Kenlie Tiggeman 'Too Fat To Fly' On Southwest

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


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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There is something I don't understand. Why was this passanger offered free tickets when the airline's policies are clear? Apologies for lack of tact are always in order, but free tickets when the problem is that they don't fit in the plane? Hmmm

October 15 2011 at 2:48 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Here is a way to solve the problem. Make all the seats in the waiting area the same size/width as the plane seats and make the armrests unable to be raised. This would at least make it that overweight people could check without everyone noticing. Also maybe some seats on planes could be for overweight people and cost 50% more? Just a thought. I have been on planes where there are very heavy people that need extra seat belts and I feel very embarrassed for them. I cant imagine being told in front of even 1 person that you are too heavy to fly. I do think something needs to change.

October 14 2011 at 9:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mauimau1's comment
Kimberly M Nolan

No. Why is it Ok to force people off their flights just bcuz someone doesn't like the way they look? I can't believe that people are even entertaining the ideas that overweight people should be treated differently. What about a passenger in a wheelchair? Do they have areas on the plane for handicapped passengers in a wheelchair?

May 09 2012 at 3:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think that there needs to be a policy, if you are too big for the seat then you should have to pay for 2 seats or a larger seat. have you ever sat next to someone who bleeds over into your seat? Extremely uncomfortable, and mostly disgusting. I am sorry they are too big, but each of us has our issues, just because someone is too big doesn't mean others should be made uncomfortable too. Society is made for the average person, if you are too skinny or too fat you have to make allowances for that. Society's job is not to make everyone feel good about themselves, but to provide services and product that people want and need. We have gone overboard with political correctness and if you require more services than average then you should pay more.

October 14 2011 at 5:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to brniddragon's comment

Hell buy two seats, ask for pillows and make friends with everyone around you, that's my style! And yes I am a large person, and so far have flown on airplanes without any issues at all. But then I have never flown on the ones mentioned in the article either.
Not all people ate their way to fat, I am very active and eat a heck of a lot less then my husband, sons, and 21 yr old grand daughter and they are all on the skinny to slim side. I hurt their feelings when I tease them about being able to eat whatever they want. So I don't mention it any more, because I care about them and people in general.
A lesson some folks on here should take to heart, care about GOD,OUR PLANET, AND THE FEELINGS OF OTHERS.

October 14 2011 at 5:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pamnsales's comment
Douglas Hom MD

It is true. The science of obesity is still advancing and it is well shown that the same caloric intake will result in different weights for different people. It may be "unfair" that you can gain weight eating much less than the rest of your family, but that is the hand that you have been dealt. Charging more for seating to accommodate larger people should be a simple matter of economics. It costs more to fly them [fuel] and if seating is altered to increase their comfort [as they should] fewer passengers can be carried. Therefore, an increase in price will need to be made to reflect the increase in costs. It should be as simple as that. No one should have to be felt belittled in public by a business selling a product -- as long as that product can be fairly priced for the customer. I suspect that it is because others feel that they might be subsidizing the plus size passenger with either their ticket costs or with their personal space, and neither is "fair," if such exists.

February 12 2012 at 7:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gilbert D. Wood

This is better than the "soaps", the new daytime TV

October 14 2011 at 4:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Fat a___s of the world, get over it. If you spill out of your seat, you need to pay for a second seat. This is not discrimination. It is simple logistics. If I were required to purchase a second seat, I would do it. I would do it with shame, but I would do it.

October 14 2011 at 10:17 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mabiolc's comment

I so agree with you mabiolc! Except that the large people asked to get off the plane or buy another seat should not be entitled to embarrassment. Fat people know they are fat. Quit pretending to be shamed, too. Buy your extra ticket up front, ahead of timet and avoid the drama!

May 04 2012 at 6:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The policy is foolish, like most of the comments below. Sadly people think they can treat overweight people any way they choose. All this simply could have been avoided if the people were treated with the same kindness we all demand and expect. Funny how we wouldn't allow this if this were a tall man, or an African American, because no way you slice and dice this folks it is PURE discrimination. Do I feel she sue them, no, but only because she new what the lousy and ridiculous policy is.

I am sure you are saying to yourself, Kristin is obviously fat and her opinion means nothing here. What if I told you that I am considered perfect size? Would that make a difference.

Here is the point, no one should ever be discriminated upon and if you feel that they should then you certainly are not a true American or for that fact even a decent human being. Shame on the people that have made such horrible and obviously inaccurate comments. Shame, shame! I am praying for all of you!

July 29 2011 at 12:06 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kristin's comment

There is a flaw in your logic- being tall or African American cannot be considered the same as being overweight. People cannot 'lose' their height or their skin color - these things are not in our control. Being overweight IS within our control or lack thereof...

October 14 2011 at 7:51 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bethsentinal's comment

Society made revisions for GAYS & LESBIANS why not make revisions for OVERWEIGHT folks too? Just saying..........

October 14 2011 at 8:52 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down

Quite obviously, we should build special planes for overweight people. Special planes with special seats, and special pilots that are trained in being extra sensitive to special people.

This story is ridiculous. How about paying a little more attention to the 90 year old grannies and the soccer moms that are getting probed in the name of equality? Or any other REAL problem?

Eh, at least we finally stopped talking about the Bieb in every article. Wait, what's he up to...

June 27 2011 at 9:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dimseraphim0's comment

Special people? Really? Wow, you are indeed special my dear. What a heart of gold you have!

July 29 2011 at 12:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

all i am saying is there better not be a lawsuit filed in this if the airline was acting according to their policy then let it go shouldn't even be a news story. Sincerely good luck on the weight loss i hope her life is forever changed by this experience and she will use it as motivation. Keep going.

June 18 2011 at 12:29 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to floydnewalla's comment

I voted you up, but one thing. This girl had motivation because she did say she lost a lot of weight.

July 29 2011 at 12:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Geeky Girl

Why don't you people check out her Blog "All The Weigh" and get the real story? This isn't how it happened. The third woman had been approached and was being told she had to buy an extra ticket. SHE pointed at them and said "Whay about them?" THAT"S how they got pulled into it. She'd been on 3 flights already with them during that trip and hadn't been asked to buy an extra ticket. THAT is where her problem came in. She used to buy extra tickets to avoid a problem before losing the HUGE amount of weight that she's worked her butt off (litereally) to lose. If their policy was definate on who's "too fat to fly" then she would have had to buy an extra tickets on the other trips, wouldn't she?

June 16 2011 at 8:28 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply