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AirTran to adopt 'weigh more, pay more' policy

Posted by Paul Makishima, Globe Assistant Sunday Editor  October 19, 2011 11:13 AM

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It wasn't hard to see this one coming. AirTran, which was recently acquired by Southwest, has decided to adopt its parent company's controversial "customers of size'' policy as of March 1, 2012. That means if you are too big to fit into a seat with the armrests down, you must pay for a second seat. If, however, it turns out there are empty seats on the flight overweight passengers can get a refund for the extra fare.

The issue, not an uncommon one in the airline business, periodically rears its ugly head. Truth be told, most airlines have some sort of policy to deal with overweight passengers, ranging from informal ones involving quiet attempts at accommodation to harder rules like those of Southwest, AirTran, United, Continental, and others that can require the purchase of a second seat.

Southwest tends to be a lightning rod on this issue because of a series of high-profile incidents involving the carrier. Last year, for instance, Kevin Smith, director of the film "Clerks,'' was ejected from a Southwest flight after refusing to pay for a second seat. Smith then took his fight to Twitter. And more recently in May, a woman and her mother complained about being humiliated after being booted from a flight by an airline official who allegedly said the pair was “too fat to fly.”

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