Kenlie Tiggeman 'Too Fat To Fly' On Southwest

Posted May 12th 2011 08:45 AMUpdated May 12th 2011 11:08 AM

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Southwest Airlines is landing in hot water after they told a passenger that she was "too fat to fly."


During a layover in Dallas on Easter Sunday, Kenlie Tiggeman was told by a Southwest employee that she and her mother were "too fat to fly" when they asked what the weight restrictions were on the flight, according to MSNBC.

Tiggeman, who has lost 120 pounds in the last two years, told the news organization: "It doesn't matter how far I have come. I have a long way to go, but no one sees that. All they see is my exterior - someone who is fat."

'Customers of Size' in the Skies

Southwest's "Customers of Size" policy clearly states passengers who cannot fit between the 17-inch armrests must purchase a second seat.


According to Southwest they are usually discreet with their concerns and take customers into a private area to test out the seating before boarding. But Tiggeman and her mother, Joan Charpentier, said they had the 45-minute confrontation with a Southwest employee in front of roughly 100 people.

Tiggeman added: "I know that I have a lot of weight to lose but I am definitely not too fat to fly. I do it all the time, domestically and internationally, and I have never had anyone approach me and particularly in the way that they did. I was embarrassed, humiliated." Tiggeman wrote on her blog that she usually likes to fly JetBlue because "the jets feel more spacious and the customer service is consistently extraordinary."


The unidentified Southwest employee then told the ladies they could board the flight...if they sat with a third overweight woman in a row.


Tiggeman's mother told MSNBC: "Of course my daughter was okay with that. But I wasn't because the deal I made with Southwest when I left, I bought a ticket and it's open seating, and you can sit wherever you want."

After a supervisor intervened, the women were allowed to board the flight without purchasing extra seats, and were given vouchers and an apology, which Tiggeman recorded on her phone for good measure.

'Old Fears into New Nightmares'

When Tiggeman took to her blog to describe the ordeal in a post entitled "The Day Southwest Airlines Took My Old Fears Into a New Nightmare", a Southwest executive contacted her again to apologize and offer her additional free flights.

But Tiggeman stands firm in her position that she's not looking for free flights, just that Southwest's "sensitivity level needs to be different."


Tiggeman also wrote on her blog that she wanted to visit Richard Simmons' Beverly Hills weight loss studio--his videos were instrumental in her weight loss--and Simmons wrote back personally and asked her to workout with him.


This is not the first time someone has taken to criticizing Southwest for their policies. In February 2010, director Kevin Smith famously got into a public dispute with the airline after he was booted from a Burbank-bound flight. In July 2010, a thin passenger was kicked off a flight to Sacramento-bound flight to make room for an overweight passenger.



Filed Under: Air Travel, News

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