I spent about 40 minutes of my life yesterday watching Kevin Smith's SModcast about his fiasco with Southwest Airlines. I didn't have time to watch all 24 minisodes on the playlist, but I saw enough to let my heart grow warmer for him and to respect him a little more.
Stacy Bias wrote on Facebook that it really stuck in her craw (as it did in mine) that much of the rhetoric has centered around the fact that he wasnt "fat-fat."
I am fat-fat. I've flown a number of times in the past 15 years as a very fat person and as a disabled person and I can tell you that it isn't fun even when you have more than one seat.
I wrote about the two seat option on another blog some time ago after a trip cross country with two seats. My experience was about as humiliating as being asked to leave the plane. In addition, having a second seat does not make for a comfortable trip because the arm rest is in my back or the seat divider is rubbing my hip the entire trip.
But I want to suggest that this is a question of will and engineering and not a question of who is fit to fly.
Here's what I wrote then:
I have an idea in mind for an adjustable bench seat that allows for a sliding arm so that people could buy all of the bench, 1/2 of the bench or 1/3 of bench. the problem with this idea isn't its implementation. The problem is that airlines sell seats in convoluted ways that would make such configurations (and fair pricing of them) difficult. So not only would the physical environment have to be redesigned, but so would the marketing and billing systems. A major overhaul for the existing airlines. But an upstart has a great opportunity here to take the big guys out. Southwest Airlines (imagining me hissing as I say their name) is making the big bucks on uniform service. They get the lions share of the market because they are cheap and people who can conform for the price. But there is a limit to this strategy. At some point you run out of people who can fit into the narrow (literally and figuratively) world that Southwest is creating. So other ways to expand the market will have to be addressed.
So I'm putting this out there. Some clever engineer/inventor could really make a name for herself or himself by designing an adjustable seat that accommodates almost anyone. It can be done and doing it now while the media cares for a brief moment would make for awesome publicity!
Then some innovative competitor who wants to give Southwest a run for their ill-gotten gains could implement the invention and make flying a comfortable and fun experience again.
All it takes in ingenuity and will:
From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. And it's not a miracle, we just decided to go. -- Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks, Apollo 13)