Smith stirs up airline regulations controversy

Nicole Stejskal / Washburn Review

A couple of weeks ago, I addressed problems with airport security and the safety of flying in the U.S. Now, it seems that our safety is once again in jeopardy—that is, according to Southwest Airlines.

In case you haven’t watched the news in the last 48 hours, actor/director Kevin Smith was asked to leave one of Southwest’s planes on Saturday because he was “too fat to fly.” Smith’s inability to fit into a seat was determined by the plane’s captain, who believed that allowing Smith to travel in just one seat put the safety of other fliers at risk.

Several blog posts and opinion pieces have been written since the incident, targeting everything from American obesity to airline public relations tactics. And while flight policies have been discussed by many, everyone seems to be missing the point—how on earth would Smith have known he was too large to fly?

Granted, this wasn’t Smith’s first time flying, and he even bought two tickets on his original flight to compensate for his size. And airlines do have policies for individuals who cannot fit into one seat. However, if it is someone’s first time flying with a particular airline, how are they to know if they’ll fit in the plane’s seats? Airlines don’t give travelers specifications for seat size, yet they expect people to purchase two tickets, just in case. It’s really a no-win situation for overweight travelers—spend extra money to ensure you can fly on the plane, or suffer the embarrassment of being kicked off for your size.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to support obesity by any means. I have very strong feelings regarding the subject, and that’s one can of worms you don’t want me to open. However, if airlines set flight expectations for travelers, they should make sure that people know about them before boarding their flights. It saves individuals from humiliation, airlines from disasterous public relations problems and social media moguls from ridiculous rants on Twitter.