hook his smartphone to a treadmill so he has to run to tweet.
posted by Hey, Zeus! at 9:46 AM on February 15, 2010


A woman with wide hips will have to buy two seats, because her hips are wide. A man with narrow hips but a big ol' belly and big ol' shoulders will NOT have to buy two seats, because the airline's policy ignores the fact that people are 3-dimensional.

To be fair, it does say "cannot fit comfortably in one seat" which would seem to apply to anyone who can't fit in the seat, regardless of the particular part of their anatomy that can't be contained.
posted by electroboy at 9:52 AM on February 15, 2010


I just listened to Smodcast # 106 in it's entirety. It was recorded with his wife once he got home and (what sounds like) before he read the SW Airlines "apology" or received any calls.

Bottom line:
Kevin met all requirements set by SW Airlines-
He was able to bring down the arm rests comfortably and buckle his seatbelt.
There's more. Oh.So.Much.More that explains why he was fired up.

Only two MeFites listened to his side?
Huh.
posted by will wait 4 tanjents at 9:55 AM on February 15, 2010


I really wish I knew what REALLY happened here. Yes, the podcast says it was a certain way, but I don't know Kevin Smith personally, so it might not have gone down in just the way he says on his podcast. The whole "I usually buy extra seats for privacy" may or may not be true. He does seem to have gained weight since the last time I saw him in a movie or show, so maybe he didn't used to need two seats, but now he does.

I can say that as far as Southwest is concerned, I do have some experience. Southwest has a Twitter account (I know lots of Mefites hate Twitter but bear with me) and I have actually tweeted them and gotten responses in real time when I had flight issues and gotten help. On at least three occasions Delta was nowhere to be found when I needed their help [they closed up their help desk in the airport, no one was answering the frequent flier line, and their online site was (not surprisingly) borked from people trying to re-schedule. My husband was only able to get through with his super duper platinum status special number because he flies all the time]. Southwest seems to have a fair baggage policy, too, and I like that.

I appreciate all those in this thread who kept the issue about costs and space and didn't devolve into HURFDURFFATTIES or OPPRESSEDALLMYLIFE territory.
posted by misha at 9:56 AM on February 15, 2010


Can I buy the extra "fat" seat on SWA (and get the refund if the flight isn't full) even though I'm 6' 145 and look like a fence post?* 'Cause I'd sure like to get the window plus the middle, and curl up in the corner with a book. Can I take twice as many carry-on bags? Bonus.

*No? Discrimination!!!!!1
posted by ctmf at 9:56 AM on February 15, 2010


He's flying Southwest? I know he hasn't had a hit in a while, but damn. Points for keeping it real, I guess, but dude: You can afford a flight with bigger seats!

You'd be surprised at who flies SWA. I once sat behind Julianna Margulies.
posted by 6:1 at 10:02 AM on February 15, 2010


There was a comedian once who said SWA's motto should be "We're goofy, you're cattle"
posted by Hey, Zeus! at 10:03 AM on February 15, 2010


Metafilter: the particular part of their anatomy that can't be contained.

Sorry.

posted by ctmf at 10:04 AM on February 15, 2010


You'd be surprised at who flies SWA. I once sat behind Julianna Margulies.

People seem to be either over-estimating how much money some of the B-list Hollywood types have to throw around, or over-estimating how much cash you can waste if you are that rich. (Okay, Margulies' new show is doing okay so she's probably got more money to burn now).

Hollywood types have to travel a lot. Unless it is for a shoot, they're paying for it themselves in most cases. If you've got a couple of million in the bank but your income stream is unpredictable and you have to have a place in Los Angeles or New York City (read: MUCHO DINERO) you can't be dropping $2000 for a flight within the United States. Yeah, a bunch of celebs do that anyway. Which is why some of them end up broke and screwed up.
posted by Justinian at 10:28 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, the podcast says it was a certain way, but I don't know Kevin Smith personally, so it might not have gone down in just the way he says on his podcast

I don't get this. Either you believe his version, or you think it is a lie. What does it have to do with knowing Smith personally? Do you really need to know, say, Charlie Chaplin to believe that the events decsribed in My Autobiography are true? More to the point, do you always give the benefit of doubt to nameless corporations?
posted by the cydonian at 10:32 AM on February 15, 2010


I'm not inclined to totally believe either's side of the story, personally.

Having worked in customer service I'm aware of how many shitty employees there are and how many customers lie their asses off to make themselves seem the victim.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:49 AM on February 15, 2010


I've worked in customer service for 20 years. I'm still inclined to believe Smith's story in its entirety because tis is not a guy who lies to make himself look good. He makes himself the butt of (fat) jokes repeatedly and isn't wrapped up in his own ego very much (at least not as much as I'm wrapped up in mine).

Bad CSRs and bad customers abound, but I can weed through the bullshit.
posted by grubi at 10:59 AM on February 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


If there's a row of 3 seats, sell that row to two large people, with each paying 150% of normal fare. They get plenty of room, they're not infringing on anyone else's space, and they don't have to pay for two seats.
posted by desjardins at 11:03 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Isn't Chaplin's autobiography a book that completely neglects to mention several of his wives?
posted by kyrademon at 11:05 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't get this. Either you believe his version, or you think it is a lie.

Or, you know, I think it's a subjective take on what happened, since he was involved and emotional, rather than an objective party, and it could be full of hyperbole, which some who DO seem to know him have suggested.

Do you really need to know, say, Charlie Chaplin to believe that the events decsribed in My Autobiography are true?

I've read David Niven's autobiography, and George Burns and a few others, and they've been embellished so they're more humorous, actually.

More to the point, do you always give the benefit of doubt to nameless corporations?


Oh, yeah. *rolls eyes* I always step on the little man. Sigh. Did you even read my comment?

I didn't take SW's "side", I just said that I had experienced good customer service from them myself, and that's all I could speak to. And you do realize that corporations are made up of people too, right?

I'd really like to hear the take of someone else who was on the plane at the time and didn't have any stake in this.
posted by misha at 11:23 AM on February 15, 2010


I don't get this. Either you believe his version, or you think it is a lie.

You can accept that the details of a story are true (as the storyteller sees it) without concluding that the storyteller is speaking capital-T Truth. By which I mean to say: Is the storyteller certain it happened absolutely this way, that the person speaking at a given moment said exactly that thing, that this event definitely followed that one, et cetera? No way -- you know yourself that that's not how it works. What's being left out; what's being forgotten; what's just straight up unknown to the storyteller in the first place (insights into the policies and corporate culture of the airline in question)? I believe that Smith believes his version, sure, but I don't think he carried it down off Mount Sinai on stone tablets.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:23 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


but I don't think he carried it down off Mount Sinai on stone tablets.

I thought that was a metaphor?
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:27 AM on February 15, 2010


Slap Happy quotes me:

When are people going to start taking responsibility for their actions? Smokers pay more for insurance, bad drivers pay more for insurance, why shouldn't overweight people pay more for using more of a service? Airlines and health insurance included. I'm sick of subsidizing these people for something they have control over.

and then says:

[citation needed]
But you knew that, you were just trolling.


OK, first, that link shows that overweight people can lose weight. Second, a difference of opinion doesn't mean I'm trolling. If I'm sitting next to Kevin Smith (who I'm a huge fan of) on Southwest Airlines, and he weighs significantly more than, and his baggage weighs the same as mine, I am subsidizing his flight. Most of an airlines expense is fuel. It takes more fuel to fly more weight. It's as simple as that. Whether it's Kevin Smith or Joe Schmoe from Down The Road, what logic is there in me paying for him to be flown around? 80% of my family is overweight, but through my life, I've chosen not to stuff my face and get off my ass and do some exercise. If you eat less calories than you expend, YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT. For all those people that have made that choice, fine, but don't expect me and others to pay half your freight!
posted by conifer at 11:27 AM on February 15, 2010


conifer - I'm 5'0" and 95 lbs. My husband is 5'10" and 165 lbs. So he's average and I'm slightly underweight. Should he really pay more than me? Your logic, it does not make sense.
posted by desjardins at 11:36 AM on February 15, 2010


Which is why nowhere on any of the television advertisements for his film is there a single mention of his name. Which is why his films don't do all that well at the box office.
Yeah, I had no idea that this was a Kevin Smith movie until this thread. It looked like a generic comedy. I didn't know the "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" was one of his movies either right away.
Kevin Smith can obviously afford to fly first class, I would imagine. Maybe he just tries to live like a "normal" American to "keep it real" so his movies don't lose their working class touch?
Because he chose to. What about his choice or his solvency fails to entitle him to adequate customer service?
Well, obviously "Adequate customer service" isn't a service southwest airlines is setup to provide? People know SW's rep when they buy tickets.
posted by delmoi at 11:38 AM on February 15, 2010


Also, regarding the "bought two seats before" thing - he says he buys extra seats and sometimes all the seats in a whole row, for privacy.

Kevin Smith enjoys privacy? This, from the man whose entire autobiography seemed to focus on

a. his masturbatory habits
b. the huge amount of time he spends in the bathroom
c. how many times he fucks his hot wife (frequently)

THIS guy likes privacy? You don't say.

Kevin Smith is THE reason I bought a Kindle. When I was traveling more frequently for work, I got stuck without reading material in some godforsaken airport more than once. The only relatively interesting looking book once was his autobiography. Yeah. Again. He's the reason I ended up dropping the cash for a Kindle. Never again will I be stuck between that purchasing rock and hard place!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:55 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Never again will I be stuck between that purchasing rock and hard place!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:55 PM on February 15 [+] [!]


Eponysterical.
posted by grubi at 11:57 AM on February 15, 2010


Desjardin wrote:
conifer - I'm 5'0" and 95 lbs. My husband is 5'10" and 165 lbs. So he's average and I'm slightly underweight. Should he really pay more than me? Your logic, it does not make sense.
Yes, he should pay more. If you ship a 165lb package, it costs more to ship than a 95lb package, right? Why do you think that is? Could it be it's more expensive to ship heavier things? Same holds true for people on aeroplanes.
posted by conifer at 12:14 PM on February 15, 2010


This thread is awesome. Truly. What a hilarious, outrageous, bizarre roundelay of Metafiltering, all courtesy of a chubby middling celeb and a discount airline. I'd like to thank you all, but the following Mefites deserve special recognition for their work in this thread. Take a bow:

Pope Guilty
Mayor Curley
MegoSteve
peedro
jessamyn
furiousxgeorge
palliser
mpbx
posted by william_boot at 12:18 PM on February 15, 2010


Yes, he should pay more. If you ship a 165lb package, it costs more to ship than a 95lb package, right? Why do you think that is? Could it be it's more expensive to ship heavier things? Same holds true for people on aeroplanes.

