Sunday, August 21

Southwest, Sizism, and Institutionalized Oppression

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xp9mfZ0zZAg


I want to talk about something that typically makes me uncomfortable and that’s my weight and size. I’m usually able to disengage with this issue, but it came up while I was traveling southwest airlines yesterday. Going to Philadelphia, there were no problems. However back home, there was a huge issue. I was back with my aunt and uncle and we arrived at the boarding gate and checked in and got our que an hour before our departure. Throughout the waiting period, the employee at the counter is making various announcements that they’ve overbooked their flight and that they’re looking for passengers who have flexible schedules and would like to take a later flight. We’re not interested in that because I’ve got errands to run and a crap load of things to do before classes start on Monday.

And, it’s four minutes before our group is supposed to board and a woman from the counter comes up to me and says, “Would you come to the counter for a minute? I’d like to talk to you.” I don’t really know what’s going on and I’m thinking it’s because probably because they saw my passport picture where I was wearing a hijab and they wanted to put me through addition security checks or something. When I get to the counter I ask her if anything is wrong. She doesn’t even look me in the eye and she has this blank expression on her face.

She says that: “It’s for your safety and comfort that I’m going to recommend you buy a second seat.“

In the meantime, I see the employee next her handling a woman who purchased a ticket but doesn’t have a seat on the plane. And I’m thinking why the fuck would they have me buy two seats when this woman doesn’t even have one? Anyway, I explain to her that I flew Southwest to this very airport and had no problems with purchasing a second seat. But she’s adamant that I have to do this for my safety and comfort. They keep repeating the phrase “safety and comfort.”

My uncle suggests that he sit next to me so we don’t cause discomfort to any of the other passengers, but they say that’s not possible. And then my aunt gets involved and it’s a little crazy so we demand to speak to the supervisor. The supervisor is spitting out the exact same rhetoric as her employees. It clicks with me that they’re attempting to push me off of the flight so that the seat will open up for the woman who is stranded. They’d rather have me pay $100 for another seat than have to reimburse her for her ticket which she paid $300+ for which is more than I paid for mine. I tell this to the supervisor and she becomes visibly upset with me and says that that it is not the case at all and that it is for my safety and comfort—once again repeating that phrase. Then she says, “You all better make a decision right now because you’re going to delay the plane.”

I’m thinking there are a bunch of cranky kids on there who probably got up at 3 am and they just want to go to Disney world, so I give them the hundred dollars and we go to board the plane.

Boarding the plane is a moment I will never forget. It was the most humiliating experience I’ve ever had in my adult life. Everyone—every single person on that plane was looking at me. Some people were shaking their heads, other people were sneering; some people were chuckling. They saved us three seats at the back of the plane and I didn’t want to look at anyone and I tried to make my way back there as fast as I could. I see this man—a middle-aged white man—making rude hand gestures, the “big ass” hand gesture and then he sees that I’m crying and says to the person next to him that, “people like that, those people are like the people who cry race discrimination.”

I couldn’t say anything to him. I was so powerless in that moment that I could not say anything to him. So I’m shrinking into oblivion and I’m sitting in my seat. I’m sitting by the window and there’s an empty seat beside me and my aunt is sitting in the outer seat. My uncle is sitting at the last available seat on the other side of the plane. That’s not even the end of it. It’s not even the most fucked up and problematic part of this whole ordeal. There’s a man and his wife and kid and they don’t have a seat for him. His wife and son have a seat, but he doesn’t. And so the flight attendant walks up and down the aisle and sees the empty space between my aunt and I and says very loudly, “Did you purchase that?” I could only nod my head, yes.

She said “Oh, okay” and continued walking up and down the aisle.

Then I heard the woman sitting behind me say, “that girl took that gentleman’s seat.”

The most shady thing that happened was when another employee came up to my aunt, handed her back the money and told my uncle to sit next to us. That was the shittiest things to ever happen to me..I guess, so far? And it was completely unnecessary because that’s what we had suggested to them before boarding the plane. So, clearly purchasing a second seat was not for my safety and comfort. They were using the socially acceptable “fat-hating” norms to reinforce their institutional policies in order to maximize their profits and gains. That’s it.

This, ultimately, isn’t an issue of weight discrimination. It is a perfect example of how institutional policy and the public ritual of shaming combine together to form this oppressive process that disempowers an individual to the point where they can’t stand up in the face of injustice despite knowing what’s happening is wrong. It just shows the multi-faceted/multilayered functions of power within our society. So, what I’m demanding from Southwest in a letter of complaint I’m filing is a formal letter of apology as well as recognition that they were not working in the best interest of their passengers (or for my safety and comfort) and caused me unnecessary emotional distress.

