Another Too-Fat-To-Fly Controversy Hits Southwest Airlines

NYC Political Strategist: Me, Mom Told We Must Buy 4 Seats

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Southwest Airlines has apologized to a mother and daughter who said they got rough treatment at the airport.

Kenlie Tiggeman, a 30-year-old political strategist and weight loss blogger in New York City, said it was humiliating, being told she was too fat to fly, reports CBS 2’s John Slattery.

“It was rude. It was in front of lots of people,” said Tiggeman, who’s originally from New Orleans.

Tiggeman said the incident happened in Dallas over Easter. She and her mother were told by a gate agent they each had to purchase two seats.

“And said that we were, in fact, too fat to fly, without an additional ticket,” Tiggeman said.

Yet, this was a return flight, and they hadn’t been stopped before. The gate agent said it was policy.

“I was asked what size clothes, and how much I weigh. I gave answers in front of a gate full of people, some of whom were snickering,” Tiggeman said.

Tiggeman, who once weighed 393 pounds, is down to 268 pounds.

A spokeswoman for Southwest said: “If a passenger cannot fit in a seat with the armrests down, a second seat must be purchased. If the flight is not full, that added charge will be refunded.”

But Tiggeman said she does fit in a seat.

Southwest, which allowed the woman and her mother on a later flight, apologized, refunded their tickets and gave them free vouchers.

Passengers at LaGuardia said Tiggeman got a raw deal.

“As long as she fit in that seat, she should have been allowed to fly,” passenger Arnette Small said.

“I mean, if she fits, she fits, that’s what I say,” Kala Drust said.

“I think if people are rather large they to take accountability for their size and need to buy two tickets. If in fact she fit in the armrests, it’s a different ball game,” Dan Hehal added.

Last year, movie director Kevin Smith, known for his cult hit “Clerks,” was ejected from a Southwest flight, told that he didn’t fit. The airline later apologized.

The policy on wide-body passengers varies from airline to airline. All the Federal Aviation Administration requires is that each passenger be in a belt, which sometimes requires a seat-belt extender.

Tiggeman said she purchased two tickets to fly in the past, but since she’s lost so much weight, she’s been told by several airline employees it was no longer necessary.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

More from John Slattery
  • justin normal

    If you can’t get your fat ass in one seat then you should be required to purchase two. Its certainly not fair to normal sized people when you spill over into our space. 268 pounds? I don’t care if she has lost a whole person, she still is ridiculous.

  • julie

    why dont they charge per pound for everyone like shipping companies. thats essentially what they are doing, shipping people.


    Totally agree with Kim. Buy TWO tickets! Or do not fly.
    I’m not prejudiced against fat people either. I AM ONE!!
    I am at least 75 pounds overweight.

  • Dubious Brother

    Southwest should have compromised and sold them three tickets and have them sit in the same row on the same side of the aisle – one on the window and one on the aisle with no one in between unless someone wants to sit between them and fly free. Give them each an extra bag of peanuts. WIn Win Win

  • Alternate POV

    I think you all are missing the point. Fact: People ARE getting bigger. Fact: What used to be an “average” size is now a smaller size, and the “average” size now is what used to be a larger size. Fact: Airline seats have NOT been redesigned to compensate for this change in the size of the average person. Airline seats need to be made slightly wider simply to fit the average person. Until this happens, then this debate will continue. But contrary to popular opinion, not every large person is lazy, lacks self control or sits around stuffing their face with cheeseburgers and fries.

    • Rico

      WRONG! We are not talking about the incremental increase in the average size of people in general. We are talking about people who are morbidly obese, in comparison to others. Furthermore, I could care less WHY someone is morbidly obese. I still do not want to be crushed under the tsunami of their rolling corpulence, just because they want to park their spare lard on top of me.