How about a bus? Or a taxi?
posted by cashman at 12:22 PM on February 15, 2010


Let's just charge people for every way they could inconvenience fellow passengers. For example, I will charge the following amounts if you sit next to me:

$5 for bad breath
$10 if your clothes/breath reek of cigarette smoke
$15 if you have body odor
$20 if you ask if I'm married/have a boyfriend
$25 if you try to talk to me while I'm reading
$30 if you try to talk to me while I'm listening to music
$35 if I can hear your music
$40 if you order more than two drinks
$45 if you fall asleep with any part of your body touching mine
$50 if it's your head on my shoulder
posted by desjardins at 12:22 PM on February 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


$60 if you bump my head as you walk by and then rub my hair as you say your apology.
posted by cashman at 12:32 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Boy, are my arms tired...
posted by Kloryne at 12:40 PM on February 15, 2010


desjardins - you will like this, if you haven't seen it already.
posted by Mid at 12:40 PM on February 15, 2010


This is one of my favorite screaming child on plane videos. (OK, it's actually the only screaming child on plane video I've ever seen.)
posted by Kloryne at 12:47 PM on February 15, 2010


As a skinny person who often gets charged for overweight luggage, I'm bitter. So, I weigh 125 pounds and my luggage weighs 100 pounds, for a total of 225 pounds. And the other passenger weighs 290 pounds and has a suitcase that weighs 40 pounds, for a total of 330 pounds. Yet I'm the one who gets charged the overage fee because my luggage is too heavy, even though my total weight contribution to the plane is 100 pounds less than the other passenger.

I say (in fact I said this to my husband 2 days ago on the way to the airport) that everybody gets 300 pounds when they fly. If you weigh 100 pounds you can bring on 200 pounds of luggage for free! If you weigh 300 pounds you either A) lose 20 pounds before your trip so you can bring a small bag B) cut off your arm right before check-in, or C) fly completely naked.

This seems fair to me.
posted by staggering termagant at 1:01 PM on February 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why do you think that is? Could it be it's more expensive to ship heavier things? Same holds true for people on aeroplanes.

Agreed!

Oh wait, fuck! What do we do about those pesky anti-discrimination laws? It's as if we were meant to treat humans as humans, and not believe them to be analogous to packages.
posted by Think_Long at 1:02 PM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


or C) fly completely naked.

As a fat person with access to a mirror...trust me you don't want this.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:10 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's as if we were meant to treat humans as humans, and not believe them to be analogous to packages.

good point. in fact, I don't mind subsidizing some of your weight, just like I'd be really happy to pay a little extra in taxes just so all of us could have health care. I just want all 17 inches of my seat. well, maybe not all of it. come to that, they keep those planes so fucking cold I'm really, honestly, just looking for someone to snuggle with. can I have some of your nachos?
posted by toodleydoodley at 1:29 PM on February 15, 2010


I'm really, honestly, just looking for someone to snuggle with. can I have some of your nachos?

I think you’re calling me fat in a very coy manner, but the Wii says I’m underweight, so now I’m really confused about what body-image issues I should be having. And no, you can’t have my nachos – I don’t generally share my food.
posted by Think_Long at 1:50 PM on February 15, 2010


$45 if you fall asleep with any part of your body touching mine

Outrageous. They only charge $20 in town.
posted by electroboy at 1:54 PM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


What do we do about those pesky anti-discrimination laws?

Or even the reasons for them. Living in a society means tolerating a certain degree of variability of human shapes, types, and personalities. Society has tolerated and accommodated fat people before; it's not like you can blame those currently overweight because there are more of them to tolerate now. But also, people seem to be developing a more unrealistic expectation of the level of personal comfort they should maintain within a crowd of strangers. Sometimes when you go out, you're going to be the one next to the fat guy, or the crying baby, the lady who won't shut up, the guy who smells, the lady with digestive problems, the lady with incontinence, the old guy who keeps getting lost, the drugged-out dude who doesn't have a clue. Often these are strangers; but the trade-off is that sometimes they are you or your family or friends, and it would be unfair to expect to be treated with dignity and respect and yet not do the same for others. I always thought the best approach is to figure there is a law of averages that pretty much exposes everyone to the same degree.

When obesity topics come around, I usually find it rather heartbreaking. Not as much for me personally; I was the fat kid growing up, and as an adult have fluctuated within a 30-pound range of healthy, and I've pretty much grown accustomed to hating myself more than anyone else can pile on at this point. But I think of people close to me who have struggles with weight; they don't deserve to be called names, to be ridiculed or targeted; they're just trying to get by as much as anyone else, and it just happens that some of their major issues are visible to the rest of the world, in a way that runs counter to our ideals of beauty. The attempt to wrap it in language that suggests one's own rights are being infringed upon because someone else is overweight is ridiculous (particularly considering the range of other costly moral/physical/psychological failings that would pretty much condemn all of us for something) and the vicious tone of language directed toward fat people more often calls it out as a disingenuous.
posted by troybob at 2:03 PM on February 15, 2010 [16 favorites]


$45 if you fall asleep with any part of your body touching mine

But what if I'm certified cute?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:10 PM on February 15, 2010


What if you're too big for one seat, but your spouse is little? Can you average it out, so you buy two seats and share with your spouse with the armrest up? (and does MeFi spousing count?)
posted by ctmf at 2:25 PM on February 15, 2010


What if you're too big for one seat, but your spouse is little? Can you average it out, so you buy two seats and share with your spouse with the armrest up? (and does MeFi spousing count?)

I'm not overweight, but now I'm going to go through this thread and spouse all the self-described super-thin Mefites participating, just so I can have *more* room.

And if I lose a few more pounds, I'll spouse the rest of you and we can take over the aisle.
posted by misha at 3:02 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


troybob says:
Living in a society means tolerating a certain degree of variability of human shapes, types, and personalities.
I agree, until your personal foibles intrude on my space. If my personality dictates that I scream at the top of my lungs instead of talking, people are going to come down on me pretty hard and fast. I would have to make allowances. If your personality dictates that you can't control your intake of food, that's fine, until it starts intruding into other peoples space, literally and figuratively. The rest of the world shouldn't be forced to make allowances for you.
posted by conifer at 3:47 PM on February 15, 2010


I regularly listen to his Smodcast and I just listened to a lot of his side of the story in his latest one. One thing that most of us will agree with is that Smith can tell a story very well, and this misadventure is no exception. If even half of what he says is true then Southwest's behavior--and namely the behavior of just a few people--was very, very bad indeed.

Long story short, according to Smith: At the gate the staff did mention his weight but he assured them he could fit into one seat. On the sky ramp one SW employee gave him a suspicious look and made comments about him to another SW employee. He boarded and got a middle seat in the front, with two small-ish women on either side. Very quickly the SW gate employee came in to tell him there were "security issues" and he had to get off. He put down both armrests and even asked both women beside him if they were uncomfortable, to which they said no. SW employee was adamant, saying the captain said he couldn't ride. So he got off and went back in the terminal.

Ok, not so short, but there are a lot more details. Just listen to the podcast, if nothing else it's entertaining to listen to.
posted by zardoz at 3:50 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


troybob: The attempt to wrap it in language that suggests one's own rights are being infringed upon because someone else is overweight is ridiculous (particularly considering the range of other costly moral/physical/psychological failings that would pretty much condemn all of us for something) and the vicious tone of language directed toward fat people more often calls it out as a disingenuous.

Exactly right, great comment.
posted by JHarris at 3:59 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Living in a society means tolerating a certain degree of variability of human shapes, types, and personalities.

I agree, until your personal foibles intrude on my space.


The point is that it is not your space. It is public space.

If your personality dictates that you can't control your intake of food, that's fine, until it starts intruding into other peoples space, literally and figuratively.

See, this is where I call the argument disingenuous. It's one thing to argue based on some strange notion of space-ownership, but throwing in 'foibles', 'personality', and 'can't control' gives it away as just an excuse to bitch about people you don't want to see or be around (really...figurative space?). People take up the amount of space they take up, and it's kind of an inherent right to do so. People are large for a variety of reasons, and it is not for you to assume whether that is within the control of the person or not.
posted by troybob at 4:09 PM on February 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


What do we do about those pesky anti-discrimination laws?

Things may be different in your jurisdiction, but I studied anti-discrimination law & one of my pet peeves is when people point it whenever any kind of differential treatment is shown for any reason.

"OMG - you're not allowed to have 300 facial piercings in your waitressing role?!?? DISCRIMINATION!!!"

OK, that's a hyperbolic example, but over here the laws only cover expressly limited grounds of illegal discrimination, eg age, sex, race, religion, marital status, sexuality & disability.

Even then, there are exceptions, if the alleged "discrimination" is required for a particular reason (eg women only for topless waitressing jobs). The aim of the laws is not to outlaw each & every possible way that one person might be treated differently to another. The point is to rule out arbitrary & capricious discrimination, when it has nothing to do with the job or service or whatever - eg "All Chinese must pay double for their airline seats"

In this case, anti-discrimination would only (arguably) apply if large size amounted to a disability, and even then, it would be OK to have different rules for people of size if there's a valid, practical justification for those rules. I'll leave it up to others to continue to debate whether or not the airline's justifications are valid, and whether they were validly applied in this case, but anti-discrimination laws don't have much of a place in this debate.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:14 PM on February 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh wait, fuck! What do we do about those pesky anti-discrimination laws?

That's a strawman. Discrimination is not, in and of itself, necessary a bad thing. "Discriminating taste" and so on. Anti-discrimination laws are about unfair discrimination based on characteristics irrelevant to the question at hand. Discriminating against black skinned people when it comes to voting, for example. That's illegal. It is not, however, illegal to discriminate against Swedes when it comes to voting. You're not allowed to vote in the USA if you're a Swedish citizen instead of an American citizen. Why? Because nationality is a relevant characteristic while color of your skin is an irrelevant one.

When it comes to sitting in fixed-width seats on an airplane, weight is a relevant characteristic. It's perfectly understandable and not morally suspect to say "you have to fit in the seat". It's both dangerous and unfair to the person next to you if you don't. So crying about anti-discrimination laws is disingenuous.
posted by Justinian at 4:36 PM on February 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Or, uh, what Ubu said. Sit, Ubu, sit!
posted by Justinian at 4:37 PM on February 15, 2010


People are large for a variety of reasons, and it is not for you to assume whether that is within the control of the person or not.

I'm still kind of curious as to why the some Western nations have extremely high levels of obesity, and others do not. "Genetics" doesn't seem to quite fit the case: it's hardly likely that the USA has evolved to become obese in only a few decades.

Perhaps disease. Maybe there's a "fat virus" going 'round.