Needless to say, I’m never flying Southwest again and neither is anyone else in my family. I hope that this story has more of an impact on you than, “Oh wow, that’s a really shitty thing to have happened, but there’s nothing we can do about it.” I believe that moments like these open up the possibility for policy reform—it opens up the possibility for us to critically look at the way our society is treating other people and to change that. So, I dunno. Give me your thoughts on the situation or whatever. I’m late for work. Bye!

57 comments:

Mystery Reader said...

Hi- saw your YouTube video; it was on a friend's page. It was truly awful. It is incredible that SW has chosen to institutionalize such discrimination.I had heard about Kevin Smith but did realize how widelly they were using this rule to make up for their poor booking polcies. I for one will never fly SW. I admire your dignity and honesty and the brave way you handled such undeserved treatment. Ilene

Dawn said...

I'm so sorry this happened to you and thank you for your bravery in sharing it with us. I'm posting it all over my social networks. Here's hoping SW rectifies their asshat policies.

Scandinavianmutt said...

I am so sorry you had such a bad experience. Stories like yours about Southwest are the very reasons why I do not fly Southwest under any circumstances. I recently paid over $100 more for a plane ticket rather than fly Southwest.

Julia Roberts said...

I am so sorry that this happened to you and I want to thank you for telling your story. Without courage like yours we wouldn't be able to change minds. I hope your story will change some.

all.things.fadra said...

There are so many things going on here. I know about Southwest's policy for "passengers of size." It's an awkward and difficult policy but perhaps sometimes necessary.

The issue that I see here is that they are NOT consistent with their policy. Clearly, you were fine to travel in a single seat, as evidenced by your previous flight. I think you and your uncle offered a totally acceptable solution.

Where I get enraged is the people that are so cruel. They make comments without thinking, or worse yet, WITH thinking and still not caring at their damage their words can do.

And then, for Southwest to refund your money AFTER they asked you to pay unnecessarily in the first place? That is absolutely shameful and I wonder how those people sleep at night. Clearly, comfort and safety are only important when it's convenient for them.

all.things.fadra said...

There are so many things going on here. I know about Southwest's policy for "passengers of size." It's an awkward and difficult policy but perhaps sometimes necessary.

The issue that I see here is that they are NOT consistent with their policy. Clearly, you were fine to travel in a single seat, as evidenced by your previous flight. I think you and your uncle offered a totally acceptable solution.

Where I get enraged is the people that are so cruel. They make comments without thinking, or worse yet, WITH thinking and still not caring at their damage their words can do.

And then, for Southwest to refund your money AFTER they asked you to pay unnecessarily in the first place? That is absolutely shameful and I wonder how those people sleep at night. Clearly, comfort and safety are only important when it's convenient for them.

LindsayDianne said...

It sounds like you've had a very traumatic experience flying with this airline. It's never easy to be faced with this, and the way you were treated by other people on the plane sounds like it was equally as painful as the incident with the airline itself.
Considering that you were not forced to pay for an extra seat on the way TO your destination, I definitely would have refused to do so on the way home. FLIGHT DELAYS BE DAMNED. But I'm very much a take action kind of person.
I hope that you ultimately get what you're hoping for out of this situation.
Love from Canada.

Kia said...

I have to concur i'm appalled. At first i thought this was going to be apost about Southwest's oversized passenger policy which i get and i understand, but the fact that the 1, flagged you for it, 2 made you pay and 3, then decided to refund it to give someone a seat is insane.

A consistent policy would have said you kept that empty seat, for them to refund it means you were singled out and then when it didn't work for them they changed their mines. That is completely unacceptable.

Heather said...

This is appalling. I am so sorry you were treated this way. Thank you for taking the brave step of going public with your story.

Meredith said...

I am SO SORRY!!! I just cried my eyes out and put my head on the table. It is so, so awful what was done to you and how you were treated. Those employees were cruel and the passengers, too. I have felt a LOT of shame in the past five years and it hurts so badly. You are brave to advocate for change and I promise my husband and I will NEVER fly Southwest ever again.

CL said...

Wow. When I started reading this story, I was thinking you're probably right about the profit motive but there's no way to prove it... then they actually proved it themselves by reversing their position to put an additional person on the plane.

I hope they get negative publicity for this because they deserve it. I'm so sorry this happened to you.

Ms. Chunky Chick said...

Fucking bastards at southwest did it again! Here is the link to Kenz.
http://www.alltheweigh.com/2011/04/the-day-southwest-airlines-turned-my-old-fears-into-a-new-nightmare/ She had a similar problem on southwest and I hope that maybe she can help you with at bare minimum of getting out what skum bags they are

Evin said...

First of all, good for you for posting this. I know that it's SO HARD to admit to size discrimination and the shame we feel from it. It's easier to ignore it or laugh it off. This post took courage!

That said - Southwest Airline's rules are just plain stupid, and the people you dealt with are a-holes.

I hope you get the results you want, and SWA changes their attitude. I can honestly say I'll never fly SouthWest again, but I don't fly, ever, do that's easy for me to say. :)

Anonymous said...

This is horrible and I am sorry this happened to you. We have chosen Not to fly Southwest ever since seeing several incidents like this...I will post and inform everyone I know as well. Thank you for sharing your story.

Single Mom Survives said...

I fucking love you. I'm retweeting this and posting it in my Facebook fan page. This needs to be read. By writing this you HAVE done something. Your blogging community will get the message out for you. Hugs!! And I don't charge for hugs.

xoxo,
Jamie

Eva Gallant said...

That is a terrible story!
I stopped flying Southwest years ago because of their policy. I am overweight and was afraid I might face just that type of experience. Good for you for having the courage to write about it! I hope Southwest feels the ramifications of their policy and actions!

MFA Mama said...

That is ridiculous! And to reverse the decision immediately like that? Just demonstrates that it wasn't about size to begin with. I almost never fly, but the next time I do I will make sure it isn't with Southwest!

JesseG said...

I'm a regular, and I mean *REGULAR* flyer. I have flown AirTran for more years than I can count. Elite+ Status and all.

So you can imagine that hearing that Southwest has bought out Airtran didn't thrill me. I Will not fly Southwest. Not ever. I don't care if the tickets cost $20 and come with free blowjobs from the stewardesses er... flight attendants. Not a chance. (well..maybe)

And it's EXACTLY because of stories like this. They treat their customers like cattle, like they'd rather they just not be there and just send checks and drive.

Alanna said...

I am pretty much an echo of what everyone else has said. I am so sorry that this happened to you and I truly appreciate you sharing it. I have to say that I am even more horrified by the reactions of the other passengers. Not to say that the behavior of SW wasn't atrocious and beyond shameful; it obviously was. But for our "fellow man" to act the way they did is the absolutely disgusting and an embarrassment to us as humans. It astounds me that not one person had the cahonees to tell the rest of them to shut-up. Why are we so afraid to speak up for each other? We will speak out for animals, for foregin counties, for the rain forest- what about each other???You can bet your sweet cheeks I would have. (I have a big mouth & try to use my powers for good when the opportunity presents itself!)
I don't fly very often, but when I do, it will not be with SW.
And I too will be sharing this story with everyone I can.

Kevin Edwards said...

The way the SW employees acted: a kind of passive aggression that lets them vent out some of the powerlessness of their little lives without fear of retaliation - because they have the "policies" behind them.

Really a terrible thing.

kyouell said...

I have to say that after hearing all the things I have about airlines (Were all those bad stories about Southwest? I can't remember.), I don't want to fly at all. Hurt 'em in their pocketbooks as it's all they understand. It was the other passengers' behavior that appalled me. I'm imagining my now-6-year-old son boarding a plane and being subjected to stares and loud rude comments and it just makes my heart sick. He has Down syndrome and I know to have a thick skin and expect odd comments from children, but adults can be just as mean, can't they? I'll spread the word and stand by you. If anyone can be singled out for poor treatment he could be next, so I will fight for your rights too!

Dangerous Lilly said...

Again? Oh, Southwest....you are the epitomy of FAIL.

I flew for the first time last spring. By then I'd only read about Kevin Smith and one other person heaving to deal with SW and fat-hatred issues. So I purposely chose another company and instead of booking online (my comfort zone) I actually called and spoke to someone. Luckily I got sweet lady who was so understanding and assured me that I would fit (I barely fit, TBH) and that I would never encounter anything like what SW does with extra seats. And to the credit of Delta, I didn't have problems. I personally was uncomfortable, as in physically, because of my size. I've vowed to never fly again unless I get under 200 lbs.

Your story is now the 6th I've come across since Kevin's high profile one and I'm sure there are others that don't make it across the radar of my blogging peers. I'm so sorry that this happened to you, and that it keeps happening. I wish that somehow you and others like you could file a class-action lawsuit against SouthWest for emotional distress. I don't know a damn thing about the law, but something needs to be done with them.

Yep, I will never again fly SouthWest and will never let anybody I know fly them if there's ever another choice.

Sarah Pomranka said...

Total repetition of what others have already said, but wanted my voice to be another support of you and denunciation of Southwest's unbelievable policies. I commend you on being a loud voice against this unbelievable rudeness and discourtesy.

BirdNona said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Totally Mental Mommy said...

Southwest... what a bunch of incredible asshats. Make me so glad that I quit flying them years ago. I'm so sorry that this happened to you. You handled it *so* much better than I would have! I'd have been on the evening news as the crazy fat lady that assaulted an airline employee. {{hugs}}

Sara said...

You are so brave to post this and I commend you for standing up for yourself. I know that you get 'the look' for being non-pasty white and to add insult to injury they pull the weight card. I'm still trying to figure out how in a span of a few minutes your 'safety and comfort' were no longer a priority concern that they could refund your money to allow someone to occupy your 'safety and comfort' zone.

Thank you for sharing your story. Especially due to the inconsistency in applying their policy, Southwest has some explaining to do.

My best to you! Do not let this define you or eclipse any of the awesome you have.

Brooks Thomas said...

Athia,

I'd like to apologize on behalf of Southwest for your recent flying experience. The policy you were affected by is an extremely difficult one for our Employees and one we work hard to apply consistency.

We always try to make sure we have the correct number of seats on a full flight without make any passenger unsafe or uncomfortable.

Southwest has an internal effort to enhance the guidelines of the policy and please know your experience will be taken into account when having those discussions. Again, I'm so sorry. I hope you allow us the chance to make it right.

I've sent you a note from @SouthwestAir on Twitter, if you'd like to speak more privately.

Sincerely,

Brooks Thomas
Southwest Airlines Emerging Media Team

Kat said...

I'm so sorry you had to go through that. Those of us that do not fit the slender "norm" face these attitudes far too often but this instance extreme and I really feel for you. I probably would have been in tears as well. You're so brave to share this story and just earned yourself a new follower in me.

technomom said...

Southwest has been notorious for many years for their bigoted policies. There is absolutely no way that I would get on one of their planes, ever - even if I somehow became rail thin. I don't want to give money to bigots.

I strongly suggest that you contact NAAFA and other size rights organizations to see if there are any groups of people working together who have been affected by the discriminatory policies of Southwest or other airlines. Good luck!

Tori said...

Just another comment to say thank you for sharing this. One more reason I'll never fly Southwest again.

Jennifer said...

Now this is just outrageous! And fucking bullshit, excuse my language. I am so so sorry you had to endure this. It's just unacceptable. Not fair at all. Southwest is by far the worst airline ever!!! Never ever flying them!!!

Halala Mama said...

I am so so sorry. I can only imagine the humiliation. I haven't gone anywhere near southwest for that very reason.

stark. raving. mad. mommy. said...

What a horrendous experience -- one that no one should have to go through. Southwest's treatment of you, and their inconsistent enforcing of their policy, is cruel AND bad business. The way some of the other passengers reacted is just shameful. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story, and for sharing it so eloquently.

Cassandra said...

I know exactly how you feel. I've been though that. So, I started buying two seats everytime I fly. What's crazy is 85% of the time they make me give up the seat because they're overbooked. It's really not about safety or comfort. It's about their bottom line.

Recently I've started telling them no when they say they need the seat. I purchased the seat because of their policy. If they can't get me on the flight with two seats then they will refund my entire fare and still fly me home. That makes them leave me alone pretty quick.

I'm hoping some civil law suit comes from what they are doing to people. If for no other reason than to get it sorted out. I'm tired of the rules always changing.

Big Life, Little Blog said...

Your experience, like many others on Southwest, is outrageous. I've flown Southwest many times (even at my highest of 355) and never encountered their staff 1) asking me to purchase an additional seat or 2) treating me with absolutely no respect. After hearing your story and many others you can sure bet if there is another option, I will choose it over SW.

I commend you for publicly saying you will never fly them again. I truly hope you stick to this statement when SW starts dangling credits and free flights in front of you as their "apology"

Powermommy Speaks said...

This is the worst example of "LUV" that I have ever read! I cannot believe that they did this to you. I am both embarrassed and outraged with you. "Buy another seat?" WHOA!!! Thank you for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I am absolutely infuriated both by SW, and by the way that other passengers treated you. I will not fly SW, that is for sure!! As for the mean people... I don't know what to say. Sometimes it is hard being a body renegade. Good for you for publicizing this!!

