The Half-Seat Solution to Too-Fat-to-Fly? Maybe

Earlier this week, a travel agency executive gave what Skift called “an impassioned plea” for airlines to begin selling half-seats. This would supposedly provide the perk of extra space that airlines no longer offer in this day and age of capacity cutting (sometimes known as “cramming as many seats as possible on planes”). But could this also be a solution for some overweight flyers?

One airline’s solution: pay-by-the-pound

Shaming of ‘Passengers of Size’

In recent years, FareCompare has reported on a number of instances where passengers deemed too big to fit in a seat were embarrassed by flight attendants or gate agents as they were told to buy a second seat. One of the most famous incidents occurred back in 2010 when film director Kevin Smith was ordered off a plane – and he was already seated! Smith’s ensuing tweet-storm got a lot of attention [sample Smith tweet: “@SouthwestAir? You (expletive) with the wrong sedentary processed-foods eater!”]. Southwest later apologized, but their policy remains crystal clear; flyers they call “Customers of Size” are told to be proactive and buy a second seat.

Another solution to seat problems: find the cheapest flight

Cheaper than Two Seats

Buying two seats can be expensive (although Southwest refunds second seats), so some obese travelers just buy a single ticket and take their chances. Which leads us to a couple of interesting questions:

  • Could two larger passengers share an empty middle seat for just half the price?
  • And what’s to prevent a particularly skinny person from purchasing a half-seat only?

Worst seats ever

Friendship or Romance Seats

At the moment, all this is sheer speculation since no airline we’re aware of is considering selling half-seats. However, some airlines like KLM have been using social media as a way for passengers to fill the seats next to them with sympatico travelers – what some have called of the Air – so it could happen. We’ll update if it does.


Published: August 8, 2013