Otherwise, I think it has to be put at the feet of diet and lifestyle. Can one legitimately claim that those things are beyond one's control? I'm not so sure.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:45 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The point is that it is not your space. It is public space.

I don't like the "no fatties!" explicit/implict tone some of the recent posts have taken but come on. By what definition is an airline seat purchased by the user a "public space?" To a degree in buying you have to accept that the people around you may be loud, etc, but the one thing it pretty much guarantees you is no one else will be sitting in/using your seat when you get on.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:49 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Even then, there are exceptions, if the alleged "discrimination" is required for a particular reason (eg women only for topless waitressing jobs). The aim of the laws is not to outlaw each & every possible way that one person might be treated differently to another. The point is to rule out arbitrary & capricious discrimination, when it has nothing to do with the job or service or whatever - eg "All Chinese must pay double for their airline seats

That's a fair point, and I definitely have never studied law - so I guess if anyone is qualified to throw in an uneducated point about 'the law', it's me. Outside of the legal definition, however, I can only say that it feels discriminatory; the price combined with the (seemingly, mostly) arbitrary distinction of who is and who isn't fit to fly. Maybe it's not grounds for legal discrimination, and I'm not really arguing against the whole policy, but you can't deny that there is some unwarranted judgment by some in this thread:

If your personality dictates that you can't control your intake of food, that's fine, until it starts intruding into other peoples space, literally and figuratively.

80% of my family is overweight, but through my life, I've chosen not to stuff my face and get off my ass and do some exercise.
posted by Think_Long at 4:56 PM on February 15, 2010


If your personality dictates that you can't control your intake of food, that's fine, until it starts intruding into other peoples space, literally and figuratively.

My head, at the brow, is 25 inches around. How much or a change of my food intake do you think is going to fix that?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:42 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Otherwise, I think it has to be put at the feet of diet and lifestyle. Can one legitimately claim that those things are beyond one's control? I'm not so sure.

You've left out policy. Unhealthy food is cheap in America for a reason. For somebody who hates the way the United States govern itself, and places most of our problems on our politicians, I am, frankly, surprised that you haven't even considered this.

"Why are poor people so stupid and poor in your country? 'Genetics' doesn't seem to quite fit the case: it's hardly likely that the USA has evolved to become stupid and poor in only a few decades. Perhaps disease. Maybe there's a 'stupid, poor, virus' going 'round. Otherwise, I think it has to be put at the feet of lifestyle. Those stupid, poor people are just lazy. Can one legitimately claim that learning and earning is beyond one's control? I'm not so sure."
posted by one_bean at 5:50 PM on February 15, 2010


If you weigh 300 pounds you either A) lose 20 pounds before your trip so you can bring a small bag B) cut off your arm right before check-in, or C) fly completely naked.

D) Reduce the overall load of the plane by ripping an arm off a couple of 120 pound people who are sure to think that you can't catch them and need their self righteous attitudes reined in. Given the number of times I'm asked to get things down from shelves it's not like they're using them for anything.

Seriously people - let the wookie win.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:57 PM on February 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


-Airline seats are teensy. Fact. I'm a 5'5" size 8 woman, and I feel as if I've been crammed into a soup can. I don't care whether they have to make money and are limited by size, because it's freaking awful sitting in one of those things for more than about twenty minutes.

Word. I'm the same size and I would happily pay more per ticket if it meant that I didn't end every flight with horrific joint pain from having my albeit-relatively-short legs all smushed.

At this rate, flying is just going to get more and more obnoxious. As a kid I used to love flying. Now it's like a shitty part-time job you hate and have to pay for as well.

Yeah, this too. Loved to fly as a kid. Now I kind of hate it - mostly because since I've grown to adult-sized the seats are magically less comfortable.

When you're doing a flight with one leg American and one leg European, the contrast is almost hallucinatory.

Well, the difference depends on the airlines. I mean, if I'm flying Iberia, I must be hallucinating that they expect me to eat that. And on Al Italia, surely I hallucinated the section of the plane that was closed for repair... (NO. LIE.) Also: Iberia's seats are the narrowest I've ever experienced, and Al Italia is on par with Delta for narrow-ass seats. Air France is pretty great, but I might be biased because I'm going to marry them and become Mrs. Grapefruitmoon AirFrance.

$25 if you try to talk to me while I'm reading

Oh man, I am so guilty of that. I'm totally extroverted to a degree that's almost criminal. To my credit, it's how I met my partner, so it worked out at least ONCE.

I don't know how to solve the airline-seat problem, but yes, I would happily pay more for a larger seat, though I can't actually afford to do so if by "pay more for a larger seat" you mean "buy a first class ticket that costs more than you make in an entire month." So yeah, if there was an airline that embiggened the coach seats and charged a reasonable amount more for them, I'd pay up.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:16 PM on February 15, 2010


An interesting idea, 1bean. What does your government gain by purposefully inflicting unhealthy cheap food on its citizens?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:17 PM on February 15, 2010


Lobbyist dollars. Next question?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:25 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I"m bowing out of this thread as it seems to have become a list of apologies for people who can't control their weight and who think that every one else should accomodate them. If you eat more calories than you expend, you will gain weight. Period. Sorry if those facts of nature offend anyone, but I didn't make the rules.
posted by conifer at 7:08 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I'm flying a 7-hour overnight flight, I'm reclining my seat. Huff behind me all you want; I don't care. I'll be asleep.

No, no you won't be. Because I'm going to kicking that thing every ten minutes until you sit the fuck up.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:12 PM on February 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


Think_Long, I'm not calling you fat in a coy or any other way - I just want some of your nachos. And if you won't share, I'm gonna go sit by sugarfish. so there, greedy!
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:17 PM on February 15, 2010


Lobbyist dollars. Next question?

Yeah, five fresh fish, if you want an actual example, check this out. When talk of a "soda tax" started going around a few months ago (to offset some of the costs of health care reform), the American Beverage Association spent over US$7 million on lobbying -- more than it had spent from 2001-2008 combined. No more soda tax.

Regardless, I don't think this is going anywhere. I'm not going to convince you of anything. I would suggest that your embrace of "personal responsibility" does seem a little incongruous with most of your political philosophy (based on a cursory familiarity with your frequent America Bashing), but that's pretty much all I got.
posted by one_bean at 7:21 PM on February 15, 2010


My political philosophy is "ain't nobodies business if you do." And also that the role of government should be to ensure its citizens have the best opportunity to do well for themselves by ensuring basic health, education, and safety.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:53 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I"m bowing out of this thread as it seems to have become a list of apologies for people who can't control their weight and who think that every one else should accomodate them. If you eat more calories than you expend, you will gain weight. Period. Sorry if those facts of nature offend anyone, but I didn't make the rules.

Speaking as somebody who has always exercised *a lot* & been slim-to-athletic all my life, I used to feel exactly the same.

Over time, though, reading peoples' comments about their battles with weight, I no longer think it's as simple as you say. In some cases, maybe, but certainly not in all.

Anyway, this is not my fight, but I just wanted to suggest that you shouldn't be too sure about that model.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:05 PM on February 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


yeah, that asshole was me... and yeah, you don't know what you are talking about.

And you're still an asshole who says random shit he can't back up. HuZZAh!

Maybe next time we should just go straight to the "I'm rubber and you're glue" part.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:50 PM on February 15, 2010


conifer: “I"m bowing out of this thread as it seems to have become a list of apologies for people who can't control their weight and who think that every one else should accomodate them. If you eat more calories than you expend, you will gain weight. Period. Sorry if those facts of nature offend anyone, but I didn't make the rules.”

As someone who somehow turned out to have the right physique to avoid exercising and still not be extremely overweight, though I'm not exactly Hercules (just check my user page, heh) I notice that you're not really including everyone in your statement. Yes, if you eat more calories than you expend, you will gain weight. No one disputes this, I hope. If someone eats more calories than they expend and expects to lose weight, well, we can't apologize for them.

But it is possible to ingest fewer calories than you expend and still gain weight. There are numerous ways this can happen at various times in life, for many different and complex chemical reasons, most of which have to do with hormones. All this is quite aside from the fact that 'calories' are really a sort of bastardization of an archaic scientific concept, and far from being an actual, rigorous, logical measure. They're supposed to be a measure of heat, and ostensibly they are; but applying them to food doesn't always make sense, and it certainly doesn't equate to 'fat particles' or something like that.

Yeah, our society's more overweight than some others. But every society has people that are overweight. Our society also happens to have a ridiculous set of complexes about physical appearance, and our society bombards us from our youths with shame and fear regarding the way we look. It teaches us all sort of violence; it teaches us to hate people whose ideas are different; it teaches us to laugh in the face of reason and scorn thoughtfulness. Do you really think that a fitness regimen is the most important priority for us now, so important that the others should be left aside? Go ahead and fight that battle if you choose to, but as my father always says: you've only got a limited number of lances, so you may as well pick your windmills wisely.
posted by koeselitz at 10:06 PM on February 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


I should think the skyrocketing cost of healthcare is going to force people to become fit, or dead at an unreasonably young age.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:26 PM on February 15, 2010


There is no way in hell that this man can fit in one seat.

(I know, I know, the conversation has moved on, the picture was linked upthread. I just think it bears a second look.)
posted by merelyglib at 1:27 AM on February 16, 2010


And you're still an asshole who says random shit he can't back up. HuZZAh!

Yeah, whatever. I've got better things to do with my time than argue with idiot trolls. You win if that makes you feel better.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:45 AM on February 16, 2010


There is no way in hell that this man can fit in one seat.

Unless he's short. Unfortunately, you've got no way of telling from that picture. Not everyone is 6' tall, chief.

I'm 5'6" and I weigh 265 lbs. That sounds HORRIBLE to people like you, I'm sure, but I'm as much overweight due to muscle mass as to fat mass. I still look like a porker (so be it), but I sure as shit can fit in one of those seats -- I know this because I sat in such seats within the last couple of years. And I've yet to struggle to put the arms down or ever need a belt extender. Why? BECAUSE I'M SHORT.

It isn't width/girth all by its lonesome -- it's width/girth in relation to height.

But, you go ahead and do your thing: righteous indignation at fatties is such a turn-on.
posted by grubi at 5:41 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Kid Charlemagne: My head, at the brow, is 25 inches around. How much or a change of my food intake do you think is going to fix that?

Ooh! ooh! as a professional knitwear designer, I can tell you that your head is THREE inches larger than the US male average!

And as a fellow giant-skulled individual, I feel your pain when it comes to hat shopping. Hot damn. There's one reason I learned to knit in the first place.

koeselitz: But it is possible to ingest fewer calories than you expend and still gain weight.

