Southwest Airlines’ Controversial ‘Customer of Size’ Policy: A Game-Changer for Obese Passengers or a Recipe for Disaster?


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

Rather than making a grand announcement, Southwest’s “Customer of Size” policy gained public attention through informative TikTok posts shared by individuals discussing how to benefit from it.

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

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

While purchasing an additional seat isn’t obligatory, the airline suggests that larger passengers buy one in advance, facilitating better flight planning. This preemptive action helps in accommodating all passengers on a purchased ticket, avoiding the need to ask others to give up their seats for unplanned accommodations.

However, a concerning aspect arises when the policy might force Southwest to displace a regularly sized passenger to accommodate someone larger. A case highlighted by the New York Post involved a mother and her teenage sons who were left without accommodations after being told their overbooked flight necessitated giving a seat to an oversized passenger.

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

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

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