Plus-sized travelers are bringing new attention to Southwest Airlines' “customer of size” policy on TikTok


Southwest Airlines’ long-standing “customer of size” policy is generating new conversation thanks to viral TikTok videos and media coverage of efforts to pressure other airlines to offer seating policies for passengers who don’t fit comfortably in the cramped seats of today’s airlines.

The policy, which Southwest says has been in place for more than 30 years, allows passengers to purchase additional seats before travel and receive a refund for the cost of those additional seats upon completion of the trip.

Southwest recommends passengers purchase additional seats in advance to help the airline plan how many seats will be occupied and “to ensure we can accommodate all customers on the flight for which they have purchased a ticket and to “avoid customers having to give up their seats for unplanned accommodation,” says the policy.

Passengers can also speak with a customer service representative at the departure gate without purchasing more space in advance to receive free additional seats.

A TikTok video posted by user @Kimmystyled of a passenger at a departure gate pleading to apply the policy has been viewed nearly a million times since it was posted in October. Southwest’s policy is unusual among U.S. airlines.

“It should be the industry norm,” the post says. “Flying is public transportation and should be more comfortable and accessible for everyone, including fat and disabled people.” CNN attempted to reach @Kimmystyled but did not immediately receive a response.

Many commenters expressed support and gratitude to the poster for publicizing the policy, while others questioned the vacant space. “I think you should get a seat for a cheaper price, but I’m 6’2″ and pay for extra legroom,” one person wrote.

Jae'lynn Chaney wants all US airlines to do this

Jae’lynn Chaney agrees that the industry needs to be more inclusive of plus-size travelers. Chaney, a plus-size travel expert and content creator based in Vancouver, Washington, launched a petition in April calling for a federal mandate requiring all airlines to have “a comprehensive policy for plus-size customers that ensures comfort and puts the well-being of customers first.” ALL passengers.”

Chaney told CNN Travel that the petition received about 3,000 new signatures this week as recent TikTok videos related to Southwest’s policies received more attention. By midday on Friday, around 40,000 signatures had been collected.

Chaney said she has heard countless stories of people “who have stopped traveling because of fear of how they might be treated because of their size.”

“I still want to see policies like Southwest Airlines’ customer size policy implemented across the board,” Chaney said, adding that she has spoken with U.S. legislative teams to push for legislation that would require airlines to adopt policies available for customer sizes.

She said that while some airlines list policies on their websites, Alaska Airlines is the only other U.S. airline that offers a customer policies close in size to Southwest’s. Alaska requires the purchase of additional seats, which are refundable after travel if a vacant seat was available on all of the passenger’s flights.

Chaney would like to see something like Canada’s “one person, one fare” requirement, which government documents say applies to passengers “functionally disabled by obesity,” adopted in the United States.

At a minimum, she wants every airline to be required to post a customer size policy on its website. “And that doesn’t necessarily mean they all have to offer free second seats, but we at least have to have the information to navigate the different airlines,” said Chaney, who, along with her partner, organizes trips and retreats tailored to the needs of people in larger bodies and those with limited mobility.

Chaney said the reaction to her endorsement was mixed.

“I think there’s just a societal perception that fat people don’t deserve to travel,” Chaney said.

“The travel industry for us was, you know, very exclusive and not inclusive, and it was an area that we didn’t feel comfortable in, and now I’m really trying to change that.”