Customers React to Southwest's Size Policy, Want More Inclusion

Kelly Corbett - Author
By

Dec. 15 2023, Published 12:23 p.m. ET

Customers are frustrated with Southwest's size policy
Source: TikTok/@kimmystyled; tiktok /@fastnutrition

Flying sounds like a great idea, right? Until you board the plane, settle into your seat, and realize it's a cramped nightmare with maximum discomfort. Sure, you could spring for extra legroom or first class, but wasn't the plane ticket already expensive enough? It's especially irksome for larger and taller passengers, who often feel trapped and uncomfortable.

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In April 2023, plus-sized influencer Jaelynn Chaney was so fed up with airline seating arrangements, that she started a Change.org petition demanding that the Federal Aviation Administration offer protections for plus-sized travelers. “The FAA should mandate that all airlines have a comprehensive customer of size policy that prioritizes the comfort and well-being of all passengers,” she wrote.

Unfortunately, the FAA hasn't acted on this issue yet. However, Southwest Airlines has seemingly heard the pleas and concerns of plus-size flyers and has rolled out a new policy allowing these customers to have extra seats free of charge.

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A Southwest Airlines flight inbound to Lindbergh Field on July 15, 2023, in San Diego, Calif.
Source: Getty Images

What is Southwest's customer of size policy?

Under Southwest’s customer of size policy, customers whose bodies “encroach” past the armrest are entitled to an extra seat at no additional cost, per the airline's website.

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While these seats are free, Southwest encourages customers to purchase them ahead of time to notify staff and allow for proper planning of onboard seating. Customers who purchase these additional seats in advance can contact the airline after travel for a full refund.

However, if customers don’t want to put the money out ahead of time, they can simply just buy one seat and then discuss their seating needs with a customer service agent at their departure gate. If it’s determined that a second (or third) seat is needed, they will be given a free ticket to place on the seat(s) next to them.

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A woman wears a face shield as she checks in passengers for Southwest Airlines
Source: Getty Images

Southwest's customer of size policy doesn't appear to include tall people.

In a TikTok video, a plus-size creator named Kimmy (@kimmystyled) demonstrated how Southwest's customer of size policy works. She approached the gate agent in the clip and discussed being able to use the policy. While the video doesn't show her full conversation with the Southwest employee, Kimmy received another ticket for the seat next to her at no cost and was able to get pre-boarding access.

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The video sparked discussion, with some folks wondering if the policy applies to tall passengers. However, Southwest's customer of size policy only mentions "customers whose bodies encroach upon the neighboring seat(s)," and doesn't explicitly address height.

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TikTok creator Ryan Rodal (@fastnutrition) claimed to be 6'4" and explained how unfair this policy is in a separate video. "Me, personally I don't agree with this. I'm 6'4" and my legs are always cramped on airlines. Do you see me complaining about not getting additional seats for free? I don't think so," he said.

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Ryan continues: "Obesity should not be rewarded in America," adding that this new policy of giving extra seats away for free is "simply going to increase airline costs for everyone else."

The customer of size policy implemented by Southwest Airlines raises numerous questions and concerns. This may explain why Southwest is one of the few airlines with such a policy, as it undoubtedly benefits some passengers, but also frustrates others.

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