This is actually true. Various medical professionals have more or less begged me to eat MORE often, because my job tends to keep me from eating on a regular schedule, and this plays holy hell with your metabolism. I probably eat less than most of you. And believe it or not, that can be a bad thing. (Your body goes into "starvation mode" and tries to pack on all the weight it can from the food it does get).
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:12 AM on February 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


five fresh fish: I should think the skyrocketing cost of healthcare is going to force people to become fit, or dead at an unreasonably young age.

A lot of people in my area seem to be going for the second option.

It's not just that high healthcare costs are keeping people out of the doctor's office: It's that there's a lot of really awful stuff going on that's making people sick, stuff that will bring you to an early grave even if you can afford healthcare, which a lot of people can't.
It's the self-sustaining poverty where people are told from a young age that they're worthless, and that they shouldn't try making anything of themselves lest they end up like one of those 'straps'.* It's the culture of heavy drinking and heavy smoking, the sedentary service-sector jobs, the lack of security, the bad food, the depression- dying at an unreasonably young age isn't considered unusual.
We desperately need single-payer healthcare, but that's only one part of the equation- we need a better economy. For a place called "Vacationland" it's actually pretty fucking grim.

*Short for 'Straphanger'- someone from Out Of State (where they have public transportation) who is all snooty and educated and thinks they're better than anyone else.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:08 AM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


As a frequent flier of average size (5'9" 165#). I find my small personal space frequently compromised by larger people. I really, really dislike it

Well, why don't you lose some weight? I guess you'd be more comfortable if you got down to 130ish. 

You're the one who's too big to comfortably sit near certain people, take responsibility and do something about it. You're lucky that airline seats are as big as they are so you only have to lose 20-30 lbs and not more. They don't have some kind of obligation to ensure your comfort, especially if that would cut into their tiny profit margins and make flying more expensive for the rest of us. Why would your averageness somehow exempt you from the personal responsibility to either lose weight or buy 2 seats, when you're the one putting this value on comfort? You know how big the seats are and you know more or less the odds of sitting next to a big person. If you don't like them, don't fly or spend more. What's this entitlement that the airline should charge *other* people more & risk losing other customers, customers that are not so picky as you are, in order to ensure *your* comfort? 

Yes, I'm making a point.  

The control question is a red herring. Fitting into a seat is about weight, body shape, and height. Short fat people fit better than tall fat people. You could say it's really about the height, which we have less control over. Although malnutrition and particularly hunger in childhood do tend to lead to lower heights. So hey, don't complain if your parents fed you too well.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:16 AM on February 16, 2010




I still love Kevin Smith and I don't care what y'all say!
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:17 PM on February 16, 2010


More from Kevin about the subject on his blog: Feb 15 (am), Feb 15 (pm).
posted by cgg at 12:49 PM on February 16, 2010


Here is a very interesting tool for examing US dietary/health habits.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:29 PM on February 16, 2010


No earplugs or iPods or noise-canceling headphones stand a chance against the screech of a baby, and unless parents stop treating their children's obnoxious behavior as "darling" or "just what kids do!", there's nothing that combats kicking either.

You don't really have a clue about what it takes to raise a child; someday you may find out and if you do, you will feel a little embarrassed about saying this sort of thing.
posted by Mister_A at 7:37 PM on February 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have this introduction to engineering textbook that, in and of itself, isn't all that great, but it has some bitching appendices.

Appendix VII - Anthropomorphic Tables
(Adapted from Anthropomophy of Flying Personnel - 1950, WADC Technical Report 53-321 USAF...

What they did was measure 4000 male USAF personnel and reported the mean, range, standard deviation and so on. The value that applies to this discussion is number 39 - shoulder breadth.

Range: 14.57 - 22.83
Mean: 17.88
Standard Deviation 0.91

So if the 17.5 inch seat width cited previously is correct, the average man in the Air Force in the 1950s is going to be rubbing up against the person in the next seat. I don't think high fructose corn syrup sweetened soft drinks can be blamed for that.

The airlines have chosen to go with something other than seating sized for an adult male. If you think this is a safety concern, ask yourself what else they decided to skimp on for the sake of squeezing a few more people on board.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:41 PM on February 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


- No earplugs or iPods or noise-canceling headphones stand a chance against the screech of a baby, and unless parents stop treating their children's obnoxious behavior as "darling" or "just what kids do!", there's nothing that combats kicking either.

- You don't really have a clue about what it takes to raise a child; someday you may find out and if you do, you will feel a little embarrassed about saying this sort of thing.


It's possible you're both right, however, in the 60s-70s when many of us were growing up, it was still pretty customary to quiet (with alcohol, codeine or paregoric, no I'm not making this up) children who were too young to threaten into good public behavior. that was if you even took the kid on a plane at all - most people didn't.

I once overheard a couple of moms (this was several years ago) trading traveling with kids advice. one said to the other, "Well I prefer taking the Concorde because the flight is so much shorter you don't have to sedate the children..."
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:32 AM on February 17, 2010


Sedation is a great kindness, not only to fellow travellers, but also for the child.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:53 AM on February 17, 2010


And for that matter, oneself. Transoceanic flight is 1000% better when one sleeps through it all.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:54 AM on February 17, 2010


Kids who cry on airplanes are usually doing it because they are in pain: pressure change hurts their ears. If they're old enough, give them gum. If they aren't, then a pacifier can help. It's also a very good idea to give them a decongestant (I recommend pseudoephedrine, in a weight-appropriate dose) long enough before the flight that it clears up any stuffiness.

And those of you whining about how crying children disturb you: stop being such babies.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:34 PM on February 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kidsstoned Chewable Valium
posted by dunkadunc at 9:46 PM on February 17, 2010


It's also a very good idea to give them a decongestant (I recommend pseudoephedrine, in a weight-appropriate dose) long enough before the flight that it clears up any stuffiness.

My parents did this before my first flight have subsequently warned me against it whenever the subject of kids on planes comes up. "For G-d's sake, don't give them cold medicine! It gave you DIARRHEA!"

Yep. Diarrhea. On a plane. And I still hear about it twenty eight years later. You're welcome, mom.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:00 AM on February 18, 2010


After reading Kevin Smith's latest blog post on the matter, it seems to me that there are some issues that aren't being addressed. I am a fat person who can fit in the seat, without a seatbelt extender and with the armrests down. But I refuse to ever fly Southwest again and have felt this way for a couple of years. Why? Because they don't stick to their own standards. I strongly feel that whether or not I am booted off a flight (or simply humiliated by Southwest employees) will not hinge on whether or not I can fit in the seat.

This part of his post says it all:

And you’d be right, I’ll bet: that dude in the jetway might’ve just looked at me, said “Fat”, didn’t bother to see me in the seat with the arm rests down, sitting as uncomfortably as every other passenger on the plane (thin or fat) seated between two people. Profiled. I feel like I’m John Travolta in that one flick nobody saw.

So Big Business wins again, spreading the Gospel of “Look, I’m Sorry - He’s Just Too Fat. And Don’t We All Hate Fat People Anyway? Srsly.”


A few years ago I made a comment in AskMe that someone didn't like, in which I said that whether or not Southwest bounces you off the flight or forces you buy a second seat depends on the bigotry of the gate agent. It does not depend on whether or not you can fit in the seat. What matters is if someone looks at you, thinks "too fat", and that's it. And in Kevin Smith's case, they can lie and say the pilot deemed you a "safety risk" and everyone will seriously think that makes sense. And even when they take it back and admit that the pilot never had anything to do with it, but it was a "judgment call" by a gate agent (who never saw Smith in the seat, because, gate agent) on an overbooked flight, people still won't have a problem with such horrible business practice because, hey, it's a fat person who cares. The agent saw a fat person and that was enough to get him kicked off the flight.

Kate Harding's stirring post on flying while fat details the effect all of this has on fat people. It doesn't matter if you follow their rules. It doesn't even matter if you buy a second seat (assuming you can afford to do so). They can and will still kick you off if they want to, and they will lie about why, and no one will care because we're all a bunch of muu-muu Americans anyway, no better than zoo animals.
posted by Danila at 12:33 AM on February 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


Thanks for posting that, Danila. The only thing that will really help is for us to realize that we are in the majority. We need a lobby like AARP or the NRA. I don't know what it will take to wake enough of us up. Being denied health care, maybe.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:03 AM on February 19, 2010


So well said, Danilla.

In all the talk of fairness, I think there's a kind of denial or perhaps honest misunderstanding among thin people about the context within which this is happening. We live in a world where there is tremendous bigotry and hatred directed towards fat people. Even for those of us who actively wish to make this world more gentle and kind to people of all sizes, our unconscious is invariably tainted with the tremendously ugly messages we hear about fat people every day.

If we can acknowledge that people's actions are impacted, even unconsciously, by the values of their culture, then how can we have any hope of assessing the "fairness" of a policy that targets fat people (and effectively limits their ability to utilize certain services)?
posted by serazin at 12:36 PM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


rogerd, it looks like you, along with about half this thread, chose version of events #2, where Kevin Smith couldn't fit into the second seat. I prefer to believe version of events #1, where he could. This is because version of events #1 is also known as "reality"
posted by tehloki at 8:15 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Something to the tune of two-thirds of the population is overweight. Is this a case of the persecuted majority?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:48 PM on February 23, 2010


Something to the tune of two-thirds of the population is overweight. Is this a case of the persecuted majority?

Actually I wonder how those statistics play out in terms of the flying population - my impression is that the rate of overweight is not uniform across socio-economic classes.

It still wouldn't surprise me if the overweight (at least the technically overweight, according to BMI, whatever that means) are a majority even among those who fly - but it still wouldn't be shocking to find persecution there. Other cases of persecuted/oppressed majorities include the poor and women, and that's just here.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:49 AM on February 24, 2010


serazin: "In all the talk of fairness, I think there's a kind of denial or perhaps honest misunderstanding among thin people about the context within which this is happening."

That's a really good point. Are these isolated incidents? Was it just a mistake? Well, no, and Southwest is particularly problematic in this area (even though most major airlines have similar policies, at least on paper). There's a strong moralism underlying a lot of the criticism of Smith. Southwest has a reputation for being very customer-friendly and responsive, but the airline's responses about this matter have been dishonest and almost stridently stubborn. This attitude infects their entire corporate culture, right down to the agents and attendants many of whom seem to have lost all manner of sensitivity if the customer is a fat one.

Also, when it comes to minority/majority a useful way for me to think about it is in terms of who has a majority/minority of power and resources in any stratified situation.

And people of Kevin Smith's size are a minority no matter how you slice it.
posted by Danila at 5:18 PM on February 24, 2010


New York Times: Excuse me, is this seat taken? -- "Airlines increasingly single out fliers they deem too fat to fly."
posted by ericb at 9:20 AM on February 25, 2010


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