Don’t hate on me because I’m skinny. Don’t sit on me, either.
Now, I realize the following may be politically incorrect, but hear me out. Because for every overweight Kevin Smith who takes up a seat and a half on an airplane, there’s a .5 of us with an equal right to a full seat, even if we don’t fill up the space.
In case you missed it, the kerfuffle about overweight fliers has been re-inflated, thanks to the unceremonious de-boarding of one Kevin Smith, a semi-famous Hollywood director. While hardly a heavyweight like Orson Welles (in all manners of speaking), the increasingly-zaftig Smith normally buys two seats when flying. He says he does so because he can afford it (after all, he's a big Hollywood director) and he doesn‘t want to have someone sitting next to him. He neglects to mention that he is concerned about sitting on someone next to him.
Earlier this week, Smith chose to trade in his two tickets on a Southwest flight for a sole standby seat on an earlier flight. Said flight was fully booked. A flight attendant witnessed Smith overlapping into the next seat and ejected him, per Southwest Airlines policy (see footnote at end of post). Smith tweeted about the incident to his 1.6 million Twitter followers. Southwest apologized and refunded his fare.
Of course, in our 24-7 media age, that wasn’t the end of the story. Rage ensued and large people everywhere protested. Unheard during the coverage, however, was the view of the little guy. So, I'm here to represent.
You see, while I am no Victoria Beckham, I am a size 2. Thus, I am much smaller than the average American. And, I do not fill a seat. Therefore, I am seldom left to sit alone on a two-seat subway car. But that's public transportation, so what can you do?
On an airplane, however, it's a different bottom line. After all, consider what happens when someone with a fanny pack larger than the 17-to-18-inch-wide coach seat sits next to me. If Milton Burly gets to the row first, the armrest gets lifted and suddenly, my seat is reduced by one-third or one-half. Where, I ask you, is Lady Justice? That would be Justitia, that blindfolded babe who sometimes flashes a boob and always travels with a scale. (Incidentally, Justitia’s Greek equivalent is named Dike. If Dike were hanging out between seats, I suppose she could prevent seepage).
Apologies for the parenthetical odyssey. My point is, if my plump seatmate doesn’t have to pony up for taking up space and a half, then perhaps I should get a discount proportional to my width. To wit, in the interest of serious journalism, I just measured my butt. It’s approximately 11 inches across. Accounting for spreadage while seated, let‘s make it 12 inches. If a seat is 18 inches, and I take up 2/3s, I should get a 33% discount on my seat.
Or perhaps airlines could start charging fees for, ahem, extra baggage. While that specific strategy is unlikely, it may be that one day airlines do start taking total weight (you and your bags) into account.
Alas, I don’t have an answer. If you do, please weigh in. In the meantime, speaking from the skinny side of the seat, please stay out of my lap.
A footnote: While many carriers that don’t have official policies about this matter, Southwest does, and it’s been in place for 29 years. You can find details at http://www.southwest.com.
The policy states that large passengers must buy two seats. If there are fewer passengers than seats on a flight, Southwest will refund the second seat and give the customer side-by-side seats. If the flight is sold out, the passenger can opt to buy an extra seat on a less full flight. The reason behind the policy is that Southwest “could no longer ignore complaints from customers who traveled without full access to the seat purchased due to encroachment by a large seat mate." Bravo, Southwest.
Incidentally, the airline says its oversized passenger policy impacts fewer than half of one percent of its customers. That translates to about 127,000 people a year.