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Southwest Airlines gives plus-size passengers a free additional seat

The "customer of size" policy has sparked debate online, with some giving it praise and others arguing its fairness.
Southwest Airlines gives plus-size passengers a free additional seat
Posted at 9:09 AM, Dec 15, 2023

A Southwest Airlines policy has sparked debate online for its accommodations for larger passengers.

At Southwest, plus-size passengers can get a free, additional seat when necessary to "protect the comfort and safety of everyone onboard," the airline says. If needed, customers can be provided an entire row for the cost of one seat.

The policy has been in place for more than 30 years, but videos trending on TikTok have brought it recent attention. 

"If you're fat, you know the anxiety of flying and this alleviates it a lot," said TikTok user Caroline, who often posts plus-size lifestyle content to her nearly 200,000 followers. 

"I had a very comfortable flight just feeling like I was allowed to take up the space I needed," she continued. 

Others online say the policy is unfair. 

"Me personally, I don't agree with this. I'm 6-foot-4, my legs are always cramped on airlines. Do you see me complaining about not getting additional seats for free? I don't think so," said fitness influencer Ryan Rodal in a TikTok video.

Southwest's "customer of size" policy states that larger passengers with one ticket can discuss their seating needs with a customer service agent at the departure gate.

"If it's determined that a second (or third) seat is needed, you'll be accommodated with a complimentary additional seat," the policy says. 

While Southwest will accommodate passengers at the airport, they suggest customers purchase an additional seat with their initial purchase, saying the additional seat will be reimbursed after travel.

"We refund all extra seat purchases for a customer of size, even if the flight oversells," says the airline.

Getting the seat in advance helps the airline account for inventory needs and reduces the chances of an oversale situation, says the airline. It also helps customers avoid confrontation, if uncomfortable, at the gate.

Customers with an "extra seat boarding" document can choose to preboard.

Larger passengers can also request a seatbelt extender, even if they don't need an extra seat. 

Southwest says the definitive gauge on whether or not a customer needs a second seat is the armrest, which serves as the boundary between seats.

"If you're unable to lower both armrests and/or encroach upon any portion of a seat next to you, you need a second seat," says the airline.

Review Southwest's "customer of size" policy here.

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