Sparkly Jules said...

Never, ever, ever, ever flying Southwest again. Ever.

No cause for your treatment of you. No cause whatsoever. Shame on THEM.

Thanks for sharing your story.

Sparkly Jules

Jun Kwon said...

This is absolutely appalling. Southwest should certainly re-evaluate their policy on (insert euphemism for fat people) and prevent you from ever flying. Lose some weight, rejoin society as a normal person, and quit complaining when you're treated like the abnormality that you are.

julie said...

That is a horrifying experience! I am sad that you had to endure that. I would love for you to start a petition on change.org in addition to writing your letter--and I would love to sign it. That way, southwest could see in numbers (peoples=dollars +cents, as you pointed out) how sickeningly they operated. I found your article via a fb friend's post--you might be suprised how many people you'd reach and how many people would like to support you speaking up, aaand how many poeple you'd be speaking up for! Keep on with your courageous voice!

julie said...

...actually, I think you have a pretty clear-cut case *of* discrimination...maybe the hijab picture just made them feel like they could treat you like sh!t and know that the always hovering threat of religious discrimination would keep you from being able to speak up, (although it sounds like you spoke up really well).
The obvious inconsistencies with their treatment of you on the different flights, and then how they bought the seat back from you is* SO* fishy!!! Get a lawyer, girl!

Hope said...

I know how crappy I feel everytime I have to get the seatbelt extender so the thought of this is to much to bear! Thank you for sharing your story. I hope they offer you something besides free airfare. I would be too traumatized to accept it!

RantingDev said...

I just wanted to say that you are absolutely gorgeous, and I am SO sorry this happened to you. I'm going to respond via my own blog as soon as I'm less angry about how you were treated. ;) *hugs 'n' warm fuzzies*

the Drunken Housewife said...

Very sorry that this humiliating incident occurred. People can be so cruel. You didn't deserve this stress and humiliation.

Kat said...

I already commented earlier but had to respond to Jun Kwon. I don't know if you noticed Jun but you are the only person who didn't offer support or sympathy here. To call this woman or any larger person (like me) an "abnormality" is cruel and hurtful. However, I support everyone's right to speak their mind whether I agree with them or not. I don't agree with you but I applaud your courage to give your name and not just comment as "anonymous" as so many cowards do when saying something contrary.

Larry Crowder said...

Ma'am: Maybe we have become an overly litigious society, but sometimes that is the only meaningful recourse. Sue them. You were brave, but you were treated cruelly. Larry

Anonymous said...

First and foremost I am sorry for the way you were treated by Southwest Airlines. It amazes me that the discrimination they practice (and that is what it is no matter what people say) is not challenged. They post this "policy" on their website and I believe that this same policy is no longer allowed in Canada. I wrote to Southwest Airlines when I first read this policy letting them know that I would not fly on their airlines until this policy was stopped and will continue to do so. You should not have to be discriminated against for any reason and the options you and your family presented were more than reasonable. You are to be commended for your blog post and your willingness to share your experience with all of us! Thank you!

Andrea (ace1028) said...

I am so disgusted by their horrible behavior and how they treated you, and your aunt and uncle, when you had a perfectly good solution, AND you had seriously JUST flown them. WTH? I'm mortified for you, as an overweight woman, I'd have just wanted to crawl into a box and bawled my eyes out, but seriously, I would have probably fought those tears and gone off! But I get what you're saying, in the moment it's impossible to just react and go postal. It's hard to not be respectful when that is the kind of person you are. I'm sorry they were total f*ckers who were oblivious to respecting another person, regardless of size. And to that jackass who was making hand gestures etc. and said nasty stuff, karma is a b!tch and I hope he gets his. Good for you for sharing this! I am so glad you've seen such an outpouring of support. I will not even look at a sale of SW flights, not if they PAID ME to get on one.

Starshadow said...

Thanks for the video and transcript. I'm sharing this around on Delphi forums. I'm sick of this institutionalized fatism and SW isn't going to get my business.

I'm sorry you had to go through that. As I was watching, I was thinking, "What if you'd been wearing hijab?" Then you'd have been a fat terrorist! (I am fat, too. Not Muslim. White. I'm sorry you ALSO get the Islamaphobia stuff, too. Disgusting. I live in Seatac, WA in a complex with a number of Muslim neighbors. All but one have been great neighbors. And the one would've been a jerk no matter what. Had nothing to do with race or religion.)

Anyway, I hope this gets a lot of publicity, because it needs to. SWA needs to understand that their policies lose them customers.

If enough people stop flying SWA, maybe they'll change.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Southwest Rep: while you are offering your halfhearted apology for making the passenger consider her "safety and comfort," you might want to address all the issues in the complaint, like the fact that you took her money, left a guy without a seat, then put someone in the seat you said would not be possible to seat everyone in because of "safety."
... (Well, nice to know you have Southwest's attention, even if this is just spin doctoring!)

Anonymous said...

Im never flying Southwest again either! This is complete bullshit, and Im sorry it happened to you. I hate sizism.

plasticsturgeon said...

I was already boycotting Southwest, but now I wish I could boycott them three times over--I guess I'll have to settle for a nasty letter. I'm so sorry you had to go through that.

Feklar Fourtytwo said...

First, I am so sorry for your pain. I grew up being emotionally tortured by my peers for my weight and in a similar situation I would have been completely shocked, disempowered, and humiliated. I'm so glad you had people with you. I usually fly alone and frankly, am now *afraid* to fly SW. Not just angry, there is that, but *afraid* of what that kind of emotional trauma would do to me. I fear I would not recover as well as you are.

As a further example of inconsistency, I've flown SW from PHL to Houston 2x and never encountered the policy (and I suspect I am bigger than you). However, I am white. I do wonder if racism was a factor. I suspect you would have a legal case if you wanted to try (you are not required too, you are doing great getting the word out as is!).

I can't help but think truly objective standards that applied to all riders would probably create a $hitstorm because tall and/or muscular men are often as wide in the torso and shoulders as I am. Their hips may not be wider than the seat, but they still affect their neighbors (forcing them to lean to the other side).

Anonymous said...

Talk to your local news channel, this should be made public knowledge. Especially as they advertise themselves as such as passenger friendly airline.
Hopefully you got the names of the staff that were so "kind" to you.

Anonymous said...

If you have names of the employees I would hope that they be named... I understand it's 'policy' but there is training available to those who naturally lack tact. As for the yahoos on the plane... Im hopping that having been felt up, x rayed and then shoved into flying cattle cars... That thier brains were safely stowed in the over head storage containers or under the seat in front of them?! I am so sorry for the embarrassment causes to you... And that sw will do better than apologize. And although I don't travel often anymore.. I will think long and hard before I use sw. They keep poppIng up too often for making spectacles of thier customers. The only business that can get away with that is corvette diner!

Linda Ruskauff said...

You are a beautiful young lady and I thank you for sharing that with us. I too will no longer support Southwest and encourage others not too.

I am curious as to the response that they gave you if you'd like to share the follow up (if any).

Steen said...

That was a truly appalling situation that escalated out of control. I think the "mob" mentality took over with the other passengers and their rude attitudes. It seems (sadly) in our PC world that overweight people are the only remaining section of society that its "okay" to publicly ridicule. I have been subject to airline issues, but nothing close to your ordeal.FYI, when you are overweight but arrive in a wheel chair, you get better treatment (mob mentality says its not okay to make fun of handicapped people). *I have health issues and have been the first to board on SW (due to wheel chair) and didn't have a problem. I would hope it is a rare occurrence and was the poor judgement of the local staff to treat you so badly. I was once in a middle seat on a flight with my daughter who was in the window seat. The aisle seat remained empty. The flight was fully booked, but everyone looked at the empty aisle seat (desirable)then to me, an overweight middle aged woman (obviously an undesirable travel companion). Each person would scan the rest of the plane for empty seats and walk on. Almost the last person on the plane was an older man, very thin, who looked at me, the rest of the full plane and sat down. He looked at me and said "well, between the two of us, we should make two normal sized people". I will add that the arm rest was down and I wasn't invading his seat in the least. After that, I focused my gaze and attention on my daughter and didn't speak to the man again. With the animalistic behavior exhibited by passengers fighting for inches of space in a crowded plane, everyone trying to squeeze over-sized bags into the carry-on compartment, I do not look forward to flying as I used to. Some seat belts are shorter than others, I suspect they periodically trim them due to fraying. Then you have to ask (publicly) for an extender, which is their safety demo item. Then, you either experience the public humiliation of a steward walking down the aisle and handing you the extender, or they forget and you feel insecure with a belt that won't fasten or you have to ask AGAIN. If I could cough up enough money to fly first class, I would do it. Please put this experience behind you and don't let it affect your self worth.