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
  • JeddMcHead

    Fat people shut up and sit down (on your fat butts)! You tubs of lard are part of the reason our healthcare costs are so high. Do us all a favor and pass on that “all you can stuff in your fat face” buffet and go for a walk but DON’T tell us we need to be more sensative because you choose to turn yourselves into ambulatory mounds of suet!

  • RYan

    Article says she has lost over 130 lbs, so it seems to me that she has been taking responsibility for her diet. Either you did not read the article, or simply lack any speck of compassion, either way your ignorant, and as always, ignorance holds us back as a species.

    • Baz

      Actually, YOU are ignorant: Ignorant of the fact that the contraction of “you are” is “you’re,” not “your,” which is the possessive. You also miss the point, which is not how large someone was, but how large the are. If you are willing to have someone overflowing into your seat because they used to be even larger than they are now, that’s fine, but don’t expect someone else to feel the same way. While someone’s weight may or may not be their fault, it’s certainly not the fault of either the fellow passengers nor the airline.

      • RufusVonDufus

        As is usually the case, Baz, your post proves that those who see themselves as the grammar police are usually not the brightest bulbs in the room. You seem to have grammar issues of your own which you could fix!

  • PS613

    Problem is once they squeeze into the seat with armrests, the fat people lift the arm rest and flop over to the other person’s seat. And the really fat people it doesnt matter that the arm rest is down. They can only sit with their legs far apart to accomdate their huge thighs and always are rubbing up against the person next to them.

    Congratulaitons to the lady for losing so much weight. Keep up the good work. I know it’s hard.

  • BossManDaty

    I don’t want to sit next to a 268-pounder. Let’s say she’s got a window and i have am middle seat. That means she takes up half my seat (because she is such a FAT beast) and that diminishes the quality of my flight. Then imagine if there was another 268-pounder in the aisle seat. Man alive.

    She should have enough respect to either a) fly first class or b) not fly at all.

    What a self centered slob, both her and her daughter.

  • Bob Schlob

    Let Jabba travel on her sail barge.

  • harry

    evidently there would have been hangover—i i don’t mean from booze. i agree with the airline.. if i pay for a seat, i should not have to share it.

  • BabygirlShirl McKendree

    more than likely it took months because you already had a medical condition as do most overweight people. I would be more worried about how to get my head out of my ass the way most of you have it stuck and realize that people are people.

  • robertg

    There is a flight service for fat people. It’s called “AIR CARGO”.

    • ps613

      Now that’s funny. But yeah, let them fly via Fed Ex or UPS and sit with the packages.

  • casper

    I’m sure it was embarrassing but sitting next to an overweight person on an airplane is horrible. My seat was expensive enough and I don’t want to share it with an overweight person. I support Southwest’s policy of buying two seats!

  • DanaDee

    I know a few obese people (good friends) and I can tell you, they don’t eat twinkies. They eat far less than I do, and it’s a matter of an extremely slow metabolism and other medical problems. So I truly sympathize with obese people. That said, however, even if the person fits within two armrests–if they have maxed out their seat, iI find it nonetheless uncomfortable to sit next to them–if’s a constant feeling of tightness and that my space is going to be violated. But it’s probably unfair to ask them to buy a second ticket just because I’m feeling outside my comfort zone.

    • Pilot Dan

      Why does there seem to be MORE OBESE people now than when I was younger? I don’t buy your argument. Regardless if they have slow metabolism or not, they should not be so gigantic. I wonder how much time they spend exercising. I exercise almost everyday for over an hour. Get off their but and move.

      • VomitDog

        Obviously didn’t spend much time learning to spell…

    • ChopMedic

      Baloney. I am so sick of this slow metabolism garbage. There are many, many more obese people today and they don’t all have slow metabolism. The obese people I work with all eat like pigs. They have donuts and large coffees with cream in the morning, large steak bombs for lunch and a large pizza for dinner. They eat candy snacks, drink sugar soda and beer on the weekends. Slow metabolism? Please. You are enabling your friends by telling them it’s not their fault. I talk to my co-workers all the time about their weight and most admit they have a problem and also admit their downfall is they enjoy eating and don’t exercise enough. Obese people shouldn’t be treated with disrespect but if they are too large ofr a single seat so be it. Not my fault and If I pay for a seat I should get a whole seat, not have a large person taking half of mine.

  • justthefax

    Did the mother and daughter sit next to each other? Just curious.

  • justthefax

    I’m a bit confused: she BLOGS about her weight but was embarrassed to be asked about it by the airlines????

  • Dreamtime

    @ Johnnyfatseed, 150lbs is not fat! I am 5’9″ 150lbs BMI 16%, and I wear a loose size 6, I am extremely slim and toned. Muscle weighs more than fat.

    Bravo SW Airlines, I have also suffered sitting next to a full figured person who did not fit in the seat, make the policy and stick to it, no exceptions. This lady did not need to be embarrassed by asking qwuestions in public as it is obvious. Too big? Buy two seats! Who cares WHY you are big.
    I like the idea of a test seat at the counter.
    Hopefully this will be fiscal motivation for folks to shed some pounds.
    BTW: Congratulations to her on her weight loss blog I hope she achieves her goals.

  • JS

    Why should another passenger have to give up part of their seat for an obese person? The writer is only thinking of herself.

  • Sean

    Have you ever sat next to someone on a plane who was badly overweight?? It sucks! Listening to them breathe, and getting their sweat on yourself, and it generally being even more cramped than it already is. Buy two tickets, fatty!

  • juan

    this is her facebook page,.. maybe we should all write her encouraging her to stop being so fat?!/kenlie?sk=questions

  • Marie

    I’ve been in a similar position (no pun intended) several times the past two years as Right WIng Gal.

    What about my rights? I paid for my seat, but squeezed in due to large person, often leaving my back a mess.

    I’m sorry, but they only have themselves to blame.

    • ccaze

      I don’t see how that was a pun, intended or not.

  • impose your fat no more!

    Honey, I guaranty that every passenger in the waiting area said to himself “Boy, I hope I don’t get stuck sitting next to that big fat slob on this flight.” Do you actually think that NO ONE noticed you are a fat pig before you stated your weight and dress size? If you were so embarrased to have to tell your weight, you should be embarrassed to be seen in public at all. EVERYONE could see you are obese. You have the right to be as fat as you want to be. What you don’t have, is the right to impose your blubber on other people. Do you actually think that other people should be inconvenienced because YOU cannot control your food intake and are grossly overweight? Guess again.

  • DLind

    How refreshing that nowhere in the story is mention about government weighing in.
    It’s treated as an issue between a business and its customers — both the two customers immediately involved as well as any other Southwest customer, each acting voluntarily and without coercion.

  • Willy Brown

    Sweetie push away the dinner table vice pulling it to you.

  • Amity Dewey

    Ann Curry was pathetic yesterday on the Today show. She acted as though this whale and her mom ought to have been given the whole plane.

  • Iron and ivory

    If you cannot properly fit in a single seat because of a weight issue then you must buy a second ticket. I see no reason for Southwest to apologize; if you take up too much room in a place limited in space then you are obligated to compensate for the fare lost by the airline by giving you the necessary space. Loosing 120 pounds is a significant achievement and I commend you for your efforts but it still doesn’t meet the mark at 268. You’re fat. People aren’t meant to be fat. Take responsibility for your shortcomings.

    Lonestar – the body is an objective respresentation of the person. Clearly, a person in shape and good health is more driven, disciplined, and slef-respecting than someone with obesity.

  • Jordan

    I highly doubt someone at southwest said the exact words, “You are to fat to fly on our plane” Clearly she was exagerating the situation. She can’t be too embarassed since she let CBS do an entire news story on her obesity. Everyone knows the rules- if you cant fit in one seat you have to purchase two or don’t fly at all

  • NotNextToTheFatLady

    It’s not the rest of the worlds responsibility to carry YOUR extra weight!
    Southwest has a very fair policy for those who cannot keep themselves healthy:

    Purchase a normal fair. They will accommodate the TWO seats that you need at 268(!) pounds. If the flight ends up being full, however, you will need to actually PURCHASE THE SECOND SEAT!!!

    Now, at the 398(!!!) pounds that she weighed before, she should just ride in the cargo section. And get charged by the pound, just like everything else.

  • NotNextToTheFatChick

    It’s not the rest of the worlds responsibility to carry YOUR extra weight!
    Southwest has a very fair policy for those who cannot keep themselves healthy:

    Purchase a normal fair. They will accommodate the TWO seats that you need at 268(!) pounds. If the flight ends up being full, however, you will need to actually PURCHASE THE SECOND SEAT!!!

  • Gavrick

    I don’t fly any more. It’s just too damned unpleasant. Here’s praying these flying cattle car companies go broke in the Great Depression II.

  • James steele

    As Jesse Ventura said, ” fat people have a gland problem. It’s called the saliva gland.”