  • Bishop

    I was on a Southwest flight on Monday, and witnessed the following.
    A passenger ws sitting in an isle seat with another in the window seat.
    At the last min. a very heavy young passenge who choose to be one of the last to board the plane had to attempt to occupy the center seat. Whe he forced himself into the middle seat, he not only filled that seat, but half of the isle passenger’s seat. The isle passenger was forced to give up his seat and go forward to find a middle seat . The late passenger then spread himself on the two seats he had now to himself. I watched to see if the attendant would react, but she did not.

  • Rock

    Clothing costs more in larger sizes – it takes more fabric – duhhh!

    It takes more food to feed large people – despite protestations about genetic predispositions, people who do not overeat lose weight – a body only burns so many calories in a day.

    It takes more fuel to transport fat – of course it costs more to fly!

    I am large and frequently by extra to fly.

  • Joe Laurentitis

    I am 6’5″ tall and weigh 295, on the way back home from my mom’s funeral I was told by another airline I was too “fat” and needed to buy another seat, To their suprise and the glares of the femaile gate attendants I peeled off my sweatshirt to reveal a 6 percent body fat all muscular frame. They apologized and said my sweatshirt made me look bulky, they then allowed my to pass, I sat comfortably without even a belt extender. As I unboarded I was given two phone numbers from the gate attendants/stewardesses who badgered me, I just tore them up and told them to stick them up their a@#@#! By the way if large people arent allowed, maybe we can get some better looking stewardeses and younger ones to boot….I can be picky too…

  • Joe


  • Joe

    I really despise that our society has created creeps like you all with no compassion, empathy or care for anyone else but yourselves You don’t belong here.

  • SlimJim

    As one who flies every week, I am sick and tired of having these fat pigs have their smelly blubber in my seat. You should pay for however many seats you occupy. I occupy ONE and I do NOT think it is fair for some beached whale to take half the seat I paid for. Maybe if the tub o lard gets embarrassed enough, she will lose wait. Quit making YOUR problem into mine. Not to mention how unsafe it is with these lardbutts. How can you evacuate a plane when these people clog up the aisle and waddle to the exit? Keep them off the planes entirely

  • Kay

    I agree SkinnyJim. It’s hell sitting next to someone who’s so overweight that they flow over into your seat. You have to feel their body heat, and that’s just wrong. I don’t want some stranger so close to me that I can feel their body heat. I’ve had to sit by someone with really smelly feet who took their shoes off, and that was awful, but at least I wasn’t squished. I just turned my head away and put my scarf over my nose. There’s no escaping a fat person when you’re in coach seats. It’s not fair to the person who’s space is getting invaded.

  • ATW

    Way to go Southwest!! Thank you for thinking of us little people… I will never fly another airline… Customer for life!

  • William Jennings Bryan

    Anyone who is too fat to fit into an airline seat with the armrests down has much bigger things to worry about than the cost of flying. That being said, I think that a free market solution to this problem is needed. I think the airlines should capitalize on this social situation. Considering the large number of obese people in this country, and the fact that in order to be obese you must buy lots of food and thus must have lots of money, airlines should tap the obese-consumer market. They could have segregated seating with special obese seats and special obese meals. While regular passengers sit in seats about 2ft wide and get bad cereal, the wealthier obese passengers (who, again, are presumed to be wealthier because they can afford more food,) will be given wider seats and fatter meals (ginger cookies with melted dipping butter, raw lard with a spoon, chocolate syrup, etc.) There is lots of money to be made. The only question is, which airline will capitalize on this market opportunity first>

    • AJ

      Sorry, but healthy food costs more than fatty food. The cheapest food is the stuff that is high in calories. The rate of obesity is higher in poor neighborhoods than in more affluent ones.

      Go on bashing fat people if that is your wish, but stop pretending that it costs more to be fat than to be thin. It’s not so.

  • Max

    How sad for you. How sad that this person had to sit beside someone like you. I feel real pity for you… not empathy or sympathy. Do me a favor and don’t impose your opinions on me.

  • Rico

    If I pay for a seat on a plane, I do not want some morbidly obese mountain of corpulence spilling over onto me. I should not have to be required to share the space I have paid for with anyone. Not only is it cramped and uncomfortable, it is invasive of my personal space. Who wants a complete stranger pressing onto you in such a personal way. It makes my flesh crawl to think about it, and I can assure you the airline would get an earlful from me, if some disgusting creature attempts to smother me with their rolls of stenchridden blubber in that way. I have to pay extra if my suitcase weighs over 70 lbs. It should be a no-brainer that if you take up the space of two people, you should pay for two people.

  • Dan

    Am I obese? I’m 6’6″ 265

    • SlimJim

      look in the mirror dummy

  • Sharon

    If she had purchased 2 seats, you wouldn’t even have been on that flight.

  • Matt

    Any one that travels with frequency has had the same thought as that obese person walks down the aisle looking for their seat and that thought is please don’t let them be seated next to me. Fact is, all airline policies are that if the person requires a seatbelt extension then they are supposed to be charged an extra seat. It is only fair. The problem is the airlines do not want to offend anyone so they ignore it and the traveler is stuck with it. I was stuck beside a guy that was so large the flight attendant could not get the beverage cart down the aisle. I spent the entire flight leaned against the wall. He even had the nerve to ask if we could keep the arm rest up.

    The only way the airlines will pay attention to this is if we file complaints on-line. I did, not that I expect an overnight solution but they did offer me a $150 credit on my next flight. Point is, if they hear from hundreds of us and they have to keep offering credit then maybe, just maybe they will start making those pay that need two seats.

    • Rico

      Yep, so true…please God, don’t let them be seated next to me…it’s known as the frequent flyer’s prayer.

      Been there, done that, more times than I care to remember.

  • Eyes wide open

    Americans are the fattest people on the planet. Sounds like an opportunity for a new airline. One which caters to obese people. Larger seats, fewer of them. Charge premium ticket prices. You just might be the only airline that doesn’t post a loss for the years.

  • flea

    She was doing an imitation of a 5lb. ham in a 2lb. can.

  • Viking

    There is nothing worse than sitting next to a fat person who can’t confine themselves to their space. I love to put my elbow on my half of the armrest and not budge when a fat person sits next to me. It’s fun to see them squirm like a pig during the flight because they can’t get comfortable!

  • Vinny

    Oh boo-hoo. You don’t like it, drive next time. Beeeeeyotch

  • Goblin

    Lose some weight. Lardass.

  • Vinny

    Charge everyone by the pound – that would be fair. These fatties should have bought 3 seats each. Even 2 wouldn’t be enough

  • Mike

    Pittsburgh to Florida, ha, sweet deal! I had a woman overflowing onto me and my seat on a flight from Hamburg, Germany to Los Angeles!! And if that wasn’t bad enough, the BO was so intense my eyes were tearing like I was chopping onions for 13 hours straight!

    Hey, at what point should the “mass-challenged” folks HAVE to pay double fare? Well, we measure carry-on bags when we check in. Perhaps we should have a passenger seat at check-in where those deemed to be “over the limit” can be measured.

    However, if there’s any amount of encroachment, they shouldn’t have to pay extra to the airline. They should have to pay part of the fare of the passenger whose personal space they’re encroaching upon!

    If you encroach on 15% of my space, you should have to pay me 20% of my ticket price. Yeah, 15% to match the encroachment, and 5% for pain and suffering. Everyone is happy! Now stop eating all day long!

  • Annalisa Vito

    Why is it weight is the last acceptable form of discrimination? Obesity is not a character flaw. I’ve struggled with it my whole life. You say “slim down or don’t fly” like I can magically snap my fingers and lose 50 pounds. It’s not as simple as backing away from the buffet. I’m not making excuses but there is simply no excuse for the abject cruelty exhibited on this board. If you wouldn’t dream of calling someone a N****r why call someone a cow.

    • Eyes wide open

      Eat less. Move more.

    • Rico

      It is acceptable when your obesity infringes on the rights of others – in this case, the right to unrestricted access to the seat you paid for and the right not to have someone laying on you,against your wishes.

    • J

      You didn’t magic snap your fingers and become over weight either. Take in less burn more that is it.

      • J

        Magicly (sorry)

  • Salmon and sprouts

    I used to fly quite a bit. I never had ena problem pointing out the boundary between the seats and asking them to keep inside their boundary. Another great trick is to use a large lab book or even the in flight magazine tucked between the armrest and your side to keep their bodies away from yours.

    Fat people should be confined to their homes and the gym using a gps ankle bracelet and a calorieometer on their fridge so that it won’t open if they’ve consumed too much on any given day.

  • Bruce

    I actually like the SW way of boarding because you most often have more freedom to not get stuck by someone who laps over the arm rests.

    I fly about 50 flights a year with that airline, and almost always sit in the aisle, so I don’t get crushed by the window. If you are on the aisle, and are leaning out, and the flight attendants complain, you just point to the person next to you who is lapping over the arm rests.

    Even better though, as a frequent flier, I manage to snag exit row seats on almost all my flights. There, the arm rests are often fixed, making it even harder for the overweight. Also, seat belt extenders are prohibited, as well as anyone who cannot put up their own luggage and kids under maybe 15. Finally, a flight attendant is usually stationed in the row to make sure that these rules are obeyed, and as a result, the center seats there are typically some of the last to be filled. And, they do tend to enforce the rules, as contrasted to the airlines that pre-assign exit row seats. (I remember one United flight where one of the people in the exit row on the other side needed a seat belt extender – my comment at the time was that I had my exit window, so was fine if we crashed. I just was a bit worried about everyone else on the plane).

    My suggestion is to pay the extra $10 or so for an early bird boarding pass (or be a frequent flyer with them). Then, figure out when you are getting on how full the plane is going to be. If you are flying with someone, and the plane isn’t going to be full, pick the aisle and window seat and leave something in the middle seat. If the plane is going to be full, once the middles start filling up, make eye contact with skinny people, esp. skinny women. It works even better if the woman of the couple is on the outside making the eye contact.

    And, yes, I really do work the crowds this way on flights that are going to be mostly full, trying to entice that skinny person into the middle seat.

  • toofatformyseat

    I have to agree with most of you all. If someone is that big then they must either pay the extra price or go on a diet, slim down and become more normal. I’m 6′ 4″ and weigh over 300 lbs. I became large, in part, because of lifting weights and eating a lot so I’ve got only myself to blame for my size (the height was God-given however). It’s just a shame that so many in our society now just won’t except the truth about themselves and this goes into many other areas as well. Grow up people, accept reality and become adults!

  • Nick

    This is America and if someone wants to make poor lifestyle choices leading to obesity and future health problems it’s their choice. But they have no right to impede on the space and comfort of others. If they can’t fit in a seat, they should definitely be forced to buy another or not fly.

  • k

    Look i am overweight with a BMI considered obease and from one overweight person to another if you dont fit in the seat you need to buy another ticket. It is selfish not to. Use this experience as motivation to stop eating.

  • John Potorf

    I just got off of my second straight flight in which I was seated next to fat people. I flew from Dallas to Denver and had to sit next to a woman that had to be over 300 pounds, on the return flight I had a guy who was just as big. I’m sorry but if you had to endure it you would be angry also. And I know, don’t be rude, they have a glandular problem. Bu ll S@#t They’re fat because they eat too much.

  • flea

    The united States is so fat, that the earth’s axis is tilting in our favor.

  • John

    Am I the only one confused by the fact that she’s a “weight loss” blogger?? And the reason I don’t fly Southwest is because it’s cheap and the fatties don’t have enough money for other airlines cause of all the food they buy, hence the reason you don’t see many fatty pig fatties on other airlines. Lose weight you pigs or don’t fly, stop trying to make everyone feel sorry for you because you hate yourselves.

    • hang10

      oh yeah……..and a “political strategist”……….let me guess……democrat??

  • hang10

    Hey lardass………get to the gym…… better……..THEN and ONLY then can you buy just one seat. I really don’t want you sitting on me during my flight that I actually paid for too. If you take up two seats then you should BUY two seats!!!!!

  • Gene Anthony

    Let’s not be too cruel…just fly ’em as cargo…in the hold.



    • The Smell of Fat

      I purposely eat cabbage and beans the night before my flights to the Middle East. Seriously. I’d rather smell my own ass than some stink bomb that stores rotted onions onions in his armpits. The worst smell on the planet

      • Hugh Jass

        Since youe fligh is the he Middle East, wouldn’t it be easier to just rub your self down w/ a pork chop? That way none of them would want to sit next to you…. just saying…

  • Meatloaf

    I happen to be well endowed as a man. When i go throught he scanner, they make me do it twice and bring their buddies over to look. Should I have to pay more for my larger member? Is this fair? Can a guy be proud and popular with the girls and not be persecuted?

    • Bill Brennan

      So know what you mean brother, so know what you mean…

    • flea

      If it hangs over the seat divider……yes, pay more.

  • Jimbo96

    Having been the victim of a 300 plus pound woman sitting next to me, and having to raise the armrest to fit, and I was squeezed against the exterior of the plane. The plane was completely full, and I couldn’t get away for 4 hours. She was flying on a “standby” ticket too. I refuse to fly on any airline that doesn’t make anyone too fat to sit in one seat buy two seats.
    This fat couple could have bought three seats and been happy sitting next to each other…
    It’s not fair to someone like me to be tortured by a fat woman just because shes too cheap to take personal responsibility for their putting too much food into their mouth.

    • j. n.


  • Jay

    Let me see if I have this correct. She is not humiliated by her weight, but she is humiliated when an organization points out her weight? LOL I bet she is a political strategist for liberals. Only in their world does this makes sense.

  • Djoser

    Must have been a slow news day. Go cry to someone else fat ass. As you can see, no one gives a flying you know what about your weight problem.

  • I told you,, "Hey Hey"

    It was those “smelly foreign people” you mentioned who made the claim.

  • Randy

    SWA…you ROCK! If I didn’t work for another major airline, I’d fly SWA!!!

  • FlyNice

    More weight costs more fuel, so on many levels makes sense for oversized folks to pay for extra space. While it’s not PC, it’s common sense and courteous to others for obese folks to pay double.

  • MJB

    Obesity, at some level, is a condition of choice. It’s like smoking–the condition results from life style/behavior. I spent 18 months commuting weekly from coast to coast. Frequent flyer upgrades to 1st Class finally got me out of the squeeze play obese passengers put upon me. I agree with the airline, and they should NOT apologize!

  • JML

    They have a Thyroid problem. NOT!

  • songman77

    I have to comment…I can feel for these overweight folks but I don’t want to “feel” them my whole flight!…I had a very obese lady sit next to me for a long flight and her arms were the size of an easter ham…one of which was on my lap the whole flight…lets just say that made flying lose some appeal for me ever since…buy two seats or drive your car…

  • John

    No… Jessica, it’s called flying. I’m on the smaller side and I get ‘profiled’ by bigger people to take the middle seat next to me almost every time I fly which is about 70% of the working weeks of the year. I’ve been sweat on, had to sit with the armrest up, and sit hours leaning to one side to end up with a stiff back and neck that I have to go to a chiropractor to get straightened out. This is a frequent occurrence.

    How is any of this fair. I think the airlines need to apply this upfront at ticketing and uniformly.

    If someone has to buy a seat for a 30lbs 2 year old then how is it any different on the other end.

    Tell the airline to make bigger seats or take personal responsibility.

  • Sad Sad

    Just like the rest of American life… Others feeling as if they have a right to my space or my stuff. Super.

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