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There is a video making the rounds around the internet:

Marauder Magazine

The aftermath of Southwest Airlines's "person of size" policy! A mother and her daughter + friend are refused boarding on a flight home because a person of size took their seat. The airline told the mother they can kick anyone off the plane to accomodate any "person of size".

The video includes an upset passenger stuck in Baltimore talking to the camera, audio of a SouthWest employee explaining the policy, and a screenshot of an explanation of the policy.

The passenger claims that she together with her daughter and the daughter's friend were refused boarding on a Southwest flight because of the airline's person of size policy and that their seat was given as an additional free seat to a person who did not pay for an extra seat.

Was this really the reason why they were not allowed to board the plane?

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    – Oddthinking
    Dec 27, 2023 at 5:23

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The video that is the source of the story was originally posted on TikTok in June by @dontflysouthwest. I wasn't able to view that video (perhaps it was deleted? I never use TikTok), but it was reposted on Twitter (Nitter mirror). Partial transcript:

[...] Flying from Montego Bay, stopping Baltimore, going home to Denver, and in Montego Bay they tell us—on Southwest—that we cannot go on the plane because it got overbooked and we cannot get in because I was on standby. Well, I wasn't on standby. It wasn't my ticket, I purchased the ticket, um, and they couldn't get... so it's me, my daughter, and her friend, me with two teenagers, we can't get in on a plane. Later to find out that there's a person of size that did not purchase two tickets but was being accommodated and that is why we could get in on the airplane and about to get stuck outside the country. Please [...] help me understand, um, why am I—do I have to spend the night without any accommodations in Baltimore because [...] oversized person—how did they call her—um, didn't purchase a second ticket. [...]

The video ends with a short recording of a Southwest employee saying

There is a customer of size on the aircraft. Even if there aren't enough seats we need to accommodate that customer of size [...]

According to their official web site, Southwest does have a policy that anyone who can't fit in the single seat they booked can talk to an agent at the departure gate to get a second seat. (They ask people who need two seats to book both seats in advance but don't require it.)

A post on the blog "View from the Wing", also written in June, quotes an official response from Southwest. I couldn't find a better source for this, but I doubt that the blogger fabricated it.

[A]ccording to a Southwest Airlines spokesperson, “from a regulatory sense, there was not a denied boarding on the flight referenced as there was an error with one of the reservations.”

They offered that the airline’s customer service agents “followed established procedures for both the Customer of Size and reaccommodating these Customers.” And said that they “compensated the Customer for interim expenses, offered three LUV vouchers as a gesture of goodwill and booked them for the following day when seats were available.”

So I gather that what happened is:

  • One of the teenagers was on standby because of "an error with the reservation"
  • After accommodating all of the non-standby passengers (which included one who needed two seats) there were no seats left
  • The mother and the other teen couldn't fly either since they couldn't leave the standby teen behind
  • Southwest didn't book them a hotel room but did pay for "interim expenses" and gave them vouchers (for free flights?)

It's unclear which leg of the trip this happened on, since she first talks about being "stuck outside the country" but then says they're stuck in Baltimore. She appears tired and upset and stumbles over her words, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of what she said was incorrect.

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    "LUV vouchers": For those unfamiliar (like me until 30 seconds ago), LUV is the Southwest ticker symbol and branding.
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 26, 2023 at 23:29
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    So, the answer is that nobody got refused boarding: 1 person didn't have a ticket (more precisely, had a standby ticket, but there were no more standby seats available) and 2 others voluntarily decided to abandon their travel plans. Dec 27, 2023 at 19:01
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    @JörgWMittag That would be one possible reading of the situation based on the description by the airline that is very favorable to the airline. It seems equally plausible to me that the 'error with the reservation' was actually an error of the airline not of the passenger and they just screwed a passenger. No way to really know with the information available.
    – quarague
    Dec 27, 2023 at 20:42
  • "from a regulatory sense, there was not a denied boarding on the flight referenced as there was an error with one of the reservations" is the most corporate nonsense sentence I've read in a while. Was this even written by a human?
    – SIMEL
    Dec 27, 2023 at 20:52

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