    Obesity did not exist in the 60s or 70s. Mops or morbidly obese people are a product of processed food from the industrial food chain. Throw out your potato chips, your velvet, your soda, and regain your freedom

    It has nothCing to do with genes

  • Oatley

    They may squeeze in between the armrests, it’s the rest that spills over on you. This is right up there with the goon in front of you who believes his seat is a chase lounge.

    • Frequent Flier

      For using the available feature? Come on. Btw, if you want to stop someone from putting their seat back just wedge something between the hinge of the tray table and the chair frame. Works every time.

  • Beatdude

    This happened so long ago, why is it being revisited?

  • Genko Velev

    Where exactly is the problem here? They knew very well they have to buy 2 tickets per each, but tried to play stupid at the expenses of the other passengers (which would have to suffer because of their overweight.

  • C the M

    buying an additrional, separate seat is not necessary. Estimate that portion of her that flops or extends over the armrest and charge her for cargo extra luggage rate for that portion. It will come to less than a second ticket but be more than one fare. Also, refuse to feed her during the meal.

  • Lars J

    Here’s the dirty little financial secret none of the airlines will talk about. It makes their scolding obese passengers hypocritical to the extreme. Thousands of obese people who must travel – professionals, business people, etc – routinely travel with a family member or employee because they don’t want to deal with the uncomfortable situation of being crammed into a seat next to someone they don’t know. People like me. I used to travel alone constantly, now I bring a colleague or family member on trips since gaining weight over the past 15 years. These added passengers translate into millions and millions of extra dollars a year for the airlines. Next time you’re traveling, notice how few obese people travel alone. I don’t have the answer for this problem, but it’s hard to endure the airlines sounding like victims.

  • Mr. Potts

    If you travel a lot, you understand why the airlines do this. I’m tired of losing half my seat to an obese person when they are so large they extend into the seats next to theirs.

  • Flagpolice

    You whiney skinny people make me sick! Discrimination is discrimination! You are all probably too young to recall when seats used to have legroom and buttroom to spare and flying was fun. Southwest has NO first class but I like to fly SW because I am extremely tall and they do have a tad more legroom. Genes are genes. I never complain about my height or weight because it’s in my genes..nothing I can do about that. We are a wealthy country as marked by our healthy-looking people yet we still dicriminate against these healthy fat people. Things aren’t going to change so SW should get real and sell a SEAT AND A HALF; pair this with somebody who also bought A SEAT AND A HALF. Heck, I’d buy that just to have room to put my long legs sideways. Money-maker SW!!!! and less people on the plane, yet all seats sold: how can you beat that? Shut up you skinny people: you are the ones who drag on all those HUGE bags which spill into my footroom! So there!

    • Ross Ascani

      Shut up fatty.

    • Frequent Flyer

      How pathetic. It is not “discrimination” to expect that you will not have to sit next to someone who overflows into your seat and makes the flight a miserable experience.

      By the way, there are regulations that limit the size of carry on bags. People don’t generally put their belongings under the seat next to their own. If they do, get a backbone and ask them to move their items.

    • Skinnier Thanyou

      STFU Fatty! Step away from the buffet and exercise more. 99.999% of fatties are not ‘genetically fat@$$’, they just eat too damn much. It’s not discrimination to let you fekking fatties know that your condition is not compatible with a normal life. Stop asking everyone to accomodate your big fat @$$ please.

    • Eat right and walk once in a while

      “Healthy fat people.” Are you serious? Do you have any idea how much this country is paying in health care costs because people like you have no self control and can’t control your food intake?

    • art

      whoa, slow down there Flagpolice, put the Big Mac down and walk away slowly.

  • Johnny Fattyseed

    So you’re still fat? Since you say “half”, so you’re being generous with yourself, so you’re probably still pushing 150?

  • Romad

    Render unto those who need rendering

  • Watchman

    I actually agree with the airlines on this one. The airlines should either make the seats wider or make larger/obese people pay for two seats. Just because a large person can fit in between the armrests doesn’t make it easier for the passenger sitting next to them. Quite often large/obese people take up the space above the armrest and require the use of both armrests, essentially pushing the neighboring passengers to the side. I’ve sat next to way too many overweight people and by the time the plane has landed at my destination, my back is sore from having to lean the other direction for several hours. Good call by Southwest. However, they shouldn’t have apologized.

  • D.m.e.

    The main thing is, when you fly, you buy a seat… It’s none of anyone’s business why someone is large, Nor is it remotely OK for anyone to disrespect, or call someone names for hating how they look. So, the airlines provide small seats for the average sized person, do they charge them by their weight? No! You buy a seat. So why should anyone be singled out because the AIRLINE refuses to accomodate all sized fliers. It’s done arbitrarily and subjectively; and there is no reason why anyone should have to go through what these women just did. There are big and tall men and women, they deserve the same service as everyone else and it up to the Airlines to figure out a better way, so everyone is comfortable… I’ve been squished before, but I’ve also been tormented to the point of screaming by kids of parents who can’t control or don’t care about how annoying the wild kids or screaming toddlers are… There should be special adult flights for those of us who don’t care to fly with snot nosed kids. So, if the airlines want to sell passage by weight, weigh everyone and charge by the pound… Otherwise, stop clerks from singling williy nilly – all or nothing. The skinny ones can share a seat and save a bunch. One other memorable flyer… A woman with gigantic fake boobs sat next to me once… She fit in the seat, but her arms and boob extended all over me, it was creepy. The attendant even joked about it when the lady went to the powder room… I wasn’t laughing. This is an airline proplem they need to accommodate all sizes, shapes, disabilities, etc… They should stop discriminating. All or none.

  • mag13marine

    Oh sure she might fit with the arm rest down but her fat spews over on to those next to her. I’ve had that happen and that’s BULL. I don’t want your fat touching me. I paid for my seat now keep your fat in yours!

  • Mark

    This is so freaking true- have been on many flights where fat ladies have the lard roll rolling right over the armrest onto me, and then there pudgy arms stuck to my side the whole flight- Hell on earth right there…Should have got up and demanded a first class upgrade right then adn there or asked them to move the lard ladies…

  • Liquidity

    Let’s be perfectly clear about the airline’s flight cost CORRELATES DIRECTLY WITH WEIGHT. Getting and keeping heavy passengers require more costly jet fuel and thus account for more global warming. I hate to how big Al Gore’s carbon footprint is just from flying his lard butt around. So the normal weight people on the flight are subsidizing tickets for the porkers. Not to mention how unpleasant it is to have sit next to a porker on a crowded flight.

  • its_not_just_a_hat_rack

    As per usual no one actually uses their brain and looks at a situation creatively. No you don’t need to buy 2 seats if you are really fat, but i think the airlines should ask about size when selling tickets. Make people buy 1.5 seats and put two of them per 3 seat section. Every one wins the fatties/tall people don’t have to pay as much and the other passengers get to be comfortable as well.

  • Carol Linnell

    Well, if you were ever stuck next to someone who tried to push the armrest down over the fat roll and pretend the seat belt fit, then sweated all over you, you would not be upset by how the airline reacted! I was in this exact situation on an AK airlines flight from Anchorage to Juno! Not nice and very icky!

  • Mr. Little

    anyone that fat, should be strung up and shot.

  • Ricky Clinch

    Amen! I can’t stand having disgusting body fat pouring over the arm rests on me the whole flight! Cars go places too fatty!

  • doubleducks

    If they cannot fit through the emergency exit door, they should not be allowed to fly.

  • Vivienne @ The V Spot

    Jimmy Danger, YOU’RE an idiot. Mambo Jambo you hit the nail on the head with YOUR response.
    btw- I read this gal Kenlie’s blog. She’s a smart girl and is working hard to lose her weight. The real issue isn’t necessarily the “whether or not she needs to buy two tickets” thing or not. It’s that on a 4-leg trip, SW Airlines didn’t demand she purchase an extra seat until the 4th leg. Why not the whole trip? The lack of a clear policy on the subject, coupled with public humiliation is the issue.
    Fat or not is not the issue. SW’s handling of the situation is the issue. Period.

  • Russell

    I wonder what the reaction would be if an overly fat person flabbed over the seat next to you in a resturaunt, a theater or any other location where close seating is the normal rule? I would be concerned if an overly fat person caused a problem for aircraft passengers couldn’t leave the aircraft through emergency exits? If I paid the full price for admission to any of these functions I would be pretty unhappy if I had to endure being overly restricted in my seating situation to accomodate..just to accomodate an overly fat person..

    First class or two seats is the solution. If you are overly fat, you you are darned well aware of the fact and need to take your seating accomodations into consideration when buying the ticket. Dont blame normal weight people for then problem only you8 can solve.

  • ewm2

    Southwest doesn’t have first class.

  • Real Rick

    I’ve been stuck in a seat between 2 lard-butts, was it inconvenient YES was it uncomfortable YES! If I’m ever placed n a position like that again, I’m going to demand a better seat and make it loud and clear! They SHOULD have to buy 2 seats or maybe pay by the pound! The jet uses more fuel the heavier it is!